How many of you my lovely readers have aging parents or loved ones in a care facility, who you watch over and visit on a regular basis?
It seems right now many of my clients and friends are currently in the “sandwich generation” the name given for those dealing with aging loved ones while in the midst of raising their own families.
I sadly wasn’t given the gift of caring for aging parents. Both of my parents died within a year of each other. My Mom in 2013, my Dad in 2014, both were seemingly healthy and both died unexpectedly. I am however blessed (and oh so grateful) with the fact that I do have an elderly Aunt who lives in a care facility nearby and I make time to visit her at least once a week. So, I do know how it feels to care for someone who is most likely in their final living space, in their final years.
Conversation can be challenging with an older person who isn’t out in the hustle and bustle of every day life. But, I have some ideas for how to help you and them look more forward to your visits.
Here are a few ideas I’ve tried and continue to use…..
1. Share with your loved one what’s going on in your life and at the same time be cognizant of leaving out certain details that may stress them if they are prone to worrying. Ask them questions about how they would handle certain situations, you never know when their incite may be just what you need. Remember they yearn to feel needed and relevant.
2. Pack your extra patience if you are prone to losing yours. Now, I know, sometimes it might be hard to listen to your loved one tell you the same story over and over again, you know like the time your Aunt Hilda (who wasn't a very good cook) was making mashed potatoes and made soup instead and everyone pretended dinner was great but the mashed potatoes spread all over the dinner plate.....yeah that kind of story....but, I encourage you to listen and laugh every time cause I’m pretty sure we’ve all told the same story to someone twice or maybe three times and quite possibly we did it just yesterday.
3. Bring small gifts. Whether something they love to eat (if allowed), a bouquet of fresh flowers, a framed picture, a new notebook and pencils, a coloring book and markers. They will appreciate the fact you thought of them.
4. If they are in a senior living or care facility bring them a seasonal door decoration, helps make their room more inviting, and feel more like home. They only want their visitors to be feel comfortable, after all this is now their home.
5. Bring a project to work on. A calendar where you have written all of the family and friends birthdays and supplies to make cards for everyone. I have also brought supplies for my Aunt to make Christmas Cards, Valentines, ornaments etc…and if you can make the time to spend the afternoon doing the project with them...Boom. You get the idea.
6. Occasionally bring a box of old family photos to look at together.
7. Take your lunch to eat with your loved one during their lunchtime. It breaks up their day and makes yours all the more enjoyable. Works for dinner too.
8. Start a long term project together: Last year I wrote a cookbook with my Aunt. We filled it with recipes she loved to make for her family and stories like when Aunt Hilda made that historic mashed potoato soup, and how no matter how hard your mom tried she always burned the rolls at Thanksgiving and the fact that Angel Food Cake with the hole filled with frosting was your Dad’s favorite cake. Yeah, those kind of stories. Things you don’t want to forget...Ever.
I found a website and uploaded the recipes, stories and photos and had it printed, real books, hard bound. She gave the books out as Christmas presents to her family and special friends. A first time author at 83. Priceless.
This year we are working on writing her memoir. It gives her something to think about between my visits and us something to do together besides make small talk about what she ate for lunch or whether it’s cold outside.
I bring my laptop and she dictates to me what’s she’s written since my last visit. Sometimes I type every word she’s saying and sometimes I interject with questions like the ones below. Regardless if you choose to begin to write a memoir with your loved one , you can use these questions when conversation is slow.
1. What did your childhood bedroom look like?
2. What was your favorite thing to do as a teenager?
3. What was your first job?
4. Do you remember the first time you saw your spouse? Where were you? What were you doing?
5. When did you know you were in love?
6. What is your earliest memory?
7. What was Christmas like growing up?
8. How did you celebrate birthdays?
9. What did you want to be as a child? Did you become it?
10. Did you take vacations as a family growing up?
11. Where did your name come from? Who named you?
12. Do you know the story of the day you were born?
13. How did your parents meet?
Hopefully these questions will spawn others. Your loved ones are a tremendous resource and a priceless link to your past. Make the time. You won't regret it. xo