With the families gathering for the holidays now is a good time to discuss memories, dreams and desires with our senior loved ones. One of the most important things to keep in mind is having an understanding of the senior and considering what they want. As George Santavana stated, “Before you contradict an old man, my fair friend, you should endeavor to understand him.”
Our seniors are valuable to our families and to our society. They are not just a potted plant in the corner that looks beautiful. They bring experience, knowledge, history and a sense of who we are. They have and continue to contribute to our world. While we treasure other things that are old, we often discount our senior’s opinions, needs and desires.
Sister Mary Germma Brunke wrote, “It is the old apple trees that are decked with the loveliest blossoms. It is the ancient redwoods that rise to majestic heights. It is the aged wine that tastes the sweetest. It is ancient coins, stamps and furniture that people seek. It is the old friends that are loved the best. Thank God for the blessings of age and the wisdom, patience and maturity that go with it. Old is wonderful!”
How can we help make “old” wonderful? As you are visiting with your loved ones ask them what they remember about moving into the house they first purchased, what they like about the neighborhood. How do they feel about where they are living now. Have them share memories of their friends from their youth and what they treasure about the friends in their life now. What do they cherish? What has value to them? What’s important to them?
Have your loved ones define security and find out what gives this security to them. From their viewpoint what does it mean to be independent? How do they define dignity in their life? What do they need to feel they still have control and choices in their life?
Listen to them without making judgments. If they repeat the same story several times, look at it as a process or stage they are going through. It doesn’t mean they have dementia, it may just mean that something about that time in their life has a significant impact on their life. Find out the details of that time of their life and what it means to them now.
There’s a wonderful book by David Solie, M.S., P.A., “How to Say It To Seniors: Closing the Communication Gap with Our Elders” that provides insight into understanding and gives great suggestions on how to have the discussions with your loved ones.
As you listen to the answers of your loved ones are you discovering that they want to stay in their home? Are they struggling financially? Do you need a little extra help with chores or getting out to church or visiting with friends or going to a movie? Do they need some physical therapy to help be able to do what they desire? Is nutrition and meals a concern? Would assistance in bathing be helpful?
There are many options available to help seniors meet their needs and desires. If they want to stay in their home and need some extra cash, consider a reverse mortgage. If they need some extra help, a home care agency can help them. Home care agencies provide companion services, meal preparation, medication reminders, bathing and skilled care. Physical therapy can be brought into the home. Adult Day Services are an often overlooked option. And if the family dynamics come into play, a Geriatric Care Manager can help facilitate as well as assist in determining needs and resources.
Reading some of my other blog articles will help provide you and your loved ones with information to help their life to be wonderful:
“Aging is not ‘lost youth’ but a new stage of opportunity and strength.” (Betty Friedan) Let’s honor our seniors at this stage of their life with the value they provide to us and with the opportunities available to meet their needs and achieve their desires.
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