How to help your senior feel positive about their future- even in stress. by francy Dickinson
Dear Francy; I went over to my Great Aunt’s and put away her Christmas decor. She was happy to see me, gave me Christmas cookies and tea. But she was quiet and showed signs of depression. The house was not clean as it usually was and she had not gone to the store, she was still working on all the leftovers people had dropped off over the holidays. I didn’t know what to do..I did not want to push on her privacy.
It was so kind of you to go over and give her a hand. Sounds like she needs a few more visits to keep her spirits up. I would suggest you push a visit calendar. I devised these for clients. I would sit down at the first of the month with a calendar on my desk and call the elder’s family members and schedule them for visits that month. Every week one or two people would show up for a 20 minute visit. They could bring a treat, a gift or just come and enjoy! I would actually guilt them into the visit. They would put the visit on their monthly calendar and then I would weekly call and remind those on the calendar for the upcoming week. I would remind them how much my client has been looking forward to their visit. At first, everyone felt my busy-body attitude. But after the second month, they knew the routine, they knew no one wanted them to buy a gift or spend time cleaning the house…it was just a friendly visit. It does take a cheerleader to head the routine…are you up for it?
One day, years ago, when I was caring for my own Georgie; he called me “his cheerleader”. My feelings were hurt over the comment. I said nothing about it, but I thought about it. I did not want to be a cheerleader, I wanted to just be me and to be his wife. The care giving was getting overwhelming and I was tired to the bone. But the cheerleader idea went through my mind all that day.
He needed a cheerleader. He was facing serious health issues and dementia, he was trying to keep his life glued together day by day and I was his only touch to the world around him. By that evening, I spent a little time in prayer and told myself…that if I was unable to be the “old wife and lover” that being “a cheerleader” was OK by me. I still loved him dearly and I wanted him to live each day in joy. A close friend had told me one day…”What ever George wants…just let him have it – life is too short for him to be in want.”
It may sound junior high but honestly; from that day forward I was his cheerleader. I tried to think of ways to make him laugh through the rough times. I brought him meals he enjoyed on trays that looked like a fancy restaurant prepared them. I kept him clean and smelling good, with new clothes that were comfy and not looking like old man clothes. I would make TV specials, like going to the movies…with popcorn. Color was important to our surroundings so I would keep bright pillows and napkins in use. The air was kept clean and clear from the medicine and food smells. I also exercised him on a daily basis with kidding and fun music and I made him treats on a weekly basis.
I know the world is not filled with happiness rainbows when you are old and fighting health issues. But, it can be filled with people that make you laugh, kid you about silly things and bring you small or large gifts or surprises that make you smile.
Anyone can call Grandma and tell her something special is on the TV and wait till she changes the channel and then call her back and chat about the show when its over. Anyone can stop by and bring a Starbucks to a Grandpa and sit and talk about the weather. Anyone can go over to Auntie’s twice a month, in the summer and mow a lawn…anyone, even teenage kids that want to be anywhere else in the world. Teaching sharing, caring and loving hearts is what the world is about. You can gift to your charity or faith group, but gifting should always start at home within your family or your neighborhood seniors or the close unit of friends you have gathered over the years.
Now my tip…for my own upbeat New Year’s beginning? I always go out the door in the beginning of January and go to the store and get a few bulbs that are just poking their heads out of the ground…I plant them by the front door. That way I am able to see the movement, growth and beauty of those plants as the winter swirls around me. I can connect the bulbs with the spring that is coming and the longer days and easier times ahead. Its a small gift to give an elder. But I suggest a bowl of Paperwhite bulbs sitting on the dinning room table will give your elder a feeling of HOPE…its magic!
Thank you for your gift of love to your Auntie…never be afraid of being pushy when you know it will bring a smile from your senior. Blessings, francy