Are you are caring for a parent or an elderly loved one in your home? If so, here are a few questions you may want to start asking.
We understand that being a caretaker for someone who is elderly, especially a parent, can be difficult at times and feel, well, a little weird. You were never prepared for this, they took care of you and now the tables have been turned. It is easy to fall into the trap of treating your parent like a child. Guess what? They are not five years old! They are not children. They have dignity and they deserve your respect and appreciation. So what can you do? Start by asking them some questions.
1. Ask for their advice on something that has been bothering you lately. They would love to know that you care about their opinion, especially on important topics. Ask for their advice and honestly listen to what they have to say. Even if you don’t agree, it will help you to have a mature sounding board.
2. Ask how they feel today. Take some time to listen to them complain a little about their aches and pains. Seriously, let them complain sometimes. You know you like the feeling of someone listening to you about your aches when you have a cold or flu, so just hear them out. This will also help you articulate differences in symptoms when a doctor needs to know how things are going.
3. Ask them what they want to eat today. Get them involved in weekly meal planning, grocery lists, and grocery trips if mobile. Creating lists is great for cognitive exercise and getting them involved will make them feel more look a roommate than a burden.
4. Ask them where they would like to go this month. Whether this is a twenty minute drive through the country or a half day trip to the beach, find out where they would like to go and what they would like to see. Getting out of the house for a little scenery is good for everyone.
5. Ask them if they need more space. You are there to help take care of them, but that doesn’t mean they want you to take care of everything. Make sure they have their own room with a TV, phone, etc. If you can’t do that, at least make sure they have a comfortable chair or space they can call their own. Providing space for personal time will allow both of you to breathe a little easier.
6. Ask if they feel safe. Safety is a tough thing to articulate, but feeling secure is something that every person should enjoy. They may confide concerns of an in-home nurse or other medical personnel not treating them the way they want to be treated. They may let you know that they worry about what might happen to them when you are at work or visiting friends for an evening. Consider the use of a medical alert system so that they always have access to emergency care.
7. Ask if you can tell them a story. No, you don’t have to become an eloquent story teller, but you could read the latest thriller or even just get them some books on tape. Maybe find a radio program you both enjoy and can listen to together.
8. Ask for a little competition, just don’t be angry when you lose. Forget the video games, play real games with them. Try card games, dice games, board games, trivia and whatever else will keep them thinking! Cognitive exercises are great for your elderly loved one, but it can also help keep you at the top of your game.
9. Ask for a hand. I am not talking about a hand in sealing the concrete out on the patio, but there are plenty of tasks that don’t require much physical work that I am sure they could handle for you. From sorting ornaments before the holidays to chopping vegetables while your preparing dinner. Everyone likes to feel useful.
10. Ask them about a funny memory they have, or ask them to tell you a joke. Reaching back a remembering a funny occasion or story will help stave off memory loss, but it may be a little late for that. If memory is a concern, just ask them to tell you a joke. Then tell them one. Laughter is great for both of you and will make the memories you are building with your loved one even better.
11. Ask them to tell you about something they love. This could be a ripe apple on a warm summer morning, a person they dated long, long ago, or a class they took at a local senior center last week. Focusing on positive memories, thoughts, and experiences is great for everyone’s health. It may even help you become a more positive person.
12. Ask them to appreciate you, but reciprocate the appreciation as well. They are human and sometimes we all don’t express appreciation for the people we should. Tell them you enjoy having them in your life. Tell them you are happy to be in a position where you help care for them. Tell them you love them and are thankful for them … today might be the last day you get to.