It is so easy to tell others what we need. Every self-help book in the country talks about opening up and expressing what we feel. But, sometimes it just isn’t about you. Sometimes, others in your life come first. Our aging parents have given many years in service to you and other people. They come from an era when people didn’t ask for help. So, we are going to make it easy, and give you some of the most important things your loved one needs from you. Here they are:
- PATIENCE, sometimes the hardest one to give, is the one most needed. It is hard to remember that this same person read your favorite book a million times, watched your favorite show thousands of times, and prepared your favorite meals hundreds of times over the course of your life. We have to wonder if listening to your tales over and over had the same effect on them that listening to their stories many times now has on you. You may have to remind yourself to just let them talk, rather than reminding them that they told you something just yesterday.
- GENTLENESS spills into every aspect of living with a senior. Speaking gently is only a small part of it, but a gentle touch and sweet demeanor go a long way to warm the heart and make them feel loved. Slow your steps, don’t hurry them. Life is no longer the rush for them that we live in constantly. You may find that it does your heart good to slow down for a short while, too.
- TIME is often hard to come by, but make time to sit with your senior and reminisce. Let them tell you stories. You may occasionally even hear some that you have never heard before. Give them old photos, and see what memories are brought back. Watch the delight as they remember that old boyfriend, or their wedding day, or even when you were a child. Ask them questions, and give them time to answer. A warm cup of coffee or tea and talking about the old days will make memories for both of you.
- CONCERN for their wellbeing should be evident. Being a helicopter child isn’t going to go over well, but watch their day to day behavior. You will notice if steps begin to falter, words begin to be searched for, or insecurities show up. Note if vision, hearing or other medical concerns change. Asking questions will tell you what is happening, and how they are responding.
- INVOLVEMENT in their lives, and wanting them to be involved in your life, will go a long way to keeping their life full. They have spent their whole life taking care of you, and they may still desire to do so in small ways. Let them. And then do the same for them. Go get them and bring them to your home for a holiday meal or celebration. If you are in town shopping, ask them to go along. Take time for a stop at their favorite place, and be sure to allow them time to meander and browse.
- HUMOR makes the bumps a little smoother. Turn a bad situation into something harmless by having a good laugh over it. Save them the embarrassment of something that may have upset them, and give them grace. Let them live it down. It may be necessary to remember the many times that they had to shake their head at you, and move on.
- RESPECT will make the rest of these points easy. If anyone in your life ever deserved respect, it is this lovely elder who made you what you are today. Remember those years, even if they have forgotten. They will sense your admiration, and respond.
You may have noticed that LOVE wasn’t one of the seven items on our checklist. Showing these others will demonstrate the love that you have for them.
Although cliché, they are gone in a moment. All you are promised is today. Don’t tell them you love them, show it.