When you find your relationship with an aging parent or loved one becoming increasingly focused on caretaking, it’s important to develop a degree of empathy that allows you to imagine how this new dynamic must feel to them. Caring for an elderly person can be overwhelming, especially if they have more serious needs that call for your consistent availability, crucial decision-making, and/or financial help. In many of our previous articles on matters relating to Geriatric Care, we’ve addressed topics related to burnout in caregivers, the burden of providing care, and ways to streamline and elevate aspects of the caretaking process. It’s just as important, however, to remember that this switch in the nature of your relationship with a senior as they age affects them strongly as well. When our geriatric care managers first start working with elderly clients, many of them report feeling burdensome and worrying about losing their independence and autonomy.
An essential part in regaining a close relationship with an aging parent or relative is showing them true appreciation through small, but very significant acts. Here are some examples:
o Spending quality time together outside of providing care.
It’s essential to be mindful of how you’re spending your time together: are you mostly stopping by to bring them food, help them clean, or assist with logistical tasks around their place of residence? Are you mostly seeing them over family functions that almost feel mandatory? If so, try to make time to simply catch up over a cup of coffee or meal. If you don’t feel you can make time to take them out or just hang out and chat, offer to bring them along on an errand and catch up in the car. Let them know you appreciate them coming along!
o Asking for their opinion.
Providing care often involves other people telling seniors how to best handle matters involving their health, finances, and living situation. People feel appreciated when you let them into your own life and ask them for their thoughts and advice. It can build a stronger relationship and balance out the one-sidedness that often grows in care-based relationships.
o Asking for their help with something they can do and showing gratitude.
In providing care, especially to those with health issues, it can be easy to forget that they still have a lot to offer to the world. Think of something they like to do and are good at and ask for their help when you need it. It will give them a chance to reciprocate your care and feel valued. For example, if they like to paint, ask them for a painting to add to your home décor. If they like to bake, ask them to help with a cake for a special occasion. It can even be as simple as asking them to share a recipe!
o Praising them to others.
Compliment their accomplishments, their attitude, or their sense of humor in front of other people to show you are proud of them. Tell others in their lives about all the positive things they have done for you – they may even hear about it!
o Giving them a thoughtful gift without an occasion.
Ask your senior loved one about their favorite movie or artist and bring over the DVD or album next time you visit! Thoughtful presents do not have to be elaborate. Pay attention to what makes their eyes light up, what they talk about, and what they enjoy, and surprise them with a small related gesture that will let them know you think of them outside of providing care.
If you find yourself overwhelmed with the care required for your aging parent or loved one, do not hesitate to call us for a NO COST chat with one of our geriatric care managers and learn about our local and virtual services. Senior Steps helps direct seniors and their families to the best resources, create plans for care, and manage medical, insurance-related, financial, legal, and day-to-day issues of aging. Click on the link below to schedule a free call or a virtual assessment: