Speaking of Eldercare on Sulia

Some of y’all recognize that gal in the red dress as my mom.

And, if you’re a regular reader, you know that I am honored to walk with her during these last years of her life. I’m her only child and thus her closest living relative. Therefore, I oversee and coordinate all aspects of her life. (She is in a nursing home currently, her body ravaged by rheumatoid arthritis. Her mind is a steel trap, however.)

In her honor, I will be talking about eldercare daily this week on Sulia.com.

When I asked some of my fellow Sulia writers what they would like to know about eldercare, one remarked: “We have had to learn to give [my mother] guidance when her thinking is off while observing her independence.”

I think this sentence is wonderful on so many levels.

First, yes, many elders struggle with mental health issues ranging from depression and anxiety (like the rest of us) to dementia. We must work with their healthcare providers to ensure to the best of our abilities that all of those issues are addressed rather than just the obvious ones. (Sometimes this means that we must apply a little, shall we say, gentle pressure to our caregiving “team members.”)

Second, one of the greatest gifts you can give your elder is to “observe her independence” as long as is reasonable and safe. It is a delicate balance providing support and boundaries for a parent, and this is where saying things like “tending to your aging parents is like becoming a parent to them” falls flat.

In most cases, these are grown adults with rich, full lives behind them. They have not only tasted independence but embraced it. We cannot “baby” our parents but must find loving ways to nurture them respectfully. Practicing empathy is a good place to start–how would you want to be treated? If your elder is of sound mind, can you talk to them openly about what they want and need while listening with empathy and without judgement? If you can, then that may help both of you.

Also it is useful to continue to redefine the notion of “independence” for ourselves and our parents. If we perceive and project that we perceive being newly wheelchair-bound as a tragic step down in quality of life, our parents are going to pick up on that. Conversely, if we work on our own issues about aging (perhaps talking with a life coach or counselor) and learn to see it as a natural part of life, we can open ourselves up to the full-measure of human experience.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic of eldercare both here and all this week (starting Monday, tomorrow) over on Sulia.com.

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Updated: I’m adding links to the posts as they appear over there.

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