Lately, I have noticed that there are changes in my expectations of our Mom. She has always been very sociable and loved to attend 2-3 events in a day, 6-7 in a weekend. Safely living at Chelsea, she is now much more comfortable staying in then attending activities outside of her home. I began to wonder what makes changes in our parents, what cues and clues should we anticipate, and how should we respond appropriately and helpfully?
Naturally, all of our parents are individuals, but my sense is that the aging process calls for more of a sense of calm and security than at any other time of their lives. Following directions, which to us may not seem complicated, may be overwhelming. An example is telling our parent that they should be ready to be picked up at a certain time, the destination, to bring their identification, a warm coat and gloves, and the key to their home. At another time in their lives, half of that information would have been intuited, not needing to be said. But now, I imagine, it is all too much to absorb, so the senior tunes it all out. Add memory fears and concerns, and you have a very vacant parent, who is late, doesn’t have a coat, identification or key, and may have intestinal issues because of their fears of failure.
Needless to say, we don’t want to add to our parents’ stress…just the opposite. And we also do not want our parents to think we don’t care enough to take them out regularly…again, quite the opposite. But it may serve them better if we watch and listen for their cues. An example of that is to ask your parent which would they prefer, dinner in or dinner out? Would they like to accompany you on a long drive, or is it feeling overwhelming to them? Confiding in our parents that we do not know how they actually feel, and past history doesn’t mean feelings are the same at this time, may go a long way in providing confidence to our parents. Additionally, stating that there will be bathroom breaks if necessary can be very helpful.
Regardless of how strong and determined our seniors were at other times in life, they are encumbered with a myriad of challenges, at their most vulnerable time, that are different to them. I am always a proponent of communicating honestly and without fear. At this time in their lives, it may go a long way to offer to truly listen and let your parent know you are not judging, and that you only want to read the cues correctly, and that is something you can all do together!