A slip of the tongue or sharply delivered comment can deliver unnecessary pain for aging loved ones. It is easy to be irritated when Mom asks daily how to use the remote control or falls asleep in the middle of their grandson’s violin recital. It can hurt when Dad can’t remember their granddaughter’s name or can’t remember birthdays anymore. However, it is important not to blame the aging loved one for their diminished capacity. Often they are aware of how they aren’t like they used to be. It can be defeating and a bitter pill to swallow for the aging loved one and for their adult children.
The delivery of the message can make a world of difference. Seniors often lose short term memory before long term and forget all kinds of things that might seem hard to forget, like appointments or where they put their glasses. Place notes around their home to remind them and be mindful of tone.
Changing a light bulb or tying their shoes – seemingly simple tasks- can become extraordinarily difficult with arthritis. Instead of shaming, come up with solutions like having a nephew change light bulbs or take out the trash. Buy slip on shoes or Velcro shoes rather than lace ups.
Gadgets can be hard to adjust to with all capacities in place, imagine trying to learn how to use the remote with 5,000 buttons with shaky hands and poor eyesight. Instead of saying, “I just showed you this yesterday”, explain again with a kind voice. Or write clear instructions to leave near the device. Best of all: Buy senior-friendly gadgets.
Sometimes aging adults can be in the middle of a conversation talking and then shift topics without warning. If it was an important subject, stir the conversation back to the topic or bring up another time. Do your best to not point fingers.
When the story of how Aunt Midge’s dog ate the brownies off the counter gets boring after the 6th time hearing it, ask yourself, do you never repeat yourself? It’s important not to lose patience and try your best not to hurt their feelings.
All in all, getting frustrated is human, but so are the problems associated with aging like memory loss or diminished strength. Practice grace and be gentle. Caregiving isn’t just caring for the health of your aging loved one, it’s caring for their heart too.