And I thought my life was complicated while raising four kids, working, and going to school! Caring for an aging parent offers a totally different kind of reality especially if the one you are caring for is not accustomed to having someone else do the caring!
At 91 years of age, mom takes pride in being able to care for most of her needs on her own and definitely dislikes being a burden to anyone and least of all asking for special attention. Let’s take our regular weekend outing – it’s usually church, having lunch and a little shopping. Mom likes routine so when she tells me she’s not in the mood to attend church service, instead of accepting that at face value, I must do a bit of probing:
- Is she not feeling well?
- Is it too cold or hot outside for her?
- Is she feeling depressed?
- Is there a special day that I should have remembered?
Sounds easy right? Just ask her! Well it’s a bit more complicated than that. What I always need to remember is that if mom asks for something, she will only ask once and my job is to remember because she won’t ask a second time. What she will do is drop hints and maneuver the conversation all around the issue until I finally remember. Sometimes that may take a while. What I have learned to ask mom on a regular basis are things like:
- Do you think it’s time for a haircut?
- What about a manicure or pedicure?
- Do you need to stock up on greeting cards?
- Do you still have enough of your favorite face cream?
Some tricks of the trade that I’ve learned in caregiving are to ask questions, to read between the lines, and most importantly analyze body language!
As caregivers we can set impossibly high standards for ourselves and when we can’t live up to them we feel as though we’ve failed. When this happens, I often refer to my favorite book, The Four Agreements, with its’ simple yet profound wisdom it provides a beautiful and practical way to caregive:
- Be impeccable with your word.
- Don’t take anything personally.
- Don’t make assumptions.
- Always do your best.
Keeping these in mind helps me get through those difficult and complicated days!
If you’re a caregiver for an older adult and have some of your own wisdom to add – please share so we can learn from each other and stay tuned for more of “Chronicles of Caring for My Elderly Mom.”