This summer was an exceptional one for me. It was the first time I was able to spend time with my parents after they retired. Honestly, it was the best holiday ever. What made it even more memorable was that my parents were free from their professional responsibilities. And I had more one-on-one time to spend with them.
Watching them, you begin to realize the harsh realities of life. As your parents grow older and frailer, their bodies don’t have the strength and vitality that you remember seeing as a child. You notice the impact of the years on their health. And you know how much of their lives they sacrificed to make yours.
However, as we all know, this is not a unique scenario.
We will all age
With the vast improvement in healthcare, there has been an exponential rise in the elderly population. Many require assisted care regularly. Studies show that 52% of the US population who reach age 65 will need long-term care in their lifetime. This includes acquiring help to meet health or personal needs.
65% of older adults with long-term care needs rely exclusively on family and friends for assistance. And another 30% require additional paid assistance alongside family care.
Surprisingly, 50% of the elderly who have long-term care needs end up in nursing homes because no family is available to attend to them.
Therefore, it is the availability of in-home care through friends, family, and caregivers can help determine whether a person can remain at home or not. But mounting costs of taking care of an aging population and the need for quality, affordable long-term care can be a struggle to manage.
The gift of giving
My father, an esteemed electrical engineer, and my mother, a dedicated teacher, both worked hard. They had everything money could buy. They had so much that they were happy to donate their time, money, and energy back to the community. Even now, they are capable of taking care of themselves.
So finding the perfect care for parents or elders is sometimes challenging, especially if they are financially set. But if one has the desire to give back at least some part of the love and care that you received as a child, all you need to do is get a little creative.
And it’s not as difficult as it seems
What I learned was that my parents valued the time I spent with them more than any other gift I bought for them. Meeting them personally was always better, but because I live so far away, the time I spend talking to my parents on the phone is the best gift that I can give them.
Moreover, it’s important to remember that presence and attention – even while on the phone- are the most important aspects of connecting with your family members. It helps them feel included in your life.
For those, lucky enough to have aging loved ones living with them, always treat them with respect. Ask for their help in any way they can provide it. At the same time, be careful to account for any limitations they may have so that they do not feel inept.
Offer them a chance to participate in everything happening in your house. This will help to build a close relationship. The worst thing you could do is treat them like guests.
Your attitude is key
Whenever dealing with elderly members, understand the loss your loved one may be suffering. Show compassion and empathy for their crankiness or depression. Above all, develop a relationship with your elderly.
More importantly, create a positive atmosphere without running yourself into the ground. And it may seem like a challenge, remember that you are trying your best. You should aim at improving the quality of your elder’s life. So giving them your time, attention, and love is the most desirable gift.
Even a brief visit or an inexpensive gift such as a magazine goes to show that you are thinking about them. And as one quite clearly pointed out, “The excellence of a gift lies in its appropriateness rather than in its value.”
Ways to spend time with your elders and the benefits you can gain
1. Listen to them
The simple act of listening gives a person a sense of purpose. But it’s not merely listening that you should do. Pay attention and remember what they are saying. More importantly, become an active listener and participate in their conversations. Ask about family history, heritage, experiences, etc. You’ll be surprised about how much you didn’t know.
2. Ask their advice
Our seniors have lived through many events. And the insight they have gained can impact our society in many ways. Seeking their counsel and giving them the respect they deserve is essential. And it’s a great way of teaching our children valuable lessons through firsthand experiences.
3. Spend time with them
Taking time out from your busy schedule is the least you can do. And if you are a firm believer in karma, then you need to take this seriously. How you treat others today will be reflected in your life later on.
4. Eat together with them
Older people lose sight of small pleasures, such as eating. Preparing food for themselves becomes a chore. Give them the gift of a prepared meal, or better yet, sit down and enjoy a meal with them. Leave happy memories at their dinner table. And if they are housebound, make an effort to take them out for lunch.
5. Visit or call them often
Keep in touch, whether it’s a call once a week or a regular visit. Often, retired people have nothing to keep them occupied. But a regular call or visit gives them something to look forward to. They wait for that ‘special’ connection with other family members. It makes the difference between being forgotten and being remembered.
6. Appreciate them
And it’s never too late to say thank you or how much you love them. Words have substantial power. And listening to them can make their day.
Taking it to another level
Spending time with our elders is something that we should enjoy. But consider taking all this to another level. We need to teach our children to do the same. Unfortunately, the current information age has placed technology between us. Treating elders with dignity and respect is dwindling, as is common grace and manners. We are witnessing the decomposition of communication into short, impersonal texts. And bustling schedules aren’t making things any easier.
Often we are left juggling family with work. Reaching out to members who need additional care can be a struggle. But like my father always said, no good deed is ever wasted, it’s the effort that counts. A kind word, a loving connection, or making that little extra effort, even to reach out through cyberspace, can make a world of difference.
So treat your elders with the appreciation and respect that they deserve. It is often all that they want more than anything else.