April 1, 2017

Visits: more than just business

Short on time? No one understands that feeling better than family caregivers. There’s always so much to do and so little time to do it.

While productive and practical, a task-focused visit can inadvertently demean your loved one. No one wants to feel like an item on the to-do list! For the receiver, there’s a huge difference between feeling cared about and being cared for.

These suggestions may help to make your visits more than just business:

  • Slow down. Take a tip from Dr. Dennis McCullough, author of My Mother, Your Mother: Embracing “Slow Medicine,” the Compassionate Approach to Caring for Your Aging Loved Ones. The elderly operate at a different pace than the working world. Before walking in the door, take a few deep breaths and get your mind out of the fast lane. Make enjoying the moment one of the highest priorities on your to-do list.
  • Break up the routine. As convenient as it is to have a standing date, it can make the both of you feel obligated. Shoot for some flexibility and choice. If you always go shopping with Mom on Saturday morning, try setting up a bonus Wednesday dinner date. Or a video. “Date night” with a parent can do a lot to preserve their self-esteem and remind you both that there is a relationship there past the realities of elder care.
  • Allow them their dignity. Humans have a strong desire to reciprocate when given to. Otherwise they feel like a “freeloader” or a burden. Think of ways your loved one can give back. Not necessarily through material gifts. Let them know you value their stories, humor, wisdom, or other treasures they share with you.

Whether you visit your loved one once a week or once a year, always remember the reason you are there is much larger than the things that have to get done.

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