Stay in touch with your parents. Life is busy and change is inevitable. However, despite all the things that you have going on in your life, remember to keep your parents a part of it. Set aside a time at least once a week to call up or drop by and see how your parents are doing.
If you live a long way away from your parents, set up a means for communicating with them regularly. Skype is great because you can see them as well as talk to them. If they feel uncomfortable with the technology, ask someone who can help to set it up for them. Once they know how, it’s unlikely they’ll ever go back to older, clunkier ways of communicating.
Ask your parents how things are. Keep up to date with their day-to-day happenings by asking them what they’re doing. Also listen for the things they’re not telling you, such as health problems or money worries.
Ask them if there is anything they need or that you can do for them. Sometimes you won’t know unless you ask them, as many parents are very careful about not wanting to burden their children.
Bring happiness into your parent’s life. Call them, visit them and spend time having a good laugh together. Sure, there will be tales of sadness when they lose friends and stories of their hardships but it is important to remind them of what it’s like to feel happy, to laugh and to see the beauty of the world.
- Share jokes and funny stories together.
- Remember happy things from the past. Retelling fond family memories can let them know you treasure the memories too.
Be willing to listen more than advise. Let your parents know that you are there for them and that you’re happy to offer advice if wanted. However, don’t foist advice onto them. They might be slower and less active than before but they’re still capable of making their own decisions and it is important to respect this.
Be prepared to find suitable advisers that your parents might need. For example, if they need good financial or legal advice, help them to find a good financial planner or a lawyer. This is better than trying to offer advice on things you don’t know much about. Even if you do know, it can also provide appropriate distance so that nobody feels taken advantage of.
Think about how important it is to feel in control. Don’t presume that your elderly parents are unable to take care of their needs unless there are clear signs that this is the case. Even then, respect that your elderly parents still care about their independence and being treated as someone who matters. Respect their dignity at all stages of the elderly years.
Be very careful about suggesting that your parents are older than they are. For example, suggesting to your 76 year old dad who is relatively fit and still working hard that he needs a rail to help him get into the bath won’t go down very well; on the other hand, if he’s 86 and in poor health, this may be a good thing to suggest.
- Be patient and smile often. Bring positive news into their lives.
- Think about how you expect to be treated as an elderly parent. This will put a lot of things into perspective for you.
- Speak clearly. If your parents find it harder to hear, be sure that they’re hearing you properly by speaking clearly.
- It’s a good idea to ask your parents to turn off the TV, radio or other distractions when you call. You’re there to see them, not to watch them at their distractions. This also applies when they call on you. Set aside the time to communicate properly.
- Speak a little slower than you would with your peers.
- Make sure you have a parent’s attention (eye contact, if possible) before you start talking; definitely do not talk “to the back of their heads.”
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