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Choose Your Battles – Effects of Dementia on the Family

MP900442315 By Cindy Sproles
Entering the “golden years” of life should be a joyful and exciting time. For most, the years when retirement becomes a reality and life grows less stressful, is a wonderful time. If aging parents have planned well, their homes are paid for, expenses are overall less, and this season of life, by all due rights, should be a time to relax and enjoy. But what happens when the hopes and dreams of a well-planned retirement shifts?

According to the Institute for Dementia Research & Prevention, there over “5 million individuals with age-related dementias.” One in six women, and one in ten men over the age of 55 will be affected by some form of Alzheimer’s or dementia.  Thanks to cutting edge research, new methods of treatment, including medications, cognitive skills tasks, and physical activity are being developed to help manage dementia.

In an article from Helpguide.org, dementia includes a various assortment of symptoms from memory loss, personality changes, to impaired intellectual functions. Along with the decrease in memory, impaired judgment, faulty reasoning, inappropriate behaviors, loss of communication skills, and disorientation accompany the disease. All of these symptoms mean frustration for the affected parent and the family members.

It is still a mystery as to why our affected aging parents become obstinate to those they love the most, but the key to dealing with any form of dementia is learning to pick your battles. Frequently, well-meaning family members find themselves continually correcting facts with  their seniors who deal with memory loss. For example, a senior may say, “Isn’t that yellow couch pillow beautiful?” The pillow is actually blue.  There’s no need to correct the loved one, when the color of the pillow really doesn’t matter. The instinct to help the loved one remember the color blue comes with good intentions. However, correcting a senior over something this simple is frustrating and leads to agitation.

It’s important to understand, depending on the severity of the dementia, your aging parent is aware their memory is not serving them efficiently. They grow frustrated and irritable when they cannot control the thoughts they once managed successfully.  There comes a time when  therapeutic fiblets  are considered not only appropriate, but necessary. Therapeutic fiblets are those necessary lies that allow affected seniors to maintain a high quality of life over a life of anger, frustration, and feelings of disrespect. Our nature pushes us to tell only the truth to our aging seniors. Never lie to your elders. But when the world of reality for your aging parent is thirty years prior and not today, forcing current facts on them sends them into a state of chaos.  Should your parent think they are living with their spouse, who in reality passed away twenty years earlier, is forced into current reality, they are put at risk. One of two things can happen: 1) they will accept the news and begin the mourning process over  2) the parent will adamantly deny the truth. Therapeutic fiblets become a necessary fact in dealing with dementia.

Diagnosis for dementia and Alzheimer’s can be a slow process especially in the early, milder phases.  Memory slips are easily hidden or brushed to the side, but as the disease progresses and loved ones drift forward and back in time, what becomes most important is their quality of life. It is vital family members understand dementia is a progression. Though simple word games, and reading are good ways to help exercise and maintain the brain, they are not fixes. Dementia does not improve, rather it only leads to eventual decline. Learning to choose the important battles are important.  Providing a stress free environment becomes the primary goal so patients are relaxed and comfortable. Debating the day of the week or the color of a couch become less important and allowing a good quality of life takes the lead.

As loved ones slip deeper into themselves, recognition fades, names seem to go to the wayside, but the love that is felt by a caring family never leaves. Dementia is difficult at best, but holding tight to the joys of that wonderful parent are precious.

*Develop good habits and routines early on, i.e. putting the keys in the same bowl by the door every time, using post-it notes for reminders, securing a personal emergency response button.
*Simplify choices by paring down clothing in closets or lessening dishes and kitchen utensils. Rid the home of clutter. The fewer decisions that must be made for your loved one, the better.
*Have an on-the-road driving evaluation made to assure operating a vehicle is still a good choice.
*Chat with family and friends. This keeps the mind alert. Social interaction is vital to help maintain memory skills.
*Emphasize the joy in life.

Visit https://www.alz.org/ (Alzheimer’s Association) for additional information on caring for family members with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Treat Them with Dignity

Cindy Sproles

Today’s society has lost a huge part of its compassion. The world of media brings loss, pain and tragedy into our lives at an overwhelming rate. As a people, we’ve become desensitized to the core values we were taught as children.

Baby Boomers were raised by parents or loved ones who believed in the validity of a handshake and the importance of treating others as they themselves expected to be treated. They held tight to work ethic, honesty, integrity, faith and dignity.

As our parents age, they are faced with the realization and loss of these basic staples of life. It’s a painful process when they must accept the inability to stand alone –lose their independence.

When your patience runs low or you feel the deep frustration that accompanies an aging parent, keep in mind what is hard for us as children is tenfold for our parents.

Remember as parents age and begin to repeat questions, that when we were children we constantly asked “Why?”

When they can’t seem to recall your name, remember there was a time when the only name we could repeat, was theirs. When their movements are slow and tedious, keep in mind, it was their loving hands which steadied us as we toddled. If a meal ends up on their clothes instead of in their mouths, don’t forget who patiently taught us to feed ourselves and then gently swiped the goo from our fingers.

Remember as our parents continue to grow older and personal cleanliness becomes a problem, it was they who walked us through potty training and who bathed the mud from our childhood antics, then re-cleaned the tub for the ump-teenth time. And when they lose their confidence after a fall, remember the numerous times they held us close after a tumble, then encouraged us to forge ahead. It was our parents who cheered us through the rough times as a child and who allowed us to lean against them as adults.

When you are frustrated with the added “stuff”—walkers, canes or wheelchairs which have to be lugged out the door and to the car just to take them to the post office, keep in mind the diaper bags, the bottles, the extra clothes, snacks and “stuff” they toted off their shoulder, while you rested on their hip, legs dangling and arms squeezing their necks. It was a chore then and it’s still a chore, but worth the effort—worth the love.

And most of all, when they meet with the fears of forgetfulness and the anxieties of being in unfamiliar surroundings, remember how they stood in the background, just in view, encouraging you to step forward, “You can do it.”

Finally, when the reality that they cannot be left alone digs deep into their hearts, remember they never left us alone, afraid, or ignored us as small children, but they kept us close at hand, always watching, always present…always there.

When the roles reverse, remember to love and treat the aging seniors with dignity and honor—for without them, we would be nothing. Everything we learned…we learned from our parents. If for nothing else, they have earned the right.

The Gift of “No Gifts

Courtesy of pixaby.com and ChristianDevotions

Courtesy of pixaby.com and ChristianDevotions

Here come the holidays. Long before Halloween ended, stores began the Christmas holiday push. Gift giving catalogues have hit the mail, on-line shopping has begun, even morning news shows have started sharing holiday gift specials. The world says, “It’s time to shop!”

Several years back we let my mom “off the hook” for Christmas shopping.  It wasn’t hard to see how quickly our family had grown. Shopping for every child, grandchild, and great-grandchild, though it was joyful and fun for mom, was financially taxing on her small monthly pension. In fact, it was unreasonable.

My mother is no different than any other aging parent. Christmas has always been the time when they could shower all the “grands” with loads of gifts. After all, the world insists Christmas is about giving. But many aging seniors are not fortunate enough to devote two or three months of pension to assuring gifts are under the tree. Yet they spend this money without hesitation.

For grandparents, the joy of purchasing gifts is something they look forward to on a yearly basis. It’s something they plan to do, one way or the other. So when your aging parents are faced with the grind and guilt of holiday purchases – offer them a new alternative.

Refocus the Christmas holiday to family. Invite the crowd over to a potluck dinner –the working word here is “potluck.” Feeding a small army is expensive when you consider the price of a turkey to be approximately $25 and a ham as much as $30. The question then arises . . .will one be enough? One meal for a family of 25 can soar as high as $300.  None of us set out to bust mom and dad’s budget – we simply don’t think about the cost. Encourage a potluck dinner where each portion of the family provides a part of the meal. Suggest parents provide their family’s favorite dish and everyone else will bring the fixings. You will not only save hundreds of dollars for your aging parents, but you will preserve their pride in providing Christmas dinner. A potluck allows mom to decorate the table, pull out her prettiest dishes, and spend time with those she loves without spending the day slaving over a hot stove.

Draw names. If your family insists on exchanging gifts as a whole, then consider drawing names. This cuts the cost of gift giving in half.

Set a dollar limit. Set a feasible dollar amount on gifts. If you have parents who insist on purchasing for every family member, setting a dollar amount will help curb the cost. This is equally as true when drawing names. The idea is to control spending.

Silly Santa or Family traditions. Taking gift giving back to the joy of fellowship draws families closer. Find a family tradition that brings out the fun around the Christmas tree. In our family, there is a joke about getting only socks. Yearly my mother spends a great amount of time (and little money), making sure she wraps one or two pairs of socks for each family member.  The fun comes when gifts are passed out and everyone knows what’s in the box. Each box of socks that is opened brings a rousing cheer and applause for being accepted into the family for another year. The holidays aren’t about gifts, they are about family fellowship and love.

Some families choose the chaos and fun of Silly Santa (otherwise known as Dirty Santa). Again, gifts are inexpensive, and fun.

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com & geralt

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com & geralt

Handmade or sentimental giving. In our case, mother is a quilter. Each year she makes small quilted items – wall hangings, beautiful fabric bowls, potholders, or table runners. After all the gifts are opened, she has everyone pick a number then she sifts through a bowl and draws the winner. The gift may be a quilt or a magnificent wall hanging . . . the trick is, it’s made by her and for every family member the gift is sentimental.

Family cards. If your aging parents are like most, they want to purchase something. Consider prepaid gift cards to local restaurants or stores. $5, $10, even $20 cards are appreciated and much more affordable than going “all out.”

Make Christmas about your aging parents. Make the majority of the gifts under the tree, gifts for mom and dad. Give them photos of your family. Gift cards to the local grocery store or gas stations. Hire a cleaning service for a monthly visit. Purchase and paint a room in the house. Pre-pay the electric bill for a month.  Most of our parents have all the trinkets they need around the house, make your gifts practical. Your parents will appreciate the efforts.

Time. Our lives grow busier and busier each year but time is the greatest gift you can give your aging parent. Daily or weekly phone calls, visits, inviting them to your home for dinner or even a weekend stay. Going to the park, a meal out, a movie – nothing is more precious than your time especially if your parent has lost a spouse.  Remember the holidays, though joyful on the outside, can be the most painful for a single aging parent. They’ve spent over half their lives with the one they loved and now that person is gone. Seniors face loneliness, depression, and heart ache during the holiday seasons. Memories flood back as they decorate their tree and then take it down.  Your time with your parents is vital.

It’s been said that regret is a horrible bedfellow. If you have disagreements with your aging parents, put them behind you. Move ahead with forgiveness, peace, and love. Make every effort to spend quality time with your loved ones during their golden years. Unchecked efforts become deep and inconsolable regret after they are gone.

Make this holiday season a joyful and memorable one. Cut costs. Refocus on family. Make your gift to parents, the gift of no gifts. This year change up the game and allow the reason for the season to take first place in your Christmas plans.

Saying Goodbye

photo courtesy of www.pixabay.com & Unsplash

photo courtesy of http://www.pixabay.com & Unsplash

None of us wants to address death. Just the thoughts of losing a loved one will move us to tears long before the event. Still death is inevitable for us all. So the question arises, how do we face this issue, remain strong, and allow our aging parent the dignity they deserve?

It’s a tedious balancing act. As much as we’d like to assume every family is issue free, they aren’t. Many families face on-going sibling rivalry, family disagreement, and long histories of conflict. Add in the reality of an aging parent facing death, and the frustration only escalates.

Sadly enough, family conflict will sometimes outweigh the feelings and needs of the loved one. The resolution of family disagreement may never happen, but it can be laid to the side for a short time.

According to studies done from the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry, terminal patients recognize end-of-life symptoms long before their passing. Though they have no idea when their passing will occur, many will begin to make preparations such as:

* Will preparations
* Family discussion on funeral arrangements
* Distribution of meaningful belongings
* Final conversations
* Reminiscing

It’s not uncommon to have grandma begin to distribute belongings she holds dear to unsuspecting recipients. It’s important to remember, that though an ugly vase grandma kept on her dining room table may have no meaning to you, there is a special memory tied to it for grandma. She may never share the memory, or she may not know how to express the meaning, but to her, the vase you consider ugly . . . is beautiful and it means enough to her that she longs to share it with a loved one. When grandma offers the vase, accept it with love and joy. Show her the gratitude she deserves by allowing her the happiness of accepting it graciously. It’s not about you – it’s about her. If she is able, you may be surprised by the meaning and even more surprised if the object you’ve thought so ugly in the past, acquires a new meaning you now enjoy.

photo courtesy www.pixabay.com & geralt

photo courtesy http://www.pixabay.com & geralt

Listen to their stories even if you’ve heard them a hundred times. Listen closely for the details that may have passed over unwilling ears earlier. This is the legacy of your loved one. It’s history. It’s memories that, once the loved one is gone, you will cherish.

Find forgiveness. Perhaps you’ve been at odds with your loved one. For lack of better words, death is final. It’s irreversible. It was once said, “Regret is a horrible bedfellow.” The truth in this is overwhelming. There is no disagreement worth a lifetime of regret. Take time, if for no one other than yourself and your own future, to make amends. For example: a mother lost her estranged daughter in a car accident, her last memory was an argument three years earlier. As the daughter was laid to rest, all her mother could remember was three valuable years lost over bitter words.

The same thought process should be applied to learning to say I love you. Perhaps it’s not commonplace for these emotions to be exhibited, but when you’re approached by an aging parent who declares their love for you, return the courtesy. Your acceptance and gentle response, even if it is not your nature, will give peace and closure to a loved one facing their final months, weeks, or days. Once again, it’s not about you (though you will benefit), it’s about the loved one.

Family discussion over finances, wills, and personal effects can become heated and unfortunately no family, whether they are wealthy or poor, are immune to greed. If your family disagrees over possessions, make the effort to suspend those while your loved one works through the acceptance of their future. Despite the argument, allow your loved one to see a calm and peace for a short time. It’s a kind act in their behalf. The life of the loved one is far greater than any possession.

What if the tables are turned and your loved one is the center of conflict? The greatest advice is apply the golden rule – treat others the way you would want to be treated. You are always the winner when you choose the high road, even when your loved one may be condescending or difficult. Keep in mind that at times the anger and frustration an aging parent experiences may be fueled by dementia or Alzheimer’s. It may be spurred by disappointment in their own lives or things they have no control over – even the realization some actions of the past are unchangeable.

Ultimately we, as children, cannot repair the past of our loved ones but despite their obstinacy we can adopt an attitude of forgiveness – does it make the actions of those loved ones right? No. But in your own life, you will have peace for having “loved them anyway.”

Our immortality affects us each one in a deeply personal place. We’re forced to not only look ahead to the end but to look back over what has been. When your aging parent begins to make end-of-life preparations, spend quality time with them. Tell them you love them. Walk the path with them. Seek out their personal spiritual situation and guide them appropriately.

photo courtesy www.pixaby.com &  Gaertringen

photo courtesy http://www.pixaby.com & Gaertringen

Saying goodbye is never easy but we can choose gentleness, loving ways, and understanding. The rewards for both the aging parent and for you, are immeasurable. Years after the loss, you can look back and say, “I’m glad I did,” instead of “I wish I had.”

Making the Move – Home to Assisted Living

by Cindy Sproles

It goes without saying, the decision to move a parent into an assisted living or nursing home facility is both heart wrenching and guilt filled. There is no doubt parents are happier in their own environment. Ninety-nine percent of the time, they thrive much better from their homes due to this one simple thing: A sense of independence. But what happens when it is obvious a move must be made?
Many time aging parents are reluctant – even determined, they will not move into a facility and the one card they have to play, is the guilt card. “I’ve taken care of you all your life and you just want to put me away now?” Understandably, this is a normal response to the possibilities of losing your independence.

Even the most loving parent can dig into the depths and find something to make the decision harder. Despite our best efforts, the decision to make this move can tear a family apart. Your job, and the jobs of your siblings is to prepare in advance. Sometimes the best a child can hope for is cooperation, even if it’s begrudging.

There are ways to make the transition easier and they begin well before a parent needs the assistance:

*Have the discussion – Talk with aging parents early on and hash out scenarios that can be written down and placed into important papers. Address the what ifs. What if you fall and become unable to care for yourself? What if your memory becomes clouded and you cannot remember to eat, or bathe? What if your children are living in other states? There are lots of what ifs that your family can discuss. Address these things when parents are in good health and a bit more reasonable, then, many times the guilt of making this decision vanishes.

*Do the paperwork – Take time to make preparations for aging parents. Secure necessary power of attorney for health and durable power of attorney for daily living care. Check into setting up a revocable trust that parents can divert funds or their home into which remain untouched for their care. Seek the assistance of the bank to place one executer as an owner on all bank accounts, IRA and insurance policies (simply having your name on the signature card does not allow you access to necessary funds in the event of death or an emergency). Put a living will, as well as an after-life will, into play and have copies handy in the event of an emergency. Place insurance, doctor’s names and phone numbers, pharmacies, and even copies of prescriptions and medication lists into a 3-ring binder for easy access. Add copies of drivers licenses, social security card, insurance cards – any cards that you feel might be necessary as times progresses. Having these things in place saves chaos and confusion when they are needed.

*Visit facilities – Take time to visit facilities. See what each one offers. Check out costs, insurance coverages, and out-of-pocket expenses. Check with the families of other residents and see how the care stacks up with their loved one.

When the time arrives you feel a move is necessary for the health and safety of your parent, make a doctor’s appointment, first without the parent and then later with the parent affected. Ask your questions, express your concerns. Give the doctor a heads up on your loved one. Then schedule an appointment with the parent. Allow the doctor to do a fair assessment and testing, and if the medical professional deems it necessary, allow them to be the one to recommend a move. Many times, aging parents will listen to the doctor before they will listen to their children. Again, it’s the fear of losing independence. Have and exhibit a show of compassion for this blow to your aging parent. It hurts and honestly, it’s frightening, so try to roll with the punches.

Once the doctor has delivered the news, allow your parent some time to absorb the news. Don’t rush out of the office and into a facility. Offer your loved one some space to gather their thoughts and take in the reality of first – aging to this point; and secondly, releasing their independence. It is, after all, a life altering decision.

Making the Move

*Take time to sort through possessions as a family – A few weeks prior to moving your parent, take time to sift through belongings with them. Allow them to pick and choose what they need to take. Remember they, they have to mentally adjust to having their possessions dispersed. Help them choose the sentimental items they can take with them that will keep their family and sense of familiarity close. Allow aging parents to give certain items to particular family members.

elderly-handsA family recently moved their mother into an assisted living. Her great granddaughter had married a few months prior and grandmother was able to completely provide her granddaughter with all the necessities of homemaking – a new washer, dryer, refrigerator, stove, dishes, etc. It was a joy for this grandmother to give these items to her great grandchild knowing they would provide her with the same warmth and joy of housekeeping as they’d provided herself. The key to sorting through possessions with an aging parent is taking the time to reminisce as items are packed away. Once again, be compassionate.

*Purchase a new mattress – Though this can be costly, it’s worth the effort. It’s difficult enough to sleep in a strange surrounding, but making the most of rest is vital. It sounds silly, but a new mattress that is comfortable helps lull your loved one into a more restful sleep. And a good night’s sleep is worth the effort. Loved ones will rest better, eat better, and have a healthier attitude if they are well rested.

*Don’t forget to take the hobbies – If your mother is an active seamstress, take her sewing. If dad is an avid reader, make sure he has access to his reading. Try to make room for their favorite chair. It’s the little things that mean the most.

*Keep their routine – If you visit weekly prior to the move, continue to do so. Routine is important. If mom has her hair done weekly, keep the routine. Not only do these routines help maintain “normal,” they also allow a sense of independence to care for one’s self. Take parents shopping, to church, and on outings. Being pro-active is vital. Your job as a caregiver at home may have lessened but it has not ended. Remain in close contact with your aging parents. It will make all the difference in the world.

The decision to move into an assisted living or nursing home facility is hard but as a family, you can make the transition a joy and an adventure.

Adding a caregiver into the mix will help make the transition easier, especially in the evenings when family has gone home. Will there still be bumps in the road? More than likely. Will all transitions be an easy fix? Probably not. But if you make the effort to make the move as easy and natural as possible, the weight and guilt of the decision is easier.

How Do You Mend a Broken Heart?

Photo courtesy of Microsoft.com free photo gallery

Abigail folded her hands and bowed her head. “Thank you Jesus for our food. In Jesus Name. Amen.”

“That was sweet, Honey. Wasn’t it dad?” Marilyn patted her aging dad on the knee. “Dad. Didn’t Abby do a great job with the prayer?”

Her father stared at the table. He unfolded the plaid cloth napkin and placed it in his lap. Marilyn’s teenage son gently nudged his grandfather’s arm. “Green beans?” Still no response.

Marilyn spooned a small helping onto her dad’s plate. “They’re cooked just like Mom made them. Big chunk of pork and simmered until tender. Salt. You’ll love them Dad.”

The tension was thick. The moment uncomfortable. And Marilyn couldn’t ease the anxiety. Her had mother passed away a few months earlier and she’d moved her dad into her home so she could care for him.

Marilyn’s dad poked at the green beans then scooted his chair away from the table and excused himself. He pressed his palm against his chest, and groaned. “My chest hurts.”

Charles and Eleanor Morrison had spent 62 years of their lives together. Eleanor never left Charles’ side even after two strokes nearly took his life. She’d help him walk, literally helped him place food in his mouth when his face was numbed from the stroke. Eleanor was not only his lifelong soul mate, she was his caregiver – the joy of his life. So when Charles woke early that Saturday morning and Eleanor didn’t roll over to kiss his forehead, life as Charles knew it . . . ended.

Marilyn and her sister made numerous efforts to help “snap” their dad out of his sadness but nothing seemed to work. A trip to the doctor gained the diagnosis of “Broken Heart Syndrome.” Marilyn laughed. “You’re not serious?” But indeed, the doctor was very serious.

Broken Heart Syndrome is in fact a very real diagnosis with patients experiencing:
*shortness of breath
*chest pain
*irregular heartbeats
*an overall general weakness
*appetite loss
*weight loss
*depression and fatigue

According to Mayo Clinic the exact cause of Broken Heart Syndrome is unclear but when the body experiences a devastating event or trauma a surge of “stress” hormones are released (i.e. adrenaline) striking the heart and causing the symptoms to present.

Studies on the elderly show Broken Heart Syndrome is not uncommon for the surviving spouse after the loss of their mate. Stress, loneliness, depression all play into the effects. Insurance companies who pay life insurance benefits followed the mortality rate of widowers/widows to discover a higher mortality rate in the second spouse within in six months of the passing of the first. They also noted that women who suffer the loss of their husband are at higher risk than men to experience Broken Heart Syndrome, though men do also experience it as well and in a more devastating way.

What Do Families Do?
At best, the loss of an aging parent is difficult for children but the surviving spouse suffers far worse. It’s important for families to realize they cannot set a time frame for grief. Where their lives move ahead with the busyness of their immediate families, the lives of the aging parent becomes far more emptier. Children are grown, retirement has taken away the daily grind of work, and the glaring fact of their own immortality looms as a reality.

There is no real “best” way to ease the symptoms of Broken Heart Syndrome but families can follow these suggestions as a guideline:

*If the grieving process is remains severe after 60 days, contact the physician for a health exam.
*Plug into a grief/loss support group or become involved in an active seniors group through local churches or the Department of Aging.
*Encourage walking (exercise strengthens the body and allows the mind to process thoughts without interruption).
*Do not force the issue, rather work with the physician and even grief counselor to help bring a parent into acceptance.
*If the symptoms listed above are continual . . . seek medical attention (Broken Heart Syndrome mimics a heart attack. It’s always better safe than sorry.)
*Encourage family members to renew relationships with the parent. Calls, cards, communication is vital.
*Grieve WITH your parent. Sharing your own grief allows the parent to grieve as well. But be wise in how, what and when you share. It helps when a parent realizes they are not alone in vortex of void.
*Don’t try to replace the loss but encourage new adventures. Plant the seeds of activity so they can sprout.
*Be sensitive to the emptiness your parent feels and love them even when it’s hard.

Families often think a “quick fix” is moving the surviving parent into the home of a child. It’s important to remember that, unless it’s medically necessary, sudden uprooting may not be in the best interest of your loved one. When a loved one has spent over half of their life with a spouse, it’s enough to suddenly be without them, but uprooting the surviving parent without allowing them adequate time to grieve may be equally as detrimental.

Allow time for the family to come together and sort slowly through the memories that hang in the closet or are stacked in a cabinet. Physical possessions are something surviving parents can touch, feel, and identify with. Seeking to empty out personal belongings to quickly may be an effective coping mechanism for children, but not for the surviving parent. Be compassionate and understanding while walking your loved one through the loss.

The loss of a spouse is a traumatic thing. Seek out patient and effective ways to help your parent grieve and move past so a new beginning appears hopeful and not debilitating.

Time is the ultimate healer and for some that time is longer rather than shorter. Finding patience, offering hope, and praying together as a family, brings comfort. Nothing surpasses love. When families come together to support one another the process is bearable.

For more information on Broken Heart Syndrome visit The American Heart Association and their article on Broken Heart Syndrome or ( www.heart.org ).

Love Them Gently Into the Golden Years

Photo courtesy of www.openculture.com

Photo courtesy of http://www.openculture.com

Written and released originally by recording artist, Otis Redding, Respect became the signature and hit for R&B singer, Aretha Franklin and the anthem for many who appreciated what respect meant to them.

The very nature of humans teeter on respect. Our self-esteem, our confidence, even decision making, pends on how we feel about ourselves. When we feel pushed down or brushed off, the very thing that builds us, tears us down.

Our country is seeing the last of those veterans who served in World War II, laid to rest. Those who were an active part of this nations greatest technological, industrial, and medical technologies era are slowly fading. The age of work ethic, strong sense of family, and personal responsibility fades with them. As the new fast-paced world of instant messages and cell phones over take our seniors, it leaves behind the one thing valued most by them – their respect.

At a slower time in this country’s history, a man was known by his integrity and his word. If he committed to a task, he completed it regardless of issues. It was, by all due rights, what earned him the title of respected.

Our seniors are caught in a time warp. Nestled between the old and the new. In their lifetime, they’ve seen the invention of every major life’s convenience known to man. Yet, in the midst of the of all this development, our seniors – the creators of these modern conveniences, are forgotten. Treated as second class. Disrespected. And it has only served to break them.

In this world of instant gratification, the youth of our country grow impatient when grandma can’t operate a smart phone or granddaddy gives up on the newest remote control. Instead of showing grace or offering assistance, they quickly snap at them, leading seniors to feel less than adequate and incapable.Senior woman contemplating

It’s important to remember how the aging process works and then practice the necessary methods needed to uplift their aging loved ones rather than tear them down.

According to a recent article posted on WedMD.com,  Dr. Kenneth Minaker, MD, chief of geriatric medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School stated, “Aging is a life-saving process,” he says. “It is a process of lifelong adaptation to prevent us from developing cancers that would kill us.” Though we look at aging as a deterioration of our bodies, in essence, it’s an adaptation of our bodies to help us adjust as we slowly complete the life process.

Outside of the obvious decline in eyesight and hearing, reflexes, movement, and mental aspects begin to slow. The mind processes slightly slower. The ability of being agile lessens, joints and muscles tighten and stiffen. Our ability to problem solve lessens somewhat. The result of these things reveals itself through frustration and agitation.

Learning to be an encouragement to our aging parents is important. Make a concerted effort to offer them the respect they have earned in a lifetime of hard work, and family rearing. It’s enough to come to the realization that our bodies do not function the way they once did, but when seniors are constantly treated as second class or as a problem to the family, the respect is gone. And when the respect leaves, aging parents falter.

Practice these tips to learn a deeper respect for your aging parents:

Reflect over your own life – Regardless of our age, we have a past. Grant you, the past of a twenty-year-old is nothing compared to that of a eighty-year-old, but the fact remains, taking a small amount of time daily to reflect over your own life’s choices, successes and even failures, softens your attitude toward others. Self-reflection allows us to look into ourselves and take notes, which in turn, help us self-correct.

Joe, a thirty-year-old computer analyst, entered his workplace frustrated a co-worker had parked in his space. Even though it was an open parking lot, spaces were not labeled, Joe parked in the same spot everyday. Three rows back, second from the end, just enough space to get in easily and exit quickly. Today, a co-worker took his parking space. Madaline, an older receptionist, greeted Joe daily as he entered the building. Her smile and sweet nature was a joy.  Joe bolted through the front door angry. Breezing past Madaline, he remarked wasn’t it time she retired because she just didn’t “get” the needs of the employees any longer.

Self-reflection gave Joe the perspective he needed to understand his actions toward Madaline were  unwarranted and hurtful. Not only had he insulted Madaline out of anger, but as his elder and having forty plus years in the company, he disrespected her.

Elderly Man Touching ChinSpend time with the elderly – Take note of the company you keep. Do you spend time with seniors outside of your grandparents? If not, ask yourself why. Many times, aging seniors frighten us. Not because of who they are, but because of what they represent to us. In them, we see our own immortality. Our future; and that can be scary. However, making the effort to spend quality time with seniors allows us the opportunity to learn about our past and to understand the aging process is natural and nothing to be feared. Sensitivity develops and a deeper compassion for those who “can’t move”  as fast as they once did.

Notice the seniors around you – Pay attention to the seniors who surround you. Take note of their value and contributions both past and present. Build them up. Thank them for their wisdom and service. After all, without them, we would not be.

Be considerate of seniors’ well being – Learn patience. Take extra steps to assist a senior in the store, or on the street. Be kind and understand their hearing is not what it used to be. More so, treat them with respect. They’ve earned it. Treating a senior with respect lifts their spirits, encourages their health, and strengthens their desire to maintain.

Finally, be respectful – Remember, our seniors are from a different age in time when things were different. Manners were important. Practice good, old fashioned manners. Call them Mr. or Mrs. unless they request otherwise. Stand when they enter a room. Say thank you and please. Today’s world preaches for us to meet the youth of America, “where they are.” When in retrospect, the same should apply to our seniors. Meet them where they are. Help them where it is needed and be respectful of their past position and current status.

Respect comes in scores of ways. Our seniors deserve our patience and respect. Practice these skills and see how your own life improves.