As the old refrain goes, "Don't Bring Me Posies, It's Shoesies I Need." Although you might not be old enough to hum this tune, the message is the same today as long ago.
If you are giving a gift or offering to help, it's important to step into the other person's shoes. What does your loved one really need? The needs of elderly people are not much different than any other generation.
We all need food, a roof over our heads, love, affection, intimacy, help when we're sick, ways to feel good about ourselves, to be useful and feel needed, to give to others, to be active, challenged, to achieve, to be creative, to feel joy, to laugh and to fill spiritual needs.
In order to contribute and add meaning to life we need to help the elderly meet their needs. We can often find out what these needs are by putting ourselves in their shoes, by observing, by asking and by listening.
It is important to make sure you are helping at the "right" level. Bringing food when what is needed is affection is not helpful. To help them use their creative talents, when what they need is to belong and are still part of the family, is not helpful.
For you and me and everyone else, help is worthwhile only when it is meaningful or useful to the person receiving it. Advice-giving, avoiding, denying, punishing, and controlling are not helpful and do not add quality to life. It's best to work towards mutual acceptance and mutual growth, trust, openness, problem-solving and exploring things together.
Think about it. Are you really helping or are you hindering? Everyone means well and we know you do.
Most people would like to do things for themselves. You may want to rethink all the many things you do to help others. Get into their shoes - that's not always easy. Especially if you like to bring flowers.
Set some goals, something different. They might be:
To encourage your loved one to do as many things as possible for themselves and offer support only when really necessary;
To encourage physical activities with you or elsewhere;
To get on a brain fitness program - anything that's stimulating;
To bring friendship, love and affection whenever possible.
Go for it. Do something new. Pat yourself on the back. We do. Thanks for all your efforts and remember, will it be flowers or shoes?
Jan Gazley RN, BScN is a nurse with 25 years of experience including caring for people with dementia. She owns and operates One to One Home Health. Contact Jan at onetoonehomehealth.ca or 6047866165.
Wendy Thompson MA is a gerontologist, caregiver consultant and coach, published author and former olympian. Wendy is available for consulting and coaching at 604-275-0091.