If you have aging relatives who are no longer able to live life independently, it’s easy to get your priorities warped. Offering them a sustainable life where they are fed, looked after, and have a roof over their head is important. But we need a lot more than that, no matter what age we are. We need respect, we need dignity, and we need some joy in life. Let’s look at a few of the ways we can make sure we offer it.
The importance of doing something
It has long been a maxim that we tend to live a little more fruitfully if we have something to actually occupy our time. When you’re retired and less able than you once were, your options shrink, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have options. There a lot of volunteer groups and community efforts offering activities and hobbies for older people, whether living at home or in nursing homes. Take a look at those available in your area and ask your loved one if they would like to participate.
The tightening grasp of isolation
Another serious issue facing many of the older people in our community is the risk of isolation. They are at a much higher risk for it as their social circle shrinks, and it has links not only to mental health issues like depression but serious neurological conditions like dementia, too. Beyond finding hobbyist groups that allow them to widen their peer circle, simply taking the time to visit more often can have a huge impact. Many of us make the mistake of visiting to “check up” on them, which can feel more like an interrogation than anything else. Sometimes, it’s important to visit just to spend time with them.
Remembering their vulnerability
That’s not to say that it’s not important to check up on them, too. For instance, if we’re not their primary caregiver, we have to always be aware of the real threat of nursing home abuse and be ready to recognize the signs as they are not always easy to spot. Be frank about your concerns about your loved one’s health if they’re willing to discuss it and keep an eye out for signs they might not be telling the whole story.
It’s more than physical health and well-being we should look out for, as well. As mentioned, when we get older, elements like isolation make depression a much higher risk. Talk to your loved one about how they feel and don’t ignore any symptoms of depression they exhibit. If they are depressed and ready to seek treatment for it, you can provide a lot of support by participating in their medical care and helping them ask the questions they might neglect to.
We have our own lives and concerns to contend with, so don’t beat yourself up too much if you think occasionally you fail the loved ones in your life. But strive to do better next time and to ask if you’re really caring for the person, or just providing care.