It’s not hard to see how the elderly can often be a victim of ageism, something very real, something most of us know that we might have to deal with as we become older and start to transition to the golden years of our lives.
We can often see how our elderly relatives are treated to see how society can demonize those who are gaining in the years.
However, we can rectify this, by changing minds and hearts. Although sometimes, helping to protect the dignity of your elderly relative can be just as worthwhile - and that starts by changing how you interact with them.
Consider the following advice to help you approach this subject with much more tenderness, and to help bond with your relative.
Don’t Take Away Their Authority
When our relative reaches a certain age, we might wish to consider helping them out more and more in their everyday life. This can be a hard line to draw, and it can be hard to do so with care. For example, it might be that your elderly relative needs a certain set of medication they should take each morning. Perhaps they have told you that they are comfortable and willing to take said medication. They understand the importance of it.
Then, you notice when visiting their place for a Sunday dinner, you notice the medication has been left untouched. How do you approach this? With force, or anger? Do you take their independence out of their hands in order to force them to take said medication?
There’s a careful way to do this, and it can be hard to find. It’s always best to talk thoroughly about your concerns and worries. Sometimes, it might take someone else, such as a sibling, to talk to them privately so that they feel less ashamed. From time to time, arranging a home visit with a GP can provide that authoritative voice you might need to convince them they need extra help. But conversation is the most important thing, and only in the most stressful and emergency situations should you ever disregard their obvious illusions and find real help for them.
Research Better Retirement Communities
Retirement communities up and down the country are for the most part excellent, but excellent for one person might not mean excellent for your relative. It might be that your elderly relative has certain neurodegenerative diseases or physical ailments that really suggest a need for applied healthcare in a targeted way, in the presence of professionals. It can be worth investing in a higher calibre of retirement community to ensure this kind of security for them, because it can raise their quality of life significantly.
However, some might wish their parents to truly get the best of the best, or a much nicer experience than the standard. Aged care arrangements can help them gain a much nicer standard of living while still enjoying the necessary protections they might need as standard. You never quite know how these quality of life changes can lead to a much more comfortable and actualized lifestyle for your relative - potentially giving them a new lease of life and comfort from the top down.
It can sometimes be extremely terrifying to care for an older relative. It’s perhaps not because you don’t want to, but because you know your life will be put on hold, you might not exercise the care needed, and that you might have to deal with guilt-inducing feelings wishing you could pass this job off to someone else at least a couple of days a week. You might very much dislike you feel this way, but it’s only a human worry to have your life put on hold. Your relative will likely notice this also, and they will feel guilty for needing your help all the time.
This is where enlisting help can be the most beneficial to the both of you. It might be that you have siblings, cousins, other relatives, or perhaps the help of professional services such as meal deliveries or a hired subsidised maid to help with their home living. It could be that placing emergency pull cords in the bathrooms and bedrooms could help your relative gain immediate medical assistance should they fall or feel worried in the presence of an illness. Help can go a long way to making a difference, and so it’s only worthwhile to consider how setting up these systems can have an effect.
Don’t Treat Them Any Different
If your relative is struggling with health issues, is getting older and needs a little more help, it can be very easy to ‘parent’ them and treat them as someone who isn’t their own individual. But they are. This is why it’s best to respect that, to listen to their opinion, to ask them things, to get in discussions, to treat them with the same respect you might any other family member.
You may learn a fair amount from doing this, and this could possibly surprise you. Of course, all are different. However, if you treat them any different, they will likely notice, and again, the relationship will suffer. This also means, if you can, that doing things with your relative outside of the normal ‘caring’ or ‘protective’ set of activities can be worthwhile. For example, taking them to the cinema or out to eat, arranging a walk or a sit down in a coffee shop, all of this can help you bond on a personal level, not simply look at each other as people who need help or are giving it. You never know, you might help your grandparent, but their wisdom could help you in many varied ways in return.
Involve Them In Your Family
Just because your elderly relative might live in a retirement community or need extra provisions doesn’t necessarily mean they should be cut off from you or your family. In fact, more than anything they will want a good relationship with those they are connected to. This is why protecting the dignity of your elderly relative is intimately tied into keeping them part of your family life, ensuring your children are familiar with them, and ensuring this normality continues.