When they are in pain, struggling to maintain independence and dignity I try to help them find a positive or at least cheer them up.
Elderly people although on the whole a far more constrained than those two generations younger than themselves are still not adverse to a little cheeky banter. Just today I arrived at a 94 year olds’ home to be greeted with ” I am taking you into the bedroom!” . My instant response was “Careful how you phrase that!” which made us both laugh.
Elderly people, especially those alone sometimes still like a little physical contact, a gentle hand on their arm or a hand held. Some of my clients I greet with a kiss hello or goodbye. I am naturally a very affectionate and tactile person and it is easy for me, you may not feel comfortable.
I won’t allow anyone to stay in dirty food stained clothes and rather than let them go out or receive their next visitor this way, I will gently point out they need to change.
If someone you care for wears false teeth and has bad breath the chances are they are not cleaning them well. Gently offer to take their teeth and clean them. At first it may be awkward but this is how to make an elderly person feel valued. You care enough about them to do this for them.
If someone says they feel useless, remind them that at one point they were running a business, working, bringing up a family, looking after Grandchildren – they have played their part, done their bit and in many cases fought the War that helped us be something we would not have otherwise been.
Another important factor is to allow an elderly person to do what they can do, don’t take all their independence away. If they want to dry up when you have washed up, let them. Your role as a friend or carer is to help not do everything if they still can. It is vital for them to still feel valued and an useful and studies have proved that elderly people who have a role or responsibility live longer and feel better about themselves.
Take the time to see the beauty behind the wrinkles, all these elderly people were once young and beautiful, full of vitality and energy. Ask to see their photos again and say how amazing they looked.
Even when the going gets tough and I have been there and trust me I know it does, try not to make the person you care for feel a burden. If you are really struggling, ask for help. I did and it made all the difference.