Enjoy the time you get to share with the elderly woman in your life, and find enjoyable ways to be a blessing and offer needed help. Your presence, smile, listening ear and care do so much to enhance her life and make her feel special and cared for. Focus on who she is as a person as you serve her and soak up all she has to offer from her years of living a full life. As her needs increase, there are many ways to help her maintain her interests, dignity and zest for life.
Simple Ways to Help
Include the elderly woman in your life in your daily routines and errands to relieve the pressure and stress of keeping up with basics. When you clear the snow off your walk, take a few extra minutes to clear her walk too. Send your child over with a plate of cookies when the baking mood strikes. Get her grocery list and pick up a few essentials while you do your weekly shopping. Hire a neighborhood to help with taking out the garbage, replacing light bulbs and doing other household maintenance. When you cook Sunday dinner, invite her to join you, or bring a plate for her to enjoy on her own timetable. Stock her freezer with homemade soups, healthy frozen dinners and other foods that alleviate the pressure of daily living. Offer to vacuum and sweep once a month and help with bathroom maintenance.
Share the joys of life with your elderly neighbor or family member. Invite her to your child's dance recital, give her family photos and handmade drawings, let your children visit when she is up to it, or invite her to join you for a weekly game of Scrabble. Decorate your house and hers with festive decorations around the holidays. Let her join in your joy when you get a promotion at work or your child is accepted into college. Invite her to share the holidays with you or come to family parties. Even if she does not accept every invitation, knowing she is thought of will bring a smile to her face.
The Value of Listening
As your loved one is slowing down, she probably has a lot of time to think over the many rich and wonderful stories that made up her life. Things happening in your life might also remind her of different times of her own life. Ask to hear her stories, listen, and ask questions. Enjoy her sense of history, values, sense of humor or wisdom as she enjoys feeling cared for. Offer to make some tea or coffee, and sit back as you enjoy time together without having to rush off to something else on your agenda.
Challenges to Mobility
Mobility often becomes a challenge in later years, but several things can help alleviate the struggle and make independent living easier. Arrange to have an access ramp placed on the entrance and exit of her home. Ask if she has bars near her toilet and in her shower or tub area. Get a shower seat for easier hygiene care, or widen doorways to accommodate a wheelchair. Walkers, canes and knee walkers are sometimes helpful too, especially after a stroke or major surgery. Check to make sure walkways are safe in the wintertime, keep them salted and offer to give rides to appointments and activities any time you are able.
Social Life Connections
With children and grandchildren out of the home and no job to go to each day, many elderly women benefit from intentionally planning a social life. Volunteering at a museum, hospital or church is one way to feel purposeful and connected. Senior citizens often enjoy mentoring young children, reading to them and teaching them about relationships. Many senior centers offer crafting times, yoga, tai chi, swimming programs, meals and recreational activities. Find out what she liked to do or if there are new interests she would like to explore. Perhaps she has always wanted to sing in a choir or learn to paint. Encourage your loved one to continue pursuing her dreams.
Offer to help arrange transportation to events if she is not able and to attend classes that are open to all ages. Many elderly people enjoy being around young people, so even starting an intergenerational potluck club at your house could offer her some of the social interaction she needs and craves.
Finding Extra Help
Sometimes people benefit from having a team of caring support as they age. When your loved one or neighbor has needs that exceed what you or your family can handle alone, it is okay to begin to include others. Many people find purpose in serving the elderly with housecleaning, errands or respite care. Home health aides assist with medical needs, while personal aides can assist with hygiene and activities of daily living to extend her independence as long as possible.
If you notice your loved one is feeling depressed or struggling emotionally with changes in her level of functioning, support groups or a good therapist can offer her much-needed relief. When staying home is no longer safe, assisted living facilities with active social programs could be an option, and skilled nursing facilities can bridge the gap during times when medical needs are high. These programs can be short term or long term, and you can include your loved one in the selection process when the time comes, as she might prefer to be somewhere familiar or with friends.