Your elderly parent has come to live with you. It drastically changes your life in ways you never anticipated. Maybe you gave up space and privacy. You buy different groceries and cook every day. You rearrange furniture and pick up the area rugs in an attempt to prevent falls. It becomes impossible to spend a lot of time away from home without getting a sitter or staying in close contact. The right attitude will get you through this period. Enjoy your parent while she's still with you, because it won't be forever.
Discover Your Parent's Interests
Take the time to talk with your parent. Ask questions about how he likes to spend his time. Tell him you want him to continue to enjoy those things in your home and arrange for him to do so.
Provide the things your parent needs to stay entertained. Install a TV in her room so she has the option of watching her own shows away from the family.
Supply plenty of reading material. Have a small bookcase in his room for his books and magazines. Remember to save a spot for a Bible or other spiritual text if he wants one. Donate a few books of your own to his collection.
Offer to purchase puzzles and word-game books. Check to see if your parent has a needlework project in progress. Supply what she needs to finish what she started.
Give your parent plenty of access to the family pet. Encourage petting a dog or cat as an outlet for affection and for the calming effect it promotes.
Nurture Your Parent's Spiritual Life
Respect her desire to attend a place of worship. Understand that in this phase of life, the elderly do much soul-searching in an effort to find peace.
Arrange for your parent's attendance at his church, synagogue or mosque of choice. Work around your own spiritual traditions instead of expecting him to change.
Enroll your parent in a social group at her place of worship and make arrangements to transport her. Recognize that she has a need to spend time with others her own age.
Take Your Parent on the Town
Invite him to join you in community functions. Take him to holiday parades, Halloween costume contests, yard sales and festivals.
Take her to the movies, local plays and ballets. Make her laugh. Marvel at sunsets together. Find a place where she can listen to oldies and sing along with her.
Treat your parent to a nice restaurant. Choose one that has entertainment, like a piano or guitar player. Take him to a ballgame and buy him a hot dog, or take him golfing. Surprise him with a trip to an ice cream shop.
- If your parent is not ambulatory, think up ways to entertain him at home, such as having guests visit or putting together a jigsaw puzzle.
- Reach out for help in your community for things like sitters, support groups for yourself or guidance from your spiritual leader.
- Engage the grandchildren in your parent's care. Don't be afraid to involve your siblings.
- Create an atmosphere of love and peace, but accept that you will have your differences. Cherish the outings and forget the inconveniences, because when your parent passes away, you will have amassed a lifetime of shared memories on which you can happily reflect.
- No matter how healthy your parent seems, you will lose him someday. Do the things now that you'll fondly look back on when he's gone.
Vita Ruvolo-Wilkes was first published in 1977. She worked as a certified aerobics and exercise instructor. Upon graduating from the Wake Forest University School of Medicine, she worked for the VA Medical Center. As a physician assistant, Ruvolo-Wilkes designed specialized diets for her patients' conditions and has written a monthly health column in the "Montford Newsletter."