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Lil Goertzen: When Caring For Elderly Family Members, Give Up on Some Things!

by Lil Goertzen

All of us come into the world and start off the same way. When we are born we immediately begin to “give up.” When we enter this world, we give up the comfort and safety of the womb. As we move to the teenage years, we give up the days of childhood. We give up childish ways as we mature.

As we approach a certain stage in life, we give up our larger homes and downsize to smaller accommodations. We give up positions of responsibility and leadership. We give up our driver’s license and look for alternate means of transportation. We give up our independence when others need to come in and tend to our personal needs.

As we walk alongside those who are adapting to the rapid changes around them as they age, we, too, as the caregivers need to give up on some things. Here is what I have learned as we walk this road with my parents and other elderly loved ones.

Give up being in control of everything. As a caregiver, it is wise to encourage the elder person to maintain as much control of their surroundings as possible. When safety for them and others becomes a concern, then a different approach needs to be taken. Assist them with decision making and help guide the process.

Give up correcting their stories. Facts may not be clear and story lines may be drawn from several different situations. As much as possible, help steer the story without correcting. Do not argue about the details or that the story is wrong. At that moment, the elder person is likely not able to distinguish accurately what they desire to convey. Be gentle. Next time, the same story may be told accurately!

Give up being frustrated with their habits. Many elders grew up in a time where everything was saved and reused. That mentality of “it will come in handy sometime” continues on through their life. Rather than throwing out their beloved stuff, find ways of recycling or reusing these items. Sometimes local community centres can put those tin cans, hand tools, margarine containers and string collections to very good use during their craft and activity time. It may help the elder to let go of some of those items when they see someone else can benefit from their collection.

Give up trying to do the caregiving on your own. Looking after an elder can be time consuming depending on their required level of care. Providing good care may also require the assistance of trained personnel like home care workers, medical professionals and companions who then become the support team. Establish good communication with the support team and keep them informed of changes and concerns.

When possible, have two or three family members or friends be the primary contact persons when concerns from the support team are raised. Have those same people attend medical appointments so that the information communicated is consistent and in context.

Lil Goertzen

In the midst of all these changes and challenges, God is there. He knows the pain and struggle of facing another “golden” day of increased age. As much as possible, encourage the elder to continue attending worship times. Engage them in Bible reading and prayer time, reminding them that God continues to be their Heavenly Father and loves them deeply. He has not given up.

Many blessings are received in exchange for giving up!

Lil Goertzen is the Communications Coordinator for EMMC/Go Mission!

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