Another Holiday is here, another opportunity to feel guilty for many long distance care givers. No you haven’t spent as much time with Mom as you should have. Perhaps you have had your secretary screening calls, or may be even let it go to the dreaded voice mail. Just for a moment, let’s move past the emotional feelings that are there, and try to get into the moment. Just for the minute, let’s not think about what is good for you and your family, but what is good for Mom.
If you are getting ready to spend forty or more dollars on a fabulous floral arrangement, hold that thought for a moment. If you have given her a floral arrangement every year for the past 20, 30 or 40 years, do you really think it will be a surprise. Consider the phone call or words said in thank you, have they changed any over the last 20, 30 or 40 years? What about that wonderful vase you gave her for Christmas? Or that beautiful cardigan sweater she is saving it for a special occasion. Is it neatly wrapped in tissue, carefully packed away so nothing happens to it?
Yes you are busy, and no there really is nothing she needs, or is there? Let’s take a look at a few options that are a bit un-orthodox. A few ideas that just may give her a gift that she will get long term joy from. In addition, if one of the siblings is the caretaker, it will be a benefit to them as well.
Let’s take a look at mom first. Forget the woman from 20 or 30 years ago, I want you to see her as she is right now. What does she do all day? What does she talk about, complain about, demand or cry about? What problems is she facing, that perhaps you can find a solution to. Some of the areas we find available for children of seniors to really help with are often never discussed with them. Usually they come down to a few dollars or two. While Mom may be thrilled to see the flowers, if they find out the cost they are disgusted at the waste.
What can you do with $40 that will have impact? First you can ask her if there is something she would like to have for $40. She will tell you nothing, or perhaps hint at something. I know a few that actually would love to have the cash. Remember when you got a card with cash in it? It is kind of fun having a little mad money lying around. Okay, most kids will not give mom an envelope with cash; it is definitely not personal and not as pretty as dead flowers. As a society we have a warped attitude towards money, gift certificates to stores you will never set foot into are okay, but cash is gross.
Tickets to the movie theater, for her and a friend, and you will take care of the driving. Either with a professional driver, or do it yourself. You can spend the $40, on a gift card that not only buys the ticket but works at the concession stand as well. If she is comfortable with the DVD player you bought her a few years ago, order her Netflix. She may not be able to use the internet to order, but you certainly can pre-order her some fabulous movies to view at home. One of the reasons we like Netflix is because it comes in the mail, and she gets to mail it back. There is responsible action that she is taking. Psst. You are treating her like a responsible adult, and you get to share a conversation that doesn’t sound like a medical encyclopedia. When is the last time you started a sentence with, “Mom, how’d you like the movie?”
Here is a little Alzheimer’s secret. If your parent is suffering from Alzheimer’s, buy them a video that is about Fish. Not sharks, but fish swimming in schools. One that is beautiful and relaxing. There are some studies that find it a good choice. It’s worth a try.
Use this opportunity to introduce Mom to Home care. She may be fighting having any home care at all. You may have better luck with using the holiday to schedule someone in. Does she need a ride to a Dr’s appointment, hair appointment, shopping? Good caregivers encourage participation. They are not a cleaning crew.
Early introduction allows new beliefs to happen. Unfortunately, our general understanding of Home Care is pretty limited. Allowing both Mom and you to learn about Home Care givers, early in the aging process, will allow for greater understanding as time progresses and the need is immediate.
If she is early in Alzheimer’s or Dementia, you both know it will progress. By introducing new people now, family caregivers as well as Mom, become comfortable with strangers. And respite care is very important.
If mom is living with one of the kids, give her a weekend at a facility. This is a two pointer, one it gives the caregiver a day to be a human being, and it introduces mom to some great people. Most facilities have respite care. Most facilities are a lot more fun than your sister’s house. Check to see what activities are going on.
The bottom line with any holiday is that money and time are tight. It is up to the children of a senior to think outside of the box, use the tools that they are comfortable with to learn about the aging process, and get out there and learn. For most of the Boomer generation, the “Simpson’s grand pa” is our understanding of life in a home. I am sure if I took the time I could find one just like it. The Senior Facilities I associate with are places I would move into now if I could. 5 star dinning, and constant visiting, doing and learning. By opening your mind to the possibility that there is a better way to do this, you have started the journey. Remember, if mom is 80, you are probably 50 or 60. Start planning where you want to be when you reach 90, and that starts with stroking the keys on your PC. Get in to Choice, before crisis.