There is something very self absorbed about the caregiver to senior citizen relationship. By that we mean that most if not all of the decisions you make and subjects of concern focus either on the senior citizen and his needs or on the caregiver and the senior citizen and how you will work together to address his needs.
It is small wonder then when we think about what your elderly parent talked about all day, it’s usually all about his or her physical or emotional needs. The way the caregiver relationship works naturally encourages the idea that the senior citizens world revolves around the needs and issues of the senior citizen himself.
But we know from raising children that if a person is completely focused on themselves, that is very unhealthy. That is how one can become a hypochondriac and become overwhelmed by obsessive compulsive habits because they think everything must begin and end with their problems and there is no chance to see the world or get some perspective by being with other people.
So a bold step you as a caregiver can do is to suggest that you and your elderly parent get out of the apartment and do something of value to others. By getting involved in volunteering or at least going out and making a difference together, you provide a way for your elderly parent to get some self esteem from making someone else’s life better. It gives them chance to get out in the fresh air and break up the constant thoughts about themselves by thinking about someone else or something else for a while.
At first you may get some resistance to the idea and you may have to be downright stubborn about giving it a try. The knee jerk reaction that your elderly parent may have when you bring up volunteering together might be, “what does that have to do with my needs?” By explaining the value to him or her, you ca help your elderly parent remember that life was better when it was about others and that a life of service is a healthy life.
You don’t have to get really ambitious to find something good to do with your energies. And if your senior mom or dad is disabled, there are still things you can do. Some simple things you can do at first that gets the ball rolling are…
. Go to the park and pick up trash on a slow walk so you make the park a prettier place.
. Go visit someone else in the retirement community that he or she knows is lonely and would enjoy being dropped in on.
. Help stuff envelopes or make phone calls for your church or a charity organization. This is something you can do from a wheelchair if that is the situation with your elderly parent.
. Read to disadvantaged kids at the local library.
. Become a big brother or big sister and take a young person to a ball game or to the zoo every so often.
Most cities have a volunteer coordination agency that can match up your physical abilities with volunteer opportunities. Once you get your elderly parent involved in doing something for others, don’t be surprised if their enthusiasm takes off like a skyrocket.
The great feeling of making a difference for others can literally turn his or her life around. And on the way home as your parent chatters about the people you met and the things you are doing, you know that this idea was a hit. And when they can’t stop talking about the next thing you are going to go do together, you will know that your parent has gotten the bug for service projects. And his or her life will never be the same again. And that’s a good thing.