We all love our parents more than life itself and as they age, the process can be very difficult for us. Not only do we have to witness our once spritely mother slipping, but despite our best efforts, we’re beginning to slip ourselves when it comes to being compassionate and sympathetic.
Yes, you love your parent dearly, but sometimes it can be very difficult to not let your frustrations get the best of you when the repetitions and forgetfulness become more common than not. You know she can’t help it and that she means no harm but repressing our frustrated emotions can sometimes lead to hurtful outbursts. Chances are she is well aware that her cognitive functions are beginning to fade and not only is she sad, but she’s also probably scared to death.
In order to remain sensitive to your aging parent’s feelings and avoid future outburst, here’s a list of hurtful things we catch ourselves saying and some kinder alternative ways we could get our point across:
“How could you not remember that?”
As your elderly parent ages, her short-term memory will probably be the first thing to fade. That being said, it’s unlikely that she will remember the conversation you two had a few weeks about your daughter’s dance recital. Instead of getting angry every time she asks about the date, try marking the occasion on her calendar and leaving post-it reminders around her home, like on the fridge or the bathroom mirror. Adding a smiley face helps to keep the tone light and ensure her that you aren’t coming from a cruel place.
”I just showed you how to check your email yesterday”
We come from a digital age – she did not. Have patience and understanding in the fact that this technology was something that she rarely had to worry about in her younger years and cell phones, emails and DVRs are foreign to her. Add that to the fact that her cognition and eye sight are fading and you can imagine how difficult this really is for her. If she asks you yet again to sit down and walk her through the process, do so slowly and avoid using tech-language. From there, make a point to write down those instructions and tape it to her computer so she’ll always have it on hand.
“You already told me that.”
Everyone repeats themselves, no matter what age they are. Instead of getting angry and making her feel embarrassed or as though you would rather she not talk to you, make light of the situation. If she’s telling a story, try making a joke and saying something along the lines of, “No way! I bet […] happened next!” If she isn’t someone who would be easily offended by that, chances are she will get the hint without you having to put her down and she’ll laugh right along with you.
Remember that no matter how difficult you may find it to watch your parents age, they are the ones who are actually going through it. Have some understanding and use some of these great tips the next time you feel like you’re getting overwhelmed with frustration.