Caregivers Are Not Babysitters

Terry Brezsny Ballantyne
- Terry Brezsny Ballantyne

Caregivers Are Not Babysitters

One of the most telling examples of our culture’s regard for elders is the way caregivers often relate to them.

Well intentioned caregivers often talk down to the person at home, as if they were children.  I remember resisting baby talk when I was raising my daughter and the same is true with elders. They may be frail, have trouble seeing, or hearing, or walking, but they are not incapable of irony, or a witty response, a good giggle, or having some silly fun. They can also do alot for themselves with some help.

For example, if seeing is difficult, operating a heater thermostat is a challenge. Try using a label maker to make labels with giant font and putting it on the thermostat or the wall behind it.  “I want heat!”   Or   “daytime temp” or  “bedtime”. This small aid allows them more control and a sense of independence.

Another non verbal helper is to label the refrigerator shelves.   “Day Old”  “Eat now”  or “New Snacks”. Seniors with memory issues are afraid they will poison themselves if they can’t remember what is new or old in the refrigerator and often then do not eat at all!

Part of the non eating is related to being under stimulated. Who wants to eat alone? I find many older people eat nothing for a day or two and say they are not hungry. But if I take them to lunch they eat two portions of everything.  They were starving, both for nourishment and social engagement.  It is SO IMPORTANT to get older folks out of the house. Once out , they thrive if they feel safe and protected on the outing.

To foster a sense of security for the frail elder living alone, large stencils available on  line are fun. Get words that say,”I am safe and loved!”   Or ” My family cares about me”  Put the decal letters right on the wall in a prominent place. This affords pride and comfort.  Like children, elders often delight in things younger adults would be judged for as being childish.   If words are too much for you, get a decal of a tree or birds, or fish, or flowers and put a big decal on the wall.  Bright and visually a story, this will ward off depression many times.

Be creative, get out of your head, let your heart expand and have some fun with your family elder.  A little goes a long way when you are housebound, frail and unsure about your future.

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