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How to support an ageing family member

How to support an ageing family member

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The ‘second childhood’ phase of life that happens for many people in their late seventies onwards can be a potentially testing time all round. As relationships go through role reversal and adult children find themselves involved in the personal care and day to day overseeing of their now childlike parents, nerves can wear thin unless a healthy perspective is maintained.

Patience, kindness and humour

Holding a particular attitude in mind can make a huge difference to minimizing stress and fallout and the three qualities that can make up this attitude are patience, kindness and humour. Easier said than done when you are tired and worried about the health of your loved ones, but setting an intention to strengthen these qualities each day can make a huge difference in how everyone feels.

Let it go…let it go

Patience is really about letting go of how you think things should be and instead giving them the time and space to be how they are. It means putting our own needs out of the way for a while, and being in service to the needs of others.

Practicing being mindful is a great way to strengthen your patience, so whilst you are waiting for your elderly parent to get up from their chair or to move ever so slowly through a doorway, start paying attention to this very moment rather than getting lost in agitated thoughts of what else you still have to do before the end of the day. Avoid rushing in any way; let your family members finish their own sentences even when they become unsure and faltering in their words. Walk with them slowly so that they feel safe and do only what is necessary each day.

Little laughs

How to support an ageing family memberHumour is always one of the best ways to alleviate tension, and aging is something that commonly makes people feel tense. See if you can introduce little laughs each time you visit or spend time with older family members by reminiscing on funny times that you’ve shared together or by sharing jokes or stories that you’ve recently heard. Watch something light and amusing on television and cut down on shows that are overly serious.

Kindness and respect

Third and finally is kindness. The Dalai Lama says that kindness is his religion and it really is the single way of making the biggest difference to each other. Find ways to reassure those around you that they are welcome to have help, that they are not a burden and that they matter even though they are now less able and independent. Speak to them respectfully, slowly and gently and meet their gaze with a kind and patient look in your eyes. See if you can go the extra mile sometimes by thinking about what they’d enjoy and arranging treats of one kind or another for them.




About Jenny Smith

About Jenny Smith

Jenny Smith is a freelance writer and facilitator specialising in mental health, well-being and ecotherapy. She writes for National Mind and The Working Parent and facilitates training in the Work that Reconnects and Ecotherapy. She is inspired by nature, gardening, love and non-duality teachings

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