Tuesday, July 30, 2013

As Your Aging Parent Faces Death, Four Things Matter Most

As life draws to a close for your aging parent--or for any of us, for that matter--the complex becomes simple.  Dr. Ira Byock, MD, author of "The Four Things That Matter Most," boils down the essence of end of life into four sentences:

1.  Please forgive me.
2.  I forgive you.
3.  Thank you.
4.  I love you.

Notice the order.  Forgiveness comes first. Not terribly surprising.

Dr. Byock's preface contains a meaningful quote by theologian Paul Tillich about forgiveness.

"Forgiving presupposes remembering.  And it creates a forgetting, not in the natural way we forget yesterday's weather; but in the way of the great 'in spite of' that says I forget although I remember: Without this kind of forgetting no human relationship can endure healthily."

Our job is to listen, support and affirm.  And  forgive.  As we hear these four sentences--either audibly or nonverbally--we enfold our aging parent in love.

Are any of you supporting your aging parent as life draws to a close?  How do you describe your most important role?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Eldercare Tip: The 'Pregnant Pause' Proves Silence is Golden

The Pregnant Pause.  It's a term used by journalists that can help you communicate with your aging parent.

Reporters use lulls in the conversation to discover new things.  If the person being interviewed stalls or gives only a pat answer, the reporter waits.  And waits. The silence is painful, but often, the Pregnant Pause yields information that is lucid and memorable.  I know. As a journalist I was surprised by truths born out of silence.

Your aging parent will respond especially well to your Pregnant Pause.  That's because with advancing age his or her brain slows in processing information.  Retrieving prior facts and memories takes a longer time, too, as does formulating a response.

Suppose you ask:  "How did you like the last retirement community we visited?"  He or she may give you silence. Or a canned response with no detail: "It was OK, I guess."

Resist the temptation to fill in the conversation void.  Listen! With the extra time, and the trust you've earned in keeping your mouth shut,  your parent may utter something new and vital.

I asked an elderly client a few years ago, "What is the most important consideration in your move to a new home?"  She wisely said, "I need to think about that."  The next day, she called me.  "I've been thinking a lot about what you said.  Wherever I move, I want to be treated with dignity and respect."

The Pregnant Pause paid off.  It may for you, too. Try it with your aging parent.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Eldercare Assisted Living Tip: Good Things Can Come in Small Packages

In college my girlfriends would say, "Good things come in small packages."  Usually they meant a prized piece of jewelry. Especially an engagement ring.  Today when you search for eldercare for your aging parent, you can find hidden treasures by thinking small.

Smaller retirement and assisted living communities may not have the largest buses, or the fullest social calendar.  They may not serve steak as often or bring in live drama. But their small size has other pluses. With fewer people living together, elders often have an easier time meeting others, making friends and building strong relationships with staff.

Here is one of my favorite stars in the world of smaller communities.

The Gardens at Juanita Bay, Kirkland, Washington--With just 48 apartments, this not-for-profit assisted living community is the epitome of friendliness.  Much of that comfortable feeling is due to many staff, including management, working there for years.  Dinner is delicious, by the resident's count, if not very fancy. Pretty much everything is made from scratch, and focuses on American favorites. The outdoor gardens here are beautiful, especially in the summer.  And inside, the light-filled rooms are decorated in interesting themes.  Apartments are small, but residents don't seem to mind; they see the whole community as their home.

Do you have a favorite smaller assisted living community?  Tell us about it.

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