Senior Musings September 2010

Posted 09.20.10

Lending a Hand

BobbiA Canadian friend who lives in PEI is the only child of a widow living alone in southern Ontario. Julie has helped her mother move into a seniors' apartment, and has arranged for services to help with housekeeping and drive her mother to medical appointments.

Cousins who live in the area are willing to help, but Julie wishes they were more aware of what her mother really needs. For example, they have picked her up and taken her along to Costco and then out to lunch, but a senior living alone can't buy anything at Costco because of the large quantities, and finds the store exhausting to navigate.

They also sometimes drop in to see her without phoning first, which means they may interrupt a nap, a TV program she enjoys watching, or keep her from attending a planned activity in the building.

These cousins have the best intentions, but have no idea of what a senior living alone really needs. Here are some suggestions:

Consider mini-visits. Sometimes all an isolated senior needs is to have someone come for ten or fifteen minutes, bringing along a special treat, like a loaf of fresh bread, some cookies, or a few flowers from your garden. Call before you head out to make sure it's a convenient time.

Arrange to take her along when you go somewhere she doesn't usually frequent. Some seniors will enjoy going with you to a smaller store or a mall where they can sit on a bench and watch the activity while you do your errands.

Ask where she would like to shop for a few things that aren't available where she buys her groceries. Maybe she wants to go to a bookstore or Dollar Store.

Often, you don't have to take her out for an expensive meal. Many seniors find eating a heavy supper, especially later than they're used to, creates discomfort. Take her out for lunch instead. Select a small place where it isn't too noisy, and go either before or after the usual lunch crowd so you can get a table in a quiet corner. It isn't the food that matters to her; it's getting out and having your companionship.

Involve her in your family. You'd be surprised how interested she is in hearing about your son's game, your daughter's concert, the little one's birthday party. Bring photos, and bring the kids to visit her occasionally. This is often better than trying to include her in family events, where the noise, lack of comfortable seating, and many people she doesn't know will make this less than fun.

Make sure you walk her to her apartment door instead of dropping her in the driveway or at the front door of her building.

If you're a senior living alone as you read this, clip out this column and give it to the well-meaning relatives who are trying to help you. They might not have thought about things from your perspective.

Another tip for the son or daughter living far away. When you help your mother (or dad) move into smaller quarters, set aside some items she's willing to part with in a box she can dip into when she wants to thank one of those considerate relatives or friends.

Contact Bobbi at BFG at SimonTeakettle.com, and read Simon Teakettle's blog on the website: www.SimonTeakettle.com/blog10.htm

Copyright © 2010 Barbara Florio Graham/Log Cabin Chronicles/08.10