This site's motto is "Understand, Prevent and Resolve Life's Challenges." It's a clearinghouse on social problems, including a section called "Seniors & Aging."
Here we are at the emotional support page – a segment we were eager to include because our family experienced such a wide range of powerful emotions. Once Dad got so sick, our entire family was struck by profound sadness and dread and fear. Naturally, we worried first about how Dad would cope, but the fact is, he probably coped better than the rest of us. Over the long haul, though, the expected and the unexpected consequences all took their toll.
If you’re like us, all of this turmoil can keep you from sleeping. Dad had an especially hard time at night, and Kim and I would worry about how he was doing; what was going through his mind as he faced uncertain health; how things were going to work out; and, when Dad was home from the hospital, whether or not Mom was getting any sleep. I realize this sounds like we were obsessed with worry, and perhaps we were, but how else do you prepare for everything that accompanies your parent’s failing health?
When our parents let us know they were feeling down, we found ourselves saying things like “don’t be depressed.” We would tell them about someone else we knew who was worse off, or skirt the topic altogether. But it seems that our well-intentioned efforts may not have been helpful after all. Later on, we found a great article titled “Overcoming Geriatric Depression – How You Can Help” that outlines how you might better assist a parent in need of emotional support. To save time, we have provided the highlights below:
This article segment below is short and offers some specific advice that can truly help. There are a couple of nuggets that were important for us to learn: (1) depression can be a side effect of particular illnesses and/or medications, and (2) not all antidepressants are right for older people.
Our dad spent a lot of time in rehab and in hospitals. We visited him as often as we could, but for the most part we were 1200 miles away. It broke our hearts that he had to spend endless days and nights in a hospital bed. Luckily, our mother was able to visit every day – she would get there by lunch and stay through dinner. Yet there was still a lot of time he was alone. We wanted him to feel loved and supported. Here are some things we tried:
Our mom was overwhelmed with worry and the care-giving workload. When Dad was home, she was taking care of his needs pretty much non-stop. When Dad was in the hospital or rehab, she visited him everyday. It was stressful staying on top of his care, and traveling back and forth, day in and day out. She would get home late, have her cup of tea, read a couple of emails and go to bed. The next day she would do it all again. It was relentless. She was emotionally and physically drained. Here are some ideas of things we did for her:
Many years ago I read a book called Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. I learned a lot from that book, and there was one story in particular that has inspired me that I shared with my mom and my sister Karen.
We often found it hard to talk to our dad out of fear of saying the wrong thing. We experienced the same problem with our friend Betty, who was suffering from stage-4 breast cancer. So we avoided saying anything – which makes no sense whatsoever! All we wanted to do was offer support to someone who was sick, but we sometimes let our own fears and insecurities get in the way.
“Decide what role you are taking - daughter? nurse? financial helper? And try to remember that no matter what you are doing to try to help, touching and loving the person is all that they will remember.” Jen, Home Health Nurse, The Villages, FL
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