Do you remember Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn’s moving portrayal of Norman and Ethel, an elderly couple trying to deal with the realities of getting old, in the wonderful movie On Golden Pond?
Norman: “You want to know why I came back so fast? I got to the end of our lane. I couldn't remember where the old town road was. There was nothing familiar. Not one damn tree. Scared me half to death. That's why I came running back here to you. So I could see your pretty face and I could feel safe and that I was still me.”
Ethel: “You're safe, you old poop and you're definitely still you. After lunch, we'll take ourselves to the old town road. We've been there a thousand times. A thousand. And you'll remember it all. Listen to me, mister. You're my knight in shining armour. Don't you forget it.”
If you have loved ones who are in need of help in their daily living, the first thing you need to understand is that it is frightening for them as they feel they are starting to lose their very essence of themselves. It is important to listen and acknowledge their concerns.
It is best to start discussions early rather than waiting for a crisis. Consider who the loved one has traditionally listened to the most. Alternatively, consider engaging an objective professional.
Starting early allows you to start slow and be patient. It provides the opportunity to really dive into what your elderly loved ones are feeling so you can understand how best to help them.
The most common concerns are often about giving up driving and getting help around the house with shopping, cooking and cleaning – things they could always do for themselves. Reassure them that they can get help “on a trial basis”. Be sure to make it clear that basic support can help ensure they maintain their independence for as long as possible.
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