Remember the Good Times Together
Your parent knows their mind isn’t as sharp as it used to be. They’re forgetful and repeat things. If you find yourself becoming annoyed at the tenth time Mom has told the same story, take a step back and think about the fear and frustration your parent probably feels.
You’ve always looked at your parents as strong and independent, the ones who took care of you. As your parents age, the roles can start to reverse with you taking on more of their care. You’re used to caring for your own children, helping them to eat or bathe but when your parent needs the same type of assistance you can become confused and resentful. It’s not easy figuring out how to handle this new dynamic.
As healthcare services improve, people are living longer and caring for an aging parent has become a reality for many adult children. Keep in mind that it’s just as hard for your parents to accept these changes as it is for you. The worst thing you can do is to treat them like a child. Even though you have to help them perform certain functions, they’re still your parent. Caring for them should be a partnership between the two of you. Keeping a strong relationship with them is important especially when you need to have a difficult conversation with them down the road. Deciding when to give up driving, for example, will be filled with resentment and suspicion if your parent feel you’re treating her like a child. (Gleckman, 2018)
Bringing Up the Past
One way to maintain a strong relationship with your parent as they age is by encouraging them to remember and reminisce about past events before and after you were born. Talking about things in their past can have positive effects on the elderly in both improved health and increased self-esteem. According to research, remembering can lower blood pressure and heart rate. The process of remembering past events and experiences is called life cycle review and is a healthy, easy, and effective way to fight loneliness and mild depression. Discussing past events will help your parent recall a time when they were still independent and can give them a sense of fulfillment about their life. The benefits occur whether the story is about a happy time or a challenging one. (Tchirkow, n.d.)
Your parent still has a lot of wisdom and knowledge to share, but they may not volunteer these stories. If they aren’t natural storytellers, you’ll need to find ways to introduce the subject. Holidays are an excellent time to reminisce as well as make new memories. Cooking together with Mom and having her teach you a favorite recipe while sharing the story of how she learned to make it will bring you closer together. If she’s able to hand write the recipe, it can become part of a family memories scrapbook or Memory Box. These pieces can serve a dual purpose. Mom can review it now, and it may help her retain some memories. Later on, it can be given to grandchildren as part of their heritage.
Creating a Legacy Through Storytelling
Sharing the family’s history can be especially rewarding. It provides a historical perspective and keeps past events and experiences fresh for future generations. Your parents will feel better knowing that they’re passing along valuable information about the family’s culture and traditions.
Stories can strengthen the bonds between you and your parent. Hearing stories about their past or things that happened when you were a child can remind you that they were once vibrant and responsible individuals who were there for you and spent countless hours taking care of you. It can ease the negative thoughts of the roles being reversed and you taking care of them.
Hearing family stories can also benefit your children. Understanding situations where your parents overcame challenges can strengthen the connection between your parent and your children. These stories can teach grandchildren about resilience, self-confidence, and give them a feeling of being part of something that extends far beyond themselves. It keeps traditions alive and helps grandchildren understand their cultural backgrounds. (Foster, 2015)
A study done by Dr. Marshall Duke and Dr. Robyn Fivush demonstrated that as children’s knowledge of their family’s history increased, they experienced a stronger sense of control over their lives, and higher self-esteem. The study was based on a series of “Do You Know?” questions such as “Do you know how your grandparents met?” Responses to these questions turned out to be the best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness. (Feiler, 2013). Hearing family stories might even spark an interest in a family member to investigate and record the family genealogy.
Here are some ways to get started remembering and reminiscing:
- Identify a hobby or craft your parent can teach you. Encourage them to talk about how they got started with the craft. Ask about the person who taught them the craft. It might be another relative which can then be a springboard to ask questions about that family member.
- Pull out a family photo album and ask Mom or Dad to tell you about events featuring you as a child. Discuss as much as possible about the event such as who else was there, what food was served, what the weather was like that day. The more detail you can get your parent to share, the better.
- Have a dance party with the whole family. Mix songs from each generation. Music can help jog your parent’s memory of events that happened in the past.
- Do something special and surprising that is out of the normal routine. Take Mom for high tea at a local hotel. Take Dad to a classic car show. Building new memories with them can help you to feel connected.
If possible, make a video or audio of your parents talking about past events every time you’re together. These can be as simple as using an app on your smartphone. Sharing memories with your parents and preserving your heritage will be good for everyone.
- Tamara McClintock Greenberg 2012. When the Child Becomes the Parent. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/21st-century-aging/201211/when-the-child-becomes-the-parent
- Caregogi.com ( n.d.) 5 Amazing ways to make memories with Aging Parents This Christmas Retrieved from https://www.caregogi.com/content/5-memories-aging-parents-christmas/
- Mayoclinic.org ( n.d.) Alzheimer’s and Memories: Use Mementos as Cues. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/caregivers/in-depth/alzheimers/art-20046331?reDate=24072018
- Howard Gleckman (2018) It is about Respecting Aging Parents buy How Do You Do It? Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/howardgleckman/2018/04/25/it-is-about-respecting-aging-parents-but-how-do-you-do-it/#ffab06a72e52
- Joanne Foster (2015) Sharing Family Stories with Kids Retrieved from http://www.creativitypost.com/education/sharing_family_life_stories_with_kids_important_tips_for_parents
- Bruce Feiler (2013) The Stories That Bind Us Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/17/fashion/the-family-stories-that-bind-us-this-life.html?ref=fashion&_r=1