Back at the skilled nursing facility, I meet and care for new seniors every time I’m there. Also, I learn a lot from them. For example, I learned what not to do: Don’t smoke. I’m currently caring for a 95-year-old female who smokes. Doctor says that the smoking was likely the cause of her oral cancer. She will unfortunately rely on a feeding tube for the rest of her life.
And, I’ve learned what to do: Take more risks and live in the moment. Seniors constantly state, “I should have,” “I could have,” and “I’ve always wanted to but…”. I just spoke with a 75 year old guy. He said, "I should have lost the weight and now it's too late". Due to his bad knee, he will struggle with limited mobility for the rest of his life.
I clearly remember the day when I met a certain 92-year-old woman who is a mother of three adult children. She really inspired me. Here’s why:
First of all, she is very proud of her girls. She had a picture of the three of them at her bedside table, and by golly, she had to share a little story about each one – how she named them, their ages, their occupations, and how she is patiently waiting for grandchildren.
Next to her girls’ picture was a picture of an older woman running a marathon. She was wearing typical running gear, and I could see gray hair sticking out of her baseball cap. I could also see that she was wearing the biggest smile from ear to ear.
I asked her, “Who is that lady?” She replied, “That was me. The last time I ran, I was 74 years old and it was 5 miles”.
She told me that one day she saw an advertisement on the side of the bus that said, “Run for Your Health”, so she did. She found the spark in her life and had been talking about it for the past 21 years.
Her treasures were right next to her, right on her bedside table … her family and the joy of running.
If you know what sparks your own aging parents, use it to remind them of their purpose and give them a reason to get up in the morning. If your parent happens to be in some type of long-term care facility, check to see what’s on their bedside table.
I think my parents would have a huge bedside table to hold pictures of the entire group of their five adult children and their extended families. Plus, there would have to be a Lazy Susan holding a variety of dim sum goodies. As soon as my parents meet you, they will first ask if you have eaten yet, then they will ask you how you are doing. Food is very important to my parents. Maybe that’s why I’m a dietitian.
There will be ups and downs as your parents transition. Just remember to rekindle the sparks in their life.
What helps your parents jump out of bed in the morning?
A Registered Dietitian and Senior Resource Diva, April Fan, RD, CD, Founder of SeniorResourceCentral.com, is on a mission to educate baffled adult children who are currently caring for their own children as well as their aging parents. Her goal is to help these juggling caregivers discover how to take the confusion out of this daunting role. Tap into April’s personal and clinical experiences, proven resources, handy tips and sane ideas at http://www.SeniorResourceCentral.com.