Preserve the dignity of your elderly parents by caring for their needs
As you care for your aging parents, you might notice that they are experiencing a low self-esteem or self-worth. Some elders are at a stage where they are looking back on life with regrets, rather than contentment. These feelings of despair and hopelessness are connected to challenges and current functioning. Some contributing factors stem from lack of independence and self-esteem in childhood and during other relevant times in their lives. Self-esteem scars may have exerted residual effects creating a lack of confidence in many different aspects of life. Elders are reevaluating choices they have made throughout the years and the effects decisions have had on various outcome in their lives, and it is essential that they are able to seek contentment in their legacies and a sense of pride in their wisdom and wealth of acquired knowledge. Here is some advice to help them feel esteemed rather than devalued.
- encourage them to join a senior center
- empower the elder to seek fulfillment in life
- emphasize the importance of practicing good hygiene
- always respect and value their input
- ever make the older adult feel like a burden or imposition
- ignore the signs of elder abuse
- forget the powerful tool of narrative therapy for the elderly
- provide a climate that fosters negative self talk
Do encourage them to join a senior center
Senior Centers encourage and provide the seniors reasons to get out of their homes for the day or even for a couple of hours. The invaluable socialization afforded them undoubtedly promotes psychological, emotional, and mental stimulation, which has the beneficial effect of alleviating feelings of boredom, isolation, loneliness, anxiety, and depression. The activities at the center may provide healthy living activities, such as exercise and nutritional classes. They can also facilitate opportunities to learn new things, such as dancing, computers and learning new languages. Encouraging your elderly parents to join a senior center can have lasting effects on the rest of their lives. Simply getting them out of the house to meet new people and engage in mentally and physically stimulating activities will help them to renew their sense of fulfillment in life.
Do empower the elder to seek fulfillment in life
It is important to help your elders redirect and channel their resentment into more positive outlets, by probing and exploring what gave them joy in their younger years. Empower them via the use of confidence building, so they can view themselves as a victor and not a victim. The elderly have a lot to be proud of, and it is important to encourage and elicit those responses and trigger the positive memories of their lives, so they may be able to look upon their legacy with a sense of integrity as opposed to despair.
Do emphasize the importance of practicing good hygiene
Your elder’s unkempt appearance can, indeed, affect their emotional, psychological state, causing them to feel dehumanized and worthless. A well groomed elder may feel a sense of renewed strength and empowerment. They will feel like a gentleman or lady again as opposed to a “helpless old man or woman”. Once they have renewed their sense of confidence on some level, then working on the more deep rooted issues of pain, loss, and neglect becomes possible, if required. Lack of grooming and maintaining good hygiene can cause them to live out a self-fulfilling prophecy of worthlessness and helplessness. Hopefully, after seeing themselves in the mirror as clean and capable, it will be the first step toward their recovery and emotional stability.
Do always respect and value their input
Your elders represent what is best in our society because they bring with them a rich foundation and repertoire of traditions, knowledge, wisdom, morals and ethics. There is much to be learned and gained from appreciating and paying attention to their insights and input. As you sit around the dinner table or are simply spending time with them, ask them to share stories of their youth or times when they were raising you and your brothers and sisters. You may find that they have fun stories and experiences to share that will help them remember and instill their own sense of identity, and can also help you understand where they are coming from as you reminisce about the past.
Do not ever make the older adult feel like a burden or imposition
If he is being made to feel like a burden and an imposition he will internalize a sense of worthlessness and hopelessness. He will feel extremely lonely and abandoned, causing his morale and ambition to become merely non- existent. Instead, make him feel welcome and happy to encourage a sense of self-worth. Even if you feel like you are losing patience with your elderly parents, take a step back to collect your thoughts so that you don’t make them feel as if they aren’t welcome.
Do not ignore the signs of elder abuse
Elder abuse is a serious and growing epidemic in our society. We need to be very alert and aware when assessing our elders, and make sure that we look for any signs or hidden clues that may indicate that one of our elders has fallen victim to abuse by a caretaker or institution. You must pay very close attention to patterns of agitation, depression, missed appointments, missing resources, unexplainable injuries, and missing assistive devices. In many cases, the abuse may not be apparent, so you have to rely on your instincts and trust that you are using proper discernment when evaluating the needs of your elders. Suspected abuse should be reported immediately in all instances.
Do not forget the powerful tool of narrative therapy for the elderly
Narrative therapy can serve to empower elders since they have the power to tell their own stories in their own words, serving as the very narrator of their own journey of their lives. The geriatric population has a series of ways in which they have become accustomed to believing and existing for so long, and are often times quite set in their ways. Therefore, stories can be probed, explored, and examined in terms of clarifying content and writing new and possible outcomes to their stories, which can promote a true sense of autonomy and ownership over their identity, joy and endless possibility for them. Talk with your parents about seeing a therapist that specializes in narrative therapy to see if it would be a good fit for them. And if they are hesitant, encourage them to share stories of their own lives with you.
Do not provide a climate that fosters negative self talk
Seniors may sometimes adopt a defeatist attitude feeling as if it is too late and that they are no longer productive, worthwhile members of society. We must do all in our power to counteract that negativity and to promote positive affirmative thoughts. Allowing elders to see their attributes provides them with a sense of knowing that they still can achieve and fulfill their wishes because there is still more life for them to live.
Together we can work toward making a difference in the overall well-being and preservation of dignity of the elders in our communities, who, indeed, are deserving of our care and respect. Help your elderly parents seek a fulfilment in life so that they can rebuild their sense of self-worth.