This weekend I had the opportunity to go visit my cousin in Idaho for her wedding. I haven’t been out to that part of the country to visit her in over ten years, and I got to see many of my family members from the west as well! While we were catching up, my cousins brought up our grandmother, who lives in my hometown. They hadn’t seen her in almost a decade, and were curious to see how she was doing…. Unfortunately, I had to be the bearer of bad news. My grandmother has Alzheimer’s disease, which causes her to be extremely forgetful, often forgetting where she is or the date and time. This summer I’ve been living with my nana and papa, which has also showed me the pains of watching loved ones get older. My papa is also physically very weak. If your grandparents are still living, the picture I painted above may sound familiar. Grandparents may not be able to drive anymore, or remain less active than they used to be. It can be extremely difficult to watch loved ones get older, especially if they play a large role in your life. It can be easy to lose patience when grandparents repeat the same questions over and over again, or when they have trouble moving around. However, it’s important to learn how to treat and respond to aging relatives.
To begin with, just because relatives are geting slower and older that doesn’t mean they still aren’t fun to be around. I love going to lunch with my nana when I have free time, and my papa can still engage in some funny conversations. Spending a couple hours with loved ones talking or taking them out is an easy considerate gesture. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you need to show your elderly relatives that you still love and care for them.
Other things you can do to show your relatives that you care is sending a card, or a letter. If your grandparents are tech savvy (I know my nana is… kind of) sending an email with some pictures of your family attached is a quick way to say hello and brighten up someone’s day, especially if you live further away.
Alzheimer’s disease is a common problem that many elderly people live with. Some people with the illness can remember long-term memory rather than more recent events. My granmother has these symptoms, and one thing my family did for her was buy her a history book of my hometown. She was able to see pictures of our town from the time she was a little girl, and was easily able to talk about her memories from a long time ago. Showing elderly relatives pictures from a long time ago can often help start conversations and end some confusion for at least a little while.
Finally, it’s important to just remind all your loved ones that you’re there for them (young or old). A call, an email, a quick visit can mean the world to those who care about you most, even if it is difficult for you. Making time to connect with these relatives will give you memories that will last you a lifetime.