Keeping the conversation open is a consistently important factor in addressing concerns of neglect or abuse in any vulnerable group. Many elderly in our society are quickly forgotten since they fall outside the tunnel vision many of us have, when, understandably, we are just trying to make ends meet. Yet in our duty to seek out the best for our seniors we can go no better than asking what seniors want us to know.
The International Journal Of Aging and Human Development published a recent study that asked seniors about their ageing experience and what ageing meant to them personally. The results? They showed unequivocally that seniors value quality of life over quantity and that independence, especially when it came down to making decisions was immensely valued.
While many of us in the younger years may approach our parents or grandparents with well-meaning words, backed by morally solid motives our words to “do this” or “heed that” can easily come off as condescending. While we may be concerned for our parents and rightly so, to come in guns blazing and emphatic words, to approach the next phase of life a certain way, more harm than good can be done.
To understand the person, the life, the independence underpinning your loved one is a great start to loving and respecting. To set a tone of humility, mixed in with appreciation and respect for our parents and grandparents pays off within the long run with the harder discussions occurring on firm ground.
Listening to seniors in what they are saying is important for them is a direct and focused start in the right direction. Many seniors have spoken of the intense frustration of being talked to as if they were a child.
If approaching a senior person for the first time, be patient in discerning their cognitive abilities. Many seniors still have a full cognitive ability and want to not just be spoken to like an adult but also engaged in a dynamic way.
From humour, jokes, banter and any other form of cheeky connection that Australians are so known for, many elderly, whether they are in a residential aged care facility or in their own home, appreciate a good exchange of wit.
Understanding that when many seniors move into residential aged care facilities a lot of change is happening and a lot to manage, emotionally and physically. Allowing them the space to process this and to approach them with compassion during this time can be the gentle opening of a connection of trust and respect.
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