Tip 1: Smaller, Simpler, Shorter. Kelley says, “I’ve always said I’d rather break bread with friends than eat wagyu with strangers. It’s not about the meal, it’s about the company. The best times in my life were spent just with the people, I don’t remember the food. Do you want to build memories for the grandkids about grandma and grandpa being there, or are you more worried about that turkey being absolutely perfect? And that’s your focus, and now you’re mean and hateful of the party because you didn’t get a chance to also sit and enjoy your family while they were there? I’ve gone to things before were I never saw the host, almost the whole night, because they were in there cooking.”
Suzanne relates, “When I was caring for my mom, even though I was a burned out caregiver, and working a full time job on top of it, I knew the holidays were important to my mother, so I bent over backwards to give her a wonderful Christmas celebration. And that included taking her to the Swedish Club so that she could have lutefisk. That included making sure that she got to all these places. And I know she was worn out. I think I just put way too much stress on myself and upon her. Ask for help – you don’t have to do it all. Maybe what you do is have a pot luck when you bring the family together. You can downsize things, you don’t have to decorate the entire house. Maybe you do a nice tree, and maybe you do some flowers and candles on the table, and that’s enough. You don’t have to go overboard.”
Tip 2: Use Retained Abilities. Kelley explains, “Remember, mom and dad haven’t forgotten everything. We have residents that couldn’t tell you their name, but they know how to fold socks. They still know how to help set the table. There’s some things that are like what we call ‘muscle memory’, that we just know how to do. It’s amazing. My grandfather could probably tear a car apart, but he couldn’t tell me what he had for breakfast. But what I’m getting at is, while mom and dad are there, instead of just putting them in a chair by the window, give them something to do that is a retained ability. If they can still sit with the kids and put puzzles together, let them do that. If they want to help set the table, let them help. Part of dementia is feeling like you no longer fit in and you’re no longer needed. That’s another big thing that people with dementia deal with. So, if mom and dad are at the house, and you could use a little help, I guarantee they’d be happy to do it. Those retained abilities also make them feel successful, like they got to help too. They say there’s greater joy in giving than there is in receiving. Well, that also means in the way we treat people, and sometimes it’s a good thing to let someone else feel good about trying to be part of the family.”
In the next segment, Kelley and Suzanne talk about the third and fourth tips. Learn more about CarePartners Senior Living at their website.
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Founder and CEO of Answers for Elders, Inc., Suzanne Newman proclaims often, “Caring for my mom was the hardest thing I ever have done, but it was also my greatest privilege.” Following a career of over 25 years in sales, media, and marketing management, Suzanne Newman found herself on a 6-year journey caring for her mother. Her trials and tribulations as a family caregiver inspired an impassioned life mission outside of the corporate world to revolutionize the journey that so many other American families also find themselves on. In 2009, she became the founder and CEO of Answers for Elders, Inc., subsequently hosting hundreds of radio segments and podcasts, as well as authoring her first book. Suzanne and Answers for Elders, Inc. have spent 14 years, and counting, committed to helping families and seniors along their caregiving journeys by providing education, resources, and support. Each week on the Answers for Elders podcast, Suzanne is joined by vetted professional experts in over 65 categories including Health & Wellness, Life Changes, Living Options, Money, Law, and more. Suzanne lives in Edmonds, Washington with her husband, Keith, and their two doodle dogs, Whidbey and Skagit.