Recently, I went to a small carer support group and strangely enough, there were only five people, four women and one man. I never raised my sons, so I said, “When my mom has a tantrum and acts like a two-year-old, I don’t know what to do.” One by one, the five people revealed that they had never had biological children and were also not sure how to raise offspring for their loved ones. Any pointers for all caregivers who are in the same boat?
I think you were meant to be in this meeting together, that such intimate feelings could be openly shared. Another interesting miracle, while preparing to answer your question, I had the opportunity to listen to a 1985 parenting interview between Oprah Winfrey and beloved Fred Rogers. Wow, this has turned out to be a really beautiful day in my neighborhood!
I asked Oprah, “What do you think is the biggest mistake parents make when raising their children?” “Do they not remember their childhood,” replied Mr. Rogers gently. “I think the best thing we can do is think about what it was like for us.”
Eldercare is not parenting for our loved ones. If this is the mindset of our caregiver, it is easy to try to turn adults into children. In fact, our roles haven’t changed, only our relationships have. Older adults are still adults, regardless of their age and/or cognitive and physical abilities. At some point in our lives when we grow up from childhood, our relationships become from adult to adult. Therefore, experts suggest that rather than refer to an adult-to-child caregiver relationship, it is much better to move on to an adult-to-child relationship.
As Mr. Rogers suggested, when we refer to our childhood, good or bad, we will know only what to do. Obviously, you don’t need to be a biological parent to be a great and knowledgeable caregiver.
Provide security, care, attention, and unconditional love, but limit inappropriate behavior.
Guidance and support, do not push and ask. Helicopters grab the opportunity to allow people to discover new ways of doing things for themselves.
Don’t be drawn into their drama when their tantrums appear, and of course they will. These behaviors are just a way to express feelings. Walk away for a few minutes and gain your anger. Return by honoring all frustrations with respect by showing love and kindness.
Be present in your relationship by communicating in ways small and big.
Dear readers, remember when you were a child, and you will know what to do.
Visit www.moment-making.com to learn more about caregiving and to submit your questions, challenges and successes. Sumter County resident Karen Cochran Beaulieu is the author of Significant Moments: A Roadmap for Caregivers and Loved Ones Suffering from Amnesia.