What caregivers need to know about seniors' wants
Jonathan Acton - firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’ve spent time around seniors, you might have noticed some patterns in their basic needs. In some cases, caregivers are too close to their family members and they don’t know what to look for. And of course, caregivers tend to be younger than the seniors in their lives.
The challenge is that for most younger people, ageing feels foreign, which make sense. They haven’t aged yet, so how can they know what it’s like to be a senior? If you are a caregiver especially, though, you need to understand seniors. And while every person is different, here are 10 things most seniors wish their caregivers knew.
1. I need to be with people, even if I don’t talk. Human beings are naturally social. But that doesn’t mean they always want to be verbal. Throw in feeling tired or introverted, and you come up with a quiet person. But silence doesn’t necessarily mean the senior in your life doesn’t want company. So long as nothing is wrong, being less vocal often means they just don’t feel like talking.
2. I need you to know what I like. As we age, the things we used to enjoy may not be what we enjoy now. Food tastes different. Sensations feel different. Activities that used to be easy are now more difficult and might feel like work instead of play. While it’s okay to remind the senior in your life of things they used to enjoy, don’t push it. Pay attention to what they like right now and give them the opportunity to experience it.
3. I need help keeping my balance. As we age, we tend to lose our balance more easily. There are many reasons for this. Muscle mass changes, weight changes, equilibrium changes…these all affect balance in seniors. Keep an eye on the senior in your life. Help them get to their walker if they use one. Lend an extra hand to help them feel more secure.
4. I need you to go to the doctor’s office with me. If you’ve ever been confused by medical lingo, you can imagine what it might be like for a senior. Technology, terminology and procedures have changed, and it’s hard to keep up with those changes. Sometimes it can be difficult just getting through the office door, especially with medical or adaptive equipment and/or mobility challenges. You can help by accompanying the senior in your life to the doctor’s office. Be prepared to take notes, explain what is being said and lend a steadying hand.
5. I need you to remind me to do certain things. This goes for seniors with and without dementia or Alzheimer’s. Seniors might need any number of reminders. From taking medicine to turning off the stove, the details in life can get overwhelming. If you see the senior in your life forgetting something, offer a gentle, kind reminder – never a reprimand.
6. I need you to be patient. Seniors have lived longer lives. Their brains are filled with more details and experiences. Their bodies and their minds might move more slowly than we’re accustomed to, especially if we knew them earlier on in life. Expect that things will take more time. If you are on a schedule, leave enough time to account for their needs.
7. I need you to treat me like an adult. The idea that you become a parent to your parent is somewhat of a myth. While it might feel that way sometimes, seniors are not children. They are older adults. They want respect, and they want to be as independent as possible. Being spoken to like they are children encourages dependence and is belittling, even if the speaker doesn’t mean it.
8. I need you to understand my fears. Between physical and psychological changes, as well as rapid changes in society and environments, the world can be a pretty scary place for many seniors. Fear of falling, fear of becoming a victim, fear of losing independence, fear of loneliness – all of these are common fears seniors experience. Help them understand the world around them and remind them of the support they have so they can feel more comfortable.
9. I need you to understand why I get agitated. Whether it’s an uncomfortable sensation, fatigue, frustration with limitations or just pure aggravation, seniors can sometimes lose patience and lash out. Dementia and Alzheimer’s, along with personality traits, can add to that mix. Learn the warning signs. And if you need help understanding how to work with agitation, reach out to a professional.
10. I need you to accept who I am. Caregivers have a tendency to want to fix things. But seniors don’t need to be fixed. They aren’t broken. They have lived a lifetime to become the person they are right now. They are who they are, and who they are is something special. Treat them that way.
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