You love your parents. You like to visit them. But being with them can also drive you crazy.
You want to change the subject two minutes into one of their 10-minute stories. You feel compelled to straighten, clean, and organize their home so that it looks more like yours. Their slower pace of action tempts you to speed away, like zooming past a car driving under the speed limit.
But then you feel guilty because you love your parents and you like to visit them. Does this cycle sound familiar?
There’s a better way to manage your visits with your folks. To avoid getting impatient or overly distracted, focus on fulfilling these two main objectives anytime you visit.
Keep It Simple
Your first priority when visiting your parents is nothing. That’s right. In other words, visiting is the priority. Take the time to be present with them and build a stronger connection.
Although this action might seem insignificant, it is actually an important part of keeping your parents healthy. Research shows that strong feelings of connection with family and friends are predictive of better functioning and health outcomes in older adults.
According to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, adults over age 60 who report feelings of loneliness were, after a six-year follow-up period, less mobile and less likely to be able to perform the activities of daily living than their better-connected peers. They were also more likely to die.
So, knowing that connection builds health, treat your visits with purpose. Look for ways to connect at their speed. If your mom likes tea, bring over a local tea or local honey from your most recent trip and have tea time together. Don’t race through it. You can talk about the trip and let her into your life.
If your dad likes puzzles, have a favorite, meaningful photo of his made into a jigsaw puzzle. Make it a big enough one that you can’t race through it even if you wanted to. Bring it over and put it together with him. You can talk about why the photo is meaningful and let yourself into his life.
If your parents like gardening, set up a gardening date to pull weeds and harvest the bounty.
Look for activities that force you to slow down, focus your mind, and provide an opportunity to share with each other. And if you must think in go-go, goal-oriented terms, know that by honoring them with your time in this way, you will be literally improving their quality and length of life.
Keep Your Eyes Open
While you’re spending all that quality time, allow yourself to look around and pay attention to how your parents are living.
Ninety percent of older adults intend to stay in their home for at least the next five to 10 years, according to a survey by AARP. However, the same survey found that only 43 percent of Americans age 70 and older found it “very easy” to live independently.
Knowing that there is often a disconnect between what a parent wants and what they need, it is important to look out for them and make sure their desires don’t lead them into an unsafe living condition.
The best place to start is simply to use your senses when you are visiting:
- Do you see extra messes than you used to?
- Do you smell spoiled food in the fridge?
- Does the kitchen table feel grimy?
- Are they talking about falls and accidents more often?
If you take the time and know where to look, you can find a multitude of clues about how well your parents are able to keep up with living independently.
Enjoy Your Time
Life always has its responsibilities, but this time with your parents in their retirement years should one that you enjoy.
If you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed that they are at risk living at home, you can hire a professional to do a home-safety analysis. You can ask a doctor about specific concerns and get advice about what to do.
For further advice about how to look after your older loved ones, download our free eBook Solutions to Common Caregiving Challenges.