Thanksgiving Self-Esteem Reinforcement for Aging Parents

Intangible gifts: Thanksgiving and Beyond

My thoughts continue to focus on aging parents who have had to relinquish control. R. is still in rehab; but we can bring her to be with us for part of the day on Thanksgiving. This year especially, it is something that R. has been looking forward to. She calls it a gift–to be in a normal atmosphere, temporary as it will be. Makes me think, once again, do we realize what we take for granted?

I am reminded by a recent e-mail from reader in his 60’s:
Dear Susan,
It took me about four months when I broke my hip to put weight on it.  The part I hated the most was staying in  rehab.  It felt like jail time to me….But you have to learn to dress yourself and do all the other stuff which we just take for granted.  Tell R to hang in there.

I read this to R. and was amazed at how affirming it was for her.  She said, “yes, I feel like a prisoner.” Affirming one’s situation or feelings is an intangible gift at any age, but is especially meaningful for old or elderly people.

Intangible gift ideas for Thanksgiving day:

1.  Conveying the feeling of being wanted (and getting them out of “jail,” if doable). I realize what’s doable for one, may not be doable for another.  I think of a woman in her mid-80’s, still-sharp mind, mounting issues due to cancer, in a hospice facility.  She wanted more than anything to spend Thanksgiving with her grown children.  With help, she was could have made the short ride to their home; but her devoted children feared she would resist returning to the facility and knew they couldn’t care for her at home (as they had previously done). They visited her on Thanksgiving…had the meal at home without her.

Granted, these are tough calls.  Could the facility have given the woman, for example, a 4-hour pass which she knew about so she understood she’d need to return? Creative thinking ahead of time, can sometimes lead to good solutions for all.  So we need to ask ourselves: “Is it easier/better or us, or easier/better for our parents?”

2. Affirming that they can legitimately contribute….May take creative thinking based on abilities:

  • The oldest man at our Thanksgiving gatherings strings the fresh cranberry necklace to adorn the turkey.  (Necklace idea from an old Gourmet magazine.)
  • Ask a senior to say grace–or to give thanks for the men and women, at home and in far-away places, who put their lives on the line to protect–and have protected–us and our country.
  • Assuming they no longer cook or bake, ask women for help with flowers for the centerpiece, or putting a flower in the bathroom, or setting the table, or just looking over the table to be certain it looks attractive…you get the idea.
Being asked to contribute and conveying the feeling of being wanted–intangible gifts. They promote feelings of self-worth at any age, feelings that are often in short supply in old/older people as we try to help them age well.

2 thoughts on “Thanksgiving Self-Esteem Reinforcement for Aging Parents

    • Appreciate your reply, Dorothy. While my mother-in-law is in rehab, when I’m out there I take her the mail and read her catalogs (+others) marveling at her 97-year-old determined attitude. Click “R” on my blog’s Sr. Advisor tab–you’ll note her fashion sense. No time to go on Twitter yet. Hopefully soon. Susan PS love your writing and photos!

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