Aging/Elderly Parents: Visiting Loved Ones in Care Facilities, Especially at Holiday Time, Makes Me Sad….but…

English: A still shot taken during the video p...

but… this is perhaps the best gift
we can give

We shouldn’t project our own feelings onto some one–or some thing.  We know this without having counselor training. Regardless, for me at holiday time, it’s a challenge each time I enter a care facility.

I forget (do I repress it?) the crestfallen feeling, until it overcomes me as I take the first step from my outside-world reality into the institutional setting of cheery, festive, holiday decor. Without warning the disconnect between the decor and reality is totally sobering.

My thoughts: How cheery is it, to be living in an institutional setting surrounded by those with problems, some in the last stages of their lives…….and at the same time know that just outside, an energetic world is alive with children, Santas, beautifully decorated store windows etc.?

Instinctively I put on a smile, tell the staff what a great job of decorating they’ve done (not a lie, the decorations are fine) and proceed to whomever I have come to visit.

Usually as I’m walking to the destination room or assisted living apartment, I pass unknown elders with various degrees of the infirmities that accompany aging. My mind flips to thoughts about how to make the holidays better for them. I ask myself whether it’s my problem–not theirs. Still I challenge my brain to think of ways to bring enjoyment those who have relinquished significant independence and a normal life to be cared for or assisted.

Most of my thinking involves gifts that don’t last. I could bring a small decorated-by-me Christmas tree–artificial or alive, hoping to brighten up a room and spirits; or something to eat, possibly decorated for the holidays. What cheery gifts are appropriate, any time of the year, for people who must wear technology to signal the nursing station if they stray far from their bed without help…or alarm bracelets to signal for immediate help should they fall?

Suddenly thoughts of Bebe, my older master-gardener friend, surface. She spent her last few months in a care facility as her cancer became aggressive. I had been visiting for a while one day, when Bebe explained that a terrific young woman, a masseuse, was scheduled to come shortly. Her a once-a-week massage, arranged by her daughter, was that afternoon. (I took it as a hint to leave shortly.) I believe Bebe said the massage started with her hands, then arms etc. and felt absolutely wonderful, plus the young woman was wonderful.

The young woman arrived before I left. She was the kind of person you immediately like: upbeat, caring, and well-trained. Bebe said I should stay for a few minutes and I’d know what she meant, as the young woman began massaging Bebe’s hands and talked about circulation.

Bebe’s daughter (very caring, smart, a mother of grown children), ran a business and had at least one other time-consuming responsibility that I knew of. While she couldn’t be with her mother constantly, she tried to arrange whatever she could to enrich her mother’s unoccupied moments.

I ran the massage idea past my 88-year old cousin the other day. She’s lives in an assisted living facility in the west and confirmed massage is a terrific gift idea. Some assisted living facilities offer massage as an “extra,” for an additional charge. Perhaps it’s one of those gifts best given by several people, depending on cost.

I’m guessing Bebe’s daughter interviewed to find a masseuse who she thought would be a good fit so her mother could look forward to a very special experience each week. That’s the way Bebe’s daughter is. She left as little to chance as possible (but of course that’s a matter of options and choice).

The gift of scheduled massages is a winner; long-lasting (as long as we wish to pay); and something to look forward to. No doubt it helps circulation and relaxation. And won’t some pampering help contribute to aging as well as possible until the end for elders who can enjoy it?  That said, according to Sr. Advisor S. RN, “Before deciding on massages for aging and elderly parents, check with the doctor. Even gentle massage can cause serious problems, especially if aging and elderly parents are very thin or have thin skin.”

Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities and respected professionals, plus practical information–to help parents age well.

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