It’s been noted that ‘hurry’ is the enemy of love. Sometimes we are so busy, even in retirement, that we don’t have time for what is most important – like our siblings and the old people in our lives. When our elderly friends or family need our help, we’re conflicted over our priorities. This can be difficult because we already have so much to do. It’s essential, however, to value your siblings and the old people in your life.
I haven’t known anyone who regretted the time spent with the old people in their lives. My father and my in-laws both died before I retired. My father died as a young man, but my in-laws both lived into their late 80s, and my husband and I were actively involved in caring for them at the end of their lives. Dixie, too, cared for both of her parents in their final years, even moving them to live closer to her and her husband. Anyone who has done this knows that it’s not easy, and there are times when you wish it would just all go away. Still, there is great comfort in helping the people we love at the end of their lives. To make them feel cared-for and safe, and above all, loved.
It’s easier, of course, if they live close, but what do we do when they live far away. Forbes Magazine shares these seven tips for helping your aging parents beat their loneliness.
Tips for helping out when you live far away.
- Maintain frequent contact. If you only call once a month, call more often. Call for no reason – just to talk. When I lived outside the country, I wrote my mother a long letter every week. I couldn’t call her, but I wanted to maintain regular contact. When we returned to the United States after five years, she had saved every letter. She’s gone now, but I’m glad I wrote the letters.
- Visit in person at regular intervals. A hug is even better than a call! Even if you have a difficult parent, you can keep it brief, but make it regular.
- During your visit take your aging parent to concerts or plays or movies or anything that he or she especially enjoys and might not go to alone.
- Check out the community services available where your parent lives. You can find out so much on the internet. You may be able to lead them to a great senior center that they don’t even know about.
- Ask your parent questions about things like lottery entries and contests. When my mother began to get dementia, she started to enter contests where she was sure she’d win lots of money that she could leave to us. It wasn’t long until she was scammed. This is an increasingly worrisome problem, and there are plenty of unscrupulous people out there to take advantage of trusting seniors.
- Consider hiring a geriatric care manager. This is particularly helpful if you can only visit your parent once or twice a year. These professionals can find activities and help your parent when you are far away.
- Consider teaching your parent to use technology. My mother-in-law learned to use the computer in her 80s. She was proud to master e-mail and absolutely delighted with Skype! Along with the advantages to communication comes a profound sense of pride for the senior who conquers technology.
Treasure your siblings, too!
It’s not just our parents and our in-laws who need the gift of attention: it’s also our siblings.
These are the people who share our past, who co-star in our memories, who understand in the most profound way the very foundations of our lives. They were there long before our spouse, our children and our grandchildren and they are worth celebrating. No matter what the relationship with our siblings is at the moment, research shows that strengthening that bond makes us healthier and happier!
Just like with our aging parents, the key to the relationship with our siblings lies in communication and a willing heart. Familyshare offers nine ways to stay connected to your adult siblings in an article of the same name.
- Learn what your siblings are involved in and make efforts to support them.
- Forgive and forget. Avoid all those bad things from the past. Just don’t bring them up.
- Treat your siblings as you would a friend. We’re always quick to give our friends a break, but sometimes we don’t offer that same compassion to our sister or brother.
- Keep trying – even when it seems like family dinners are always awkward and uncomfortable. You’ll never regret trying.
- Keep your siblings in the loop. Let them know what’s going on in your life. I’ve always had good feelings about my brother, but we didn’t communicate regularly because our mother kept us both informed, but when we no longer had her, we began to pick up the phone and call each other. I treasure those calls now.
- Have fun together. Do something that everybody likes. If you live far apart, have a family reunion. We rented a house with my husband’s family last year and siblings from New York, California, Florida, and Maine had a ball together for four days! It was worth every penny.
- Connect with technology.
- Don’t talk about politics. Or religion! I’m begging you!
- Let your siblings grow up. That sister who is 18 years younger than you are is not a little kid anymore. Treat her with respect!
When we first started this discussion, we said that the only things that are really important in life are the people we love and the people who love us. I know that’s true. Don’t let all the hurry of life – even in a great retirement – keep you from concentrating on them.
Why not pick up the phone today and call your mom or your brother!