By Steven Watson, Ph.D.
If you're reading this, it's probably because you have an elderly parent or other loved one who you're worried about. You want this person to be active and healthy, but he or she just does not seem motivated to do much anymore.
WELL, YOU AREN'T ALONE. There are thousands of caring sons, daughters, caregivers, and friends who are committed to helping elderly people lead the highest quality of lives possible. I imagine you have tried a variety of things to help, but have had mixed results at best. You might even have decided that it is futile and that not much can be done. However, the important thing to remember is that YOU CAN REALLY MAKE A DIFFERENCE in helping elderly people stay active and interested in the things around them.
Here are a few things you can do to motivate an elderly person to remain active and engaged in society.
1. The #1 thing to keep in mind is that you can't force a senior to be active and to exercise. Your efforts will not succeed if the elderly person feels coerced into doing it. Therefore, patient and friendly persuasion goes much farther than confrontation.
2. Educate the elderly person about the benefits of activity and exercise. Don't assume that she knows why it is so important. Give her literature and find ways to direct your conversations toward related issues.
3. Focus your efforts on encouraging the elderly person to try things that you know or believe she has enjoyed in the past or that have a high likelihood of being interesting to her now.
4. It is often useful to break activities down into parts so that the elderly person does not feel overwhelmed. A walk to the mailbox could be a small step that leads to a walk down the street at some point.
5. Offer praise and support when the elderly person completes the activity. Acknowledgement is important to everyone and the elderly are no different. Praise can go a long way to helping a senior feel motivated to continue the activity in the future.
6. Participate with the elderly person in the activity so she does not feel ill-at-ease or that you are pitying her. If you are enjoying the activity and being with the person, make sure she knows it.
7. Encourage the elderly person to see a physician if there is any indication that medical issues are contributing to her reluctance to participate in activities. Sometimes the elderly person is not feeling well and may be reluctant to admit it.
The primary things to remember when helping an elderly loved one or friend to be active and interested in life is that it requires patience and perseverance. It is important to identify WHY they are reluctant to participate and develop your INTERVENTIONS around those issues.
Steve Watson has provided assistance to seniors and their families for over 8 years. He owns a home health agency in Tallahassee, Florida called Comfort Keepers that provides home health and companion care for seniors who want to remain in their own homes and be as independent as possible.
Steve has his PhD from the University of Georgia in Public Administration and Master in Counseling from the University of Delaware. He received his certification as a Care Manager with specialization in geriatric issues this year.
If you are interested in learning more about how to help an elderly parent or other loved one remain active and healthy, check out this blog at http://qualityoflifefortheelderly-steve.blogspot.com/ or his web site at http://www.keepseniorsactive.com where you can, among other things, subscribe to an informative newsletter.
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