Don't believe me? Open up a photo album right now and you'll be flooded with memories - good and bad -- of elderly people in your life who have since died. Photographs instantly capture the experience of who, what, when, where and why. And, after people we love leave this earth, the opportunity to create new and memorable experiences with them is gone forever. That part's over. Finito! That's it!
If you're like most people who care for elderly parents and loved ones, you do so much for them in the caregiving process. Your elder care checklist is a mile long. You arrange for elder care products and elder home care services. You engage in elder care planning and live with the fact that there are unanswered elder care questions. You check in with people who are under your senior care to make sure everything is okay. You know first hand that elder care planning includes twists and turns. You respond to elder care emergencies. And caring for elderly parents and loved ones means you worry about what's going to happen to them.
You talk things over, you argue, you laugh and cry, you care for your elders when they're sick and unpleasant to be around. You get tired and help anyway, and you give so very much.
As an elder care consultant and caregiver advocate, one of the most important questions I ask in my book, The Complete Eldercare Planner is this - What will you remember about your caregiving days after your elders are gone? It's impossible to know the answer right now. Sometimes something small and insignificant happens during the course of a typical day and you may never consider the possibility that you'll remember that moment for the rest of your lives. You may also remember stories your elders tell you about the good old days and time may stand still when you recognize their unmistakable handwriting on cancelled checks and recipes.
In the process of elder care, why not make a caregiving plan to give yourself as many positive memories as possible? The moments you remember may ultimately become the foundation of stories you choose to share when you become an elder. Here are a few ways to set the stage to create special memories:
Listen up. Pick up the phone and call your elders with no other agenda other than to say hello. Listen to the sound of their voices as they speak. Tell a funny story and hear the sound of their laughter. If they leave you an endearing message on your voice mail, save it.
Spend time together. Share meals, take a "Sunday" drive, celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and special occasions, go shopping, sit on the porch and listen to the rain, play games, listen to music and sing along, attend religious services, take walks, plan a family vacation.
Go back to school. Learning something new is twice the fun when you do it together. Adult education classes offer a variety of learning opportunities -- from exploring ancient history and learning the computer or a new language, to arts and crafts. Spend time together taking a class.
Lead the way. Offer to chauffer your elders down memory lane by driving them around neighborhood streets and familiar places that hold special meaning for them. Pack a healthy picnic basket and enjoy the sights as you munch away.
Cook up a storm. Beyond learning how to create nutritious meals, cooking classes are naturally fun and entertaining. Offer to attend classes together. Don't forget the camera.
Play ball. Taking an older baseball fan to the ball park can be a memorable outing. Senior citizen discount day is only one of many reasons why sitting in the stands, eating hot dogs, and cheering for the home team will put a smile on any elder's face. They're sure to start telling you stories of old-time players they used to watch. If you want to go the extra mile, inquire in advance about having a personalized message displayed on the scoreboard. Bring the camera and create a day-at-the-ballpark photo album.
The time of your life, and that of your elderly loved one's, is right now. Make the best of capturing positive memories. You'll be so glad you did.
We would love to hear about your memories. Leave a comment below.