Tuesday, June 23, 2015


For many of us, this will mean taking care of elderly parents or possibly an elderly spouse.  This is a painful, exhausting, frustrating, incredible, amazing journey.  Whoever you are taking care of, for whatever reason, the experience will be what you make it to be.  However, there are some guidelines that will make the experience richer.  Let’s assume this is a person you love and want to take care of.   Remember that this is a very scary time for them.  They are losing their independence and for many people that translates into losing their pride.  Whether you are taking care of someone in a facility or at home, try to help your loved one keep as much pride as possible. Some people would be more comfortable being showered by a staff member than a family member.  Other people feel the opposite.  Regardless, try and do the fun things with your elder and allow staff to do some of the more difficult health care activities.   Help them do as much as they are capable of doing.  If they are able to walk, let them and help them walk.  If they are not able to walk but like to be taken places in a wheelchair then try and make that happen.  If they enjoy eating out, take them out. Even if they do not remember what you just did, as long as they enjoy the activity, then provide the activity.  When they can no longer go out, bring the take out to them.  Rent a movie for them to enjoy, especially an older one that they might already remember.  This makes it easier for them to follow and enjoy.  Ask them to tell you all their stories and record the stories or write them.  Many rich family history is lost when an elder dies.   They will usually enjoy having an audience for their stories and even though you may have heard some of the stories, this time you will be more aware that you may not hear it again and you will find yourself wanting to ask more questions. 
Go through old picture albums together, also a great way to travel back through memory lane, hear more stories, and allow your elder to enjoy some memories with you.   One of the most difficult transitions for the caretaker is to transition from the role of adult child or spouse to the role of decision-maker.  Sometimes, in your new rule, you will have to make a decision that goes against what your elder initially wanted.  If you are used to being in the role of child, it is very difficult to not “obey” your parent even when it is not in their best interests.  Remember all the things your elder has already lost:  friends, family members (maybe even a child or a spouse), job, home, pets, physical integrity such as loss of mobility, and cognitive integrity such as memory loss.  One of the most difficult aspects of aging are all the losses.  The last thing most people want to be at the end of their life is a burden.  Don’t make the caretaking a burden or it will come across that way to everyone.  There is joy still to be experienced.  Don’t forget to get help and take some time for yourself or you will burn out.  Make new stories in your life that you can share with your elder, it will make them feels more a part of your life and you will have a very interested audience.  When your elder dies, you want to remember more joy than sadness, and you are the one that can make that happen. 

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Friday, June 12, 2015

Manners And Social Etiquette

I was recently asked by a co-worker to write about manners and the lost art of social skills as a follow-up to our blog on “The Lost Art of the Thank You Note”.  Social etiquette is referred to as social skills in psychology.  Why is this training so important? Social skills are not just important as a courtesy to others, but can help or hinder us in our personal and professional relationships.  Many young children seemed to have not been taught basic skills such as saying Thank You, Excuse Me, Please, etc.  In addition to verbal niceties, eye contact is one of the most valuable social skills we can teach our children.  When we interact and communicate with others, if the other person is not looking at us, we may not feel like that person is really listening to us.  We will also miss non-verbal cues without eye-contact.  Other aspects of social skills include sharing, offering food and drink, being kind, and making people feel welcome. 
My mother used to call this being a good hostess and making other people feel comfortable, not just in your home but where ever you are and whatever you are doing.  Do not cut in line, do not make fun of people, do not imitate people, and do not try to embarrass people.  It may only be a matter of time before you are on the receiving end of that behavior and it does not feel good.  In essence, teach your children to not be bullies.  Some people seem quick to take offense and rather than escalate the situation, help your children learn how to de-escalate and calm down the other person.  For example, rather than yelling and cursing, use a calm and soothing voice, maintain eye contact, and focus on problem solving.  If the person helping you in a store seems grumpy and angry and rude, smile at them and thank them sincerely for their help.  You may be surprised at how the other person will often mellow and smile back.  In fact, smiling at people is a wonderful and underrated social skill.  It is difficult to have a negative response to someone with a genuine smile on their face.  Don’t talk about people behind their back when you are frustrated or angry with them.  Whether at work or in your social circle, it is rude, often spiteful, and may bounce back at you in a negative way.  At work, if your co-worker hears what you said, you may not be able to re-establish a good relationship with them as the trust will be lost.  This is especially true in a social relationship or friendship.  Do not say anything about another person that you cannot say to them directly.  By the way, direct communication is much better for problem solving anyway.  Filter your ideas, actions and verbalization through thoughts and acts of loving kindness and the rest will come naturally.

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Thursday, June 4, 2015

Parenting Your High School Graduate/18 Year Old Adult

     Congratulations to you and your child graduating from High School.  After 13 years of hard work, your child has begun the true transition into adulthood.  So now what?  Some of you will have children go away to college, some will still live at home and go to a local college or vocational school, and some will enter the work force.  Your sons will receive a draft card in the mail and your daughters will insist that you can’t tell them how to dress.  How can you make this transition in a healthy way that allows your relationship with your children continue to grow and not deteriorate into frustration and resentment on both sides?
  The answer can be found in your communication.  Think of your 18 year old as a brand new adult, like a newly hired employee.  They still need some guidance and mentoring.  However, this has to be done in a way that is mutually respectful.  The best place to begin is with your expectations and this will depend on the history of you and your child.  Let’s assume you have had a relatively good relationship and you generally trust your child.  List out all your expectations of your child and have them list out their expectations of what is going to change in their life in terms of new responsibilities and privileges.  If your child is going away to college, work out a budget with them and be available to them when they have questions about how to deal with problems that arise.  Help them develop a budget as many children have never done this before.  Reinforce the rule of never drinking and driving or being a passenger with someone who is drinking. Talk about roommate etiquette.  Discuss how often you expect to communicate and/or if possible, how often you expect them to come home.  Please do not pick a major for your child.  That has to be their choice, good or bad.  You don’t want them to resent you later in life because they never got to explore a desired career path.  You don’t have to understand their interests, you have to support their choices.
     Things will probably be trickier if your new adult child lives at home. You will see things you may not want to see and will worry more because of it.  Again, sit down with your child and discuss your expectations and your child’s expectations.  For example, discuss curfews and how you will negotiate them.  Possibly your child will not really have a curfew, but you will want to know where they are and when they will be home.  Explain to them that this is a courtesy as you live together. Each of you need to know when to expect the other family member to be home.  If your child is working you need to discuss what expenses they take over and what you will still pay for.  If they don’t take care of their room, show them what you would like to see them do and also let them know that there will be times when you ask for their help as a family member and not a child.  Your job is to guide them and mentor them, not control them.  Allow them to make mistakes while still under the safety of your protection (within legal limits of course).  Communication and mutual respect will help your child navigate and grow into an independent adult more smoothly than rules and demands and punishments.

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