Tuesday, 7 March 2017

5 Ways of Helping Children show Care to Older Family Members

Most families will have some members who are elderly and frail but helping children to show love and respect can need thought. It is easy if Granny can go out and talk to the children but when someone is housebound and challenged cognitively then this can take more thought. These are a few thoughts from personal experience. Please do add more ideas in the comments. Sometimes, our efforts feel woefully thin.

I have started from the premise that children shouldn't be involved in personal care but should be able to help add joy to life.
  • Visit but just for a short time. Generally, people love to see younger relatives but they find them tiring. My eight year old pops into see his Grandmother on most days. He will talk to her for a minute or two then go out. When we went down to see my Mother in a nursing home, I usually didn't stay as long if I had the children with me. Sometimes, we broke the visit into two, split up by a playground visit! On other occasions, the children visited for a short while and my husband took them out while I stayed longer.

  • Help choose presents. Finding presents for very frail people can be difficult, especially, if they are on a modified diet. Sometimes, a child can suddenly hit on a great idea especially, if this is something that the whole family has been discussing. One of my children spotted a lovely illustrated book which was ideal as a gift. Some people may appreciate pictures and cards from the children although do handle this sensitively, particularly if there is cognitive impairment involved and Granny/Grandad can't be relied upon to say the appropriate thing!

  • Read/recite part of the Bible or a favourite poem. The children and I recently practiced and read Daffodils: I wandered lonely as a cloud.  Make sure that you also provide a large print version and that hearing aid/reading glasses are used, as necessary.

  • Look at old family photographs together. The children will be amused at the sight of their parents as children or older siblings when much younger.

  • It may be appropriate to involve an older child in meal preparation. One of mine has been able to puree a roast properly. This means pureeing all the components separately and shaping them so that the meal looks attractive. Realistically, it is not possible to do this and serve up at the same time! While normal fish and chips were still on the menu, one of my older children was always happy to go to the chippie for his Grandmother.
Don't forget to encourage the children to pray for their older relatives.

Be sensitive about
  • cognitive impairment. Remind the person you are visiting of your name, even if you are a son or daughter. Don't test them on the names of the grandchildren/greatgrandchildren. People can enjoy your visit even if they can't remember your name. 
  • Hearing issues. Avoid background noise and speak clearly.
  • There may be times when it isn't appropriate to take children to visit. They are few and far between but if the older relative is distressed or in pain then a visit may not be right. Generally, though it is better to visit.
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  1. Great list of ideas, definitely agree with the keep visits short, but it's great to include children with visiting when appropriate. With one great grandparent who lives a long way away we take a laptop with a selection of photos of our everyday life, our redecorated lounge, the park, the kids on their new bikes, so the kids can chatter naturally to great granny and there is the visual prompt for questions on both sides. Good also when hearing isn't 100% as they can piece together the information. Ellie

    1. Thank you. That is a lovely idea. Good to have photos for so many reasons especially around hearing problems.

  2. Thank you for these ideas, I especially like the suggestion of reciting Bible verses/poems. My Grandma has dementia and is in a care home. Often when we visit she is only awake for a few minutes and may or may not be lucid, so it is difficult for the children to talk to her much. At Christmas I gave her a photo calendar of the children and she loved looking through that with us, so I'm thinking about doing a photo book of her wider family for her birthday.

  3. This is really helpful Sarah, thank you for sharing it :-)