Visits: more than just business

Stretched for time? No one knows that feeling better than family caregivers. There’s so much to do and so little time to do it.

Although productive and practical, a task-focused visit can inadvertently demean the person you care for. No one wants to be reduced to an item on the to-do list! For the receiver, there’s a big difference between feeling cared about and being cared for.

These suggestions may help you make your visits more than just business:

  • Slow down. Take a tip from Dr. Dennis McCullough, author of My Mother, Your Mother: Embracing “Slow Medicine,” the Compassionate Approach to Caring for Your Aging Loved Ones. Elders operate at a different pace than the work world. Before you walk in the door, take a few deep breaths and intentionally move out of the fast lane. Make “savoring the moment” one of the highest priorities on your to-do list.
  • Break up the routine. Convenient as it is to have a standing date, it can make both of you feel obligated. Aim for some flexibility and choice. If you always take Mom shopping on Saturday morning, consider setting up a bonus Wednesday visit for dinner. Or a video. “Date night” with a parent can do much to preserve their self-esteem and remind you both that there’s a relationship there beyond the realities of elder care.
  • Allow them their dignity. Humans have a strong need to reciprocate when given to. Otherwise they feel like a “freeloader” or “burden.” Consider ways your loved one can give back. It does not have to be material gifts. Let them know you value their stories, humor, wisdom, or other treasures they can share over tea or coffee.

Whether you visit once a week or once a year, remember that the reason you are there is much larger than the things that have to get done.