This video, created by Sunny Rae Keller, a young child with a grandmother suffering from Alzheimer’s, says what I could never attempt to write here. The innocent love of children can do wonders to show us what is really important in this battle we fight. Once you have finished drying your eyes, read on to find out ways to involve your children in eldercare. Great blessings await you all if you embrace this powerful relationship.
Are They Being Ripped Off?
It’s easy to get caught up in the mindset that our children are really the ones who got “ripped off” when our parents are suffering from dementia or another aging ailment. I know I have heard these exact words from friends who are in this situation, and I could understand that feeling completely.
- They don’t have a grandparent that is “all there”.
- They never got to meet the “real grandma or grandpa”.
- Their free time is tied up with taking care of someone rather than just having fun …
But most kids don’t feel that way. We are robbing our children of a life-changing and character forming opportunity with this understandable, but misleading attitude. The song above is evidence of how our children still love fiercely in the face of the ugly beast of aging illnesses.
I love watching how my siblings involve their children in caring for our parents. My son was grown up and out of state by the time my dad’s Alzheier’s had reached the intervention point. But my siblings with younger children were torn daily between daily homework and soccer games and attending to my parents’ needs. Their stress was definitely greater than mine in this arena and it was such a blessing to watch the many creative ways they involved their kids.
How Can the Kids Help?
- Shopping, cooking and general chores can be more fun when little kids are empowered to help and really feel as if they are contributing to grandma/grandpa’s lives
- Involving the kids in creating photo montages, either on a poster board or via technology is real fun for the kids and the grandparents
- Taking the parents to your daily sporting, dance and scouting events is good for everyone and maximizes the use of everyone’s time
- Thinking of field trips to go to that all may enjoy: the zoo, museums, parks…. Something for everyone. Check with your local library for discounts to area attractions. There are loads!
- Be sure to include music in your kids’ interactions with their grandparents. They can share with each other their favorite songs and you can throw in your classic rock n roll favorites too!
- Lots and lots of storytelling. Asking the grandparents to tell about when they were growing up. Kids LOVE to hear these stories
For 101 activities for kids to do with an Alzheimer’s patient from the Alzheimer’s Association, click here. This list will spark other ideas that may be more specifically suited to you and your family. Remember, these are precious moments between your children and their grandparents that you are creating. Enjoy them!
Our team at genusConnect™ recognizes the value of involving our children in the care of our parents. It is why we have a special section dedicated to Young Givers of Care. It is our unique belief that much is to be gained by everyone with actively involving our kids in the care of the aging members of their families.
In my family, the teenage members who have grown up with grandparents suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s, are now part of the care community using the Genus App. Those that can drive are involved by doing some of the shopping and easier errands. They can log their visits into the App, providing important feedback for everyone. They really enjoy taking pictures and adding them to the “Moments” platform. Some even use the App to call their grandmother. Get them involved and watch them go!
Who Benefits When the Children Are Involved Caring for Aging Loved Ones?
- The Children: building of self-esteem, developing empathy, empowerment
- Our Aging Loved Ones: love, joy, attention, and feeling of usefulness, brain engagement, physical exercise,
- Us, the Givers of Care: a little break for us to do other tasks while our parents are happily busy with our kids, satisfaction of knowing we are doing what’s right for all involved; building positive character traits in our children that will last a lifetime
What do we really have to lose by making this challenge in our life a Family Affair? What is there to be gained? I think you can see the answers.
We typically think of family caregivers as women in the Baby Boomer generation, age late 40s to late 50s. But new information from AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving reveals that a full 10 percent of family caregivers are Millennials. That’s 10 million people!
The typical profile of this person is someone who is 27 years old, works part time, and has household income below the national medium.
Why this increase?
One reason is some Baby Boomers need a little help with older loved ones. And it seems Millennials are actually happy to help. Of course there are some circumstances where Millennials have had to step up for the care of their own parents. After all, diseases like early onset Alzheimer’s are being diagnosed more frequently. But for the most part, Millennials are helping Boomers take care of what is left of the Greatest Generation and perhaps the first wave of Boomers.
Millennials who are supposed to be at a stage of life where they are absorbed in their own careers and families. Often they are balancing a career, getting advanced degrees, caregiving and raising children, making them some of the youngest to handle sandwich generation stress. This makes caregiver Millennials a unique group. Of those 10 million Millennial caregivers, there is an equal split between men and women. That’s a little different than the typical caregiver demographic, which skews toward women. But Millennials attitudes toward masculinity have changed and men are more likely to see themselves as nurturers, too. For additional data on millennial caregivers, see this article.
Technology Millennials Use
The genus™ App is truly something Millennials gratefully grasp onto. They grew up with technology and embrace the opportunity to use it to provide the best care possible for their loved ones. With so many Millennials having to work far from where their parents live, having a tool like the genus™ App allows them to fulfill their career goals while attending to family responsibilities. They are thrilled to have a platform that coordinates outside help, visits, medical information, and valuable resources, all ready to be accessed at the touch of a button.
Say the title of this article out loud to yourself. Let that sink in for a moment. Can you picture yourself silently saying this to your aging parent who struggles to remember the past? Now picture yourself saying it with a smile in your heart. You are building new memories that you will have for a lifetime. Make them count using the power of photos.
This is something I tried to remind myself of often when spending time with my dad during the final stages of his Alzheimer’s and I find myself doing the same as I enjoy time today with my mom. That cruel disease of Dementia, stealing the memories of our loved ones, can be discouraging. But if you try to remember that you are building new memories, while leaning on the old memories, you will one day look back and be glad you thought of it this way. I know I am.
Using the Power of Photos to Build New Memories
One possible way to create new fun memories with your loved one who suffers from memory loss is to use photos to stimulate conversations about the past. Photographs from the past allow patients to reminisce about pleasant times in their lives. Photographs from the present help patients relate to their current situation. The patient experiencing memory loss is able to “remember or recognize someone they love and know in a world where so many things are now unfamiliar to them.”2 A study by Ellen Mahoney of Boston College found that, in one instance, photos distracted the Alzheimer’s patient from the effects of Alzheimer’s disease.
Using the “Moments” platform of the Genus™ App, you and all the other members of your caring community can use a consistent set of photos to work with your aging loved one. From the app, you can upload the photos you take to a digital photo frame for your loved one to enjoy. My mother comments almost daily on how much she loves the photos we send to her via our phones to her photo frame. It makes her feel part of her children’s and grandchildren’s lives to see the photos they send from their various adventures. Of course she adores the photos we take when we’re with her as well, but she really benefits from seeing “surprise” photos pop up on her frame from her loved ones’ comings and goings.
10 Photo Tips for Families Facing Alzheimer’s
Compiled by the Alzheimer’s Association® in partnership with Shutterfly, here are 10 ways you can help lift a person with dementia to reminisce:
- Place photos in chronological order.Photo books can be great tools for showing someone’s life history or story. Start your photo book at the beginning of the person’s life and lead up to the present day. Organize the book around key moments and concentrate on happy occasions to assist with engagement. Also, keep the design simple, with one or two pictures per page, so the photos are easy to focus on.
- Show relationships. To help spark recognition of family members, dedicate a section to each person. Choose photos that include the person with the family member from different life stages and place them in chronological order.
- Select meaningful moments. Be sure to include photos that reflect the person’s meaningful life moments and depict his/her favorite hobbies or activities, such as weddings, graduations and vacations.
- Make it an activity.Work with the individual as appropriate to create the book, and share memories and conversation as you put it together.
- Engage in conversation.Ask open-ended questions about the people or events in the photo. How were you feeling in that picture? Tell me about your brother. What are some of your favorite childhood stories? Tell me more about this picture. The answers are less important than the conversation and engagement.
- Share your own memories.As part of the conversation, share your memories and feelings when looking at the pictures. Answer some of the same questions you’re asking the person with Alzheimer’s.
- Connect, don’t correct.This is more about making a connection and sharing memories. Focus on connecting with the person, not correcting them.
- Revisit frequently. Take the time to frequently revisit memories using the photos. Do what works best for the individual. It may be daily or weekly, depending on the person.
- Mix it up.Don’t discuss the same set of photos week after week. To help keep it fresh and interesting, discuss various parts of the book with different people and events on a regular basis.
- Move at a comfortable pace.Follow cues from the individual to gage their interest level and determine how they are reacting to the photos.
It’s important to monitor your loved one’s reactions to the activity. If the reaction is joyful or reminiscent, you are on the right track. There may be times that the photos may somehow agitate him/her, then obviously you will want to redirect. Like anything we do when dealing with dementia, what works one day, may not necessarily work the next. One of our many challenges that keeps us on our toes!
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