Lend an Ear and Validate an Elder's Past

  • One of the most tender gifts a caregiver can give an elder is a listening ear. Your attention, as the elder looks back with satisfaction, guilt, grief and awe at the decades she or he has lived, helps the person keep a sense of life’s purpose. To any individual, memories sum up the life they have lived. But, in order to truly count, these memories need to be shared.

    When my dad was recovering from a back operation, he needed someone to be with him. I’d spell my mother as caregiver. When she was gone, I spent precious time listening to my dad reminisce about his very unusual childhood. I heard things I had never heard before. Now, several years after his death, I carry those moments in my heart. They are a part of who I am, as he is a part of me.
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    Those were some of our last, lucid conversations. They made sense and were told in an orderly, though ethereal way. They were without fear and anxiety. They were told before the surgery that changed our lives forever.

    Our past is such a large part of our identity. The memories shelved in our brains, memories to be tenderly taken out and shared with loved ones – those memories make up a good portion of quality elder years. We, as caregivers, need to be alert to the often illusive moments when, if we grab them, we can give our rapt attention to our loved one. By doing so, we are validating, to them, their own life, and gaining perspective and precious memories for ourselves.

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Published On: October 23, 2006