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Marteny: The need for understanding
Families need to realize that the behaviour of their aging parents may change.
Sometimes younger family members lose their patience, thinking that the seniors are doing or not doing something just to annoy them.
Most likely, the seniors are not even aware of their behaviour.
Some behaviours are due to aging while others may be an indication of a more serious health issue.
Doctors should be notified of any unusual behaviour, especially those that might put the senior or someone else in danger.
Seniors who are outside and walk with speed and steadiness, who appear to give you the impression they know where they’re going, might in fact be totally lost and not know how to get back home.
Others might be reliving memories of a location they enjoyed and think they’re headed back to that same place.
Stories are interesting but not when the same one is told numerous times. If that happens, ask your senior parent or relative to tell you about a different aspect of their youth. Some topics may be off limits. For example, speaking about their experiences in a war might be too painful to relive.
Some behaviours that we don’t understand may actually reflect experiences from the war.
In other cases, stories may be about things that an elderly person said they did, but in fact the event or experience was something they wanted to have so much, it has become true to them.
This can cause problems if a caregiver is not aware of what was the truth.
For a senior, safety is always an issue, especially at night. They may block their bedroom door or the entrance door to prevent intruders.
They may be so paranoid that they put tape around the door.
Families need to help their parents understand that in case of an emergency they could not get out nor could anyone get in to help them.
Things that go missing are another occurrence. The item may have been moved to a different location when a room was cleaned or the senior may have put it in an unusual place. It might also have been hidden.
Seniors always deserve respect. If they say that something has disappeared, then it should be checked out.
Family members may get angry if their parents tell them that no one else has been to visit.
Again, the senior may believe this to be true when in fact others have visited.
Using a visitor’s book to sign will let everyone know who has been visiting and how often.
It might remind the seniors that they do have visitors and have not been abandoned.
Constant telephone calls from seniors to family members can also be frustrating to deal with, especially if all of the calls are to one person.
This is another situation in which the seniors might not realize what they are doing.
Using call display and an answering machine will allow the family members to decide which calls to answer.
Families need to be patient and understanding of the changed behaviour of their parents. Never make fun of or ridicule them for it.
Our behaviour too may become exasperating to others as we age.
Sharen Marteny is a services consultant for seniors in Kelowna.