Listening to Your Parents Even Now
Have you ever had that aggravation that you go over to your aging parents apartment or house to help with the housework and get some serious “care giving” done and the senior himself seems to be bent on stopping your progress? You no doubt came over with a list as long as your arm of things to do at the apartment to help your parent live a clean and healthier life by getting the place into shape.
You know that part of your job as caregiver is to take care of chores and do the things your aging parent cannot do any more or just doesn’t do because of fatigue or general lack of attention to detail. So when your parent wants you to forget all that work and just sit and talk, what is aggravating to you may be very important to your parent, maybe even more important than the apartment getting cleaned up.
It’s good for you to think about your role as caregiver because you really are not just called to be a maid, chauffeur and cook. Anybody could do those things. The reason you are perfect for the care giving role is you are close to the heart of your aging parent and you are the one that will understand when she talks about things she is thinking or feeling that day.
So don’t downplay the value of just being a companion to your parent during your visits. The emotional and family support you provide to your parent is central to his self esteem and feeling of who he is in the world. He will be storing up dozens of little anecdotes and stories to share with you when you come over. So in order to let him get all of that sharing “out of his system”, its important for you to be a good listener.
A good listener doesn’t just let the other person talk and say “uh huh” every so often. If you are just tolerating your parent as she shares little things with you, that will become apparent and be worse than if you didn’t talk to her at all. The best way to fit your fellowship and relationship time around work time is to start out each visit with some time together just to talk.
Perhaps you might make it a habit that every time to come over, you and your parent will sit down and just talk about a half hour over coffee, a snack or tea. That is when you can focus all of your attention on what mom or dad have to say. Listen with focus and attention so when something is funny, you laugh and you can ask questions and explore the concept or situation being discussed in some depth.
Then at an appropriate time, you can say, “Gee Mom, I would like to tidy up those dishes. Can you sit at the table and we can keep talking while I do that?” That is a nice easy transition to starting your work and keeping the lines of communication open. And you can continue to let your mom or dad “follow you around” as you do chores chattering away the whole time.
Don’t censor the topics or insist that what you talk about are only the important things. You should know from talking to your kids that you have to be ready to talk about the trivial things in their lives to prime the pump of communication about the hard issues and ones that will take some mature understanding to deal with. So be patient and open with your aging mom and dad and once they know you have good listening ears, they will open up about important things going on in their lives. And that is when your listening skills will really pay off.