This time of year is always a little melancholy for me as Mother’s Day approaches.
I lost my mother five years ago to a nasty illness called Crohn’s disease. I watched this beautiful, energetic woman fight for 25 years with this disease but in the end, and not without a battle, it finally got the best of her. I write this column this week wishing she were still here with us and thinking about maybe what I could have done more of to help her during the last couple of years. So, here are a few ideas that might help keep you more engaged in your quest to spend more time with your mom, dad, or for those lucky enough to have both your parents alive.
It’s not easy getting old, as the saying goes, and it can be even harder to watch your parents age. Helping parents transition into the later years of their lives can be a delicate matter, but there are ways to help them ease into an elderly stage and cope better with challenges.
For example, consider these tips and ways to aid aging parents:
Music can be a helpful gift. Try loading a music player with a playlist of your parents’ favorite songs. My mom was an Eagles, Rod Stewart, and Bob Seger kind of lady. So, I am fairly confident that I bought her every greatest hit CDs that included those artists. I am also pretty sure she mesmerized every song by those three. Another way to spend time with your mom or parents is by watching movies together. My mom was literally the movie queen! We would spend hours watching all sorts of movies. She was especially fond of those goofy B-rated ones. I think when she passed, I counted at least 130 different types of movies that most of us have never heard of. She would call me up and say, “Michael I found a new one that looks good. What time can you make it?” She was the only one that used my real name, so I always replied back “How’s your popcorn supply and do we need something to drink?” Oh, to watch one more flick with her.
Adjust to Physical Changes
Reading materials could require larger-than-normal print, and a magnifying clip-on screen for a computer can be helpful as well. Serving foods that are easier to cut can make eating a simpler process. Keep an eye on weight and nutrition and try to find someone who will make a house call for haircuts. My sister owns her own hair salon back home so she would always be changing mom’s style or color. I was always the first one to be called upon to judge. Talk about pressure! Of course, I always said, “Mom, you look beautiful,” and of course looking at my sister with this look of, “Did you really have to make mom’s hair purple?” But if my mother liked it, who was I to not give her kudos for being a 60-plus-year-old trying to keep up with the new fads.
Make a family tree together and try creating a photobook with old and new pictures. Share news about family members’ relationships and accomplishments, which might bring back personal memories. My mother’s family was pretty big and definitely close as she had four brothers, so we always spent holidays with the entire family. We pretty much were picture sellouts. I think when me and my sister finally went through my mother’s stuff, she had hidden away five giant boxes of pictures that dated way before I was born. There were many that were in black and white. There were pictures and scrapbooks of everyone. I must say it was one of the most emotional things I ever did going through the most wonderful memories of her life and the family’s life.
Consider the Little Things
Surprise your parents with a few new pieces of clothing for a thoughtful gift. Laminate a list of their medications and their doctors to keep with you in case of emergency and provide a copy to your parents and any other caregivers. Create a contact list on your parents’ mobile phone to help them easily reach family and friends without needing to search. If there are young children in the family, try bringing them by for a visit – their energy and smiles may help brighten the room. A couple of thoughts here because towards the end me and my sister actually had to make up a list for my mom because she was on so much medication that it really was hard to keep track of. We made a big chart for her and though she was not perfect in following it, I know she was appreciative of our efforts.
Finally, as mentioned above about bringing around the children. This was my mom’s life. She was the best grandma in the whole world and I really am sad that my kids and my sister’s kids didn’t get to spend more time with her. My mother went all out for every holiday and spoiled those kids like there was no tomorrow. I would be upset with her most of the time because she always spent way more money than she needed or had, and of course, she would always just brush off my criticism.
I think I know now that I was the one wrong because she really did try to “live life like she was dying” and if I had any sense to me back then I would have just went with it and enjoyed the moment. My mom was a special lady and for those of you still lucky enough to have your moms around, don’t forget it is her day. Happy Mother’s Day, mom.