Establishing a Healthy Relationship with the Seniors

By Sheila Kun RN, BSN, MS, CPN, FCCP

May 26, 2019 was a beautiful day of celebration at St. Bridget Chinese Catholic Church in Chinatown, Los Angeles. Not only were we Salesians celebrating the Feast of Mary Help of Christians, but this was the occasion for the induction of 18 candidates to become Salesian cooperators. As usual, Fr. Ted, our Provincial, delivered a memorable homily quoting Pope Francis’ definition to holiness. I reflected on the five characteristics suggested by the Holy See, and I asked myself: “How do I apply this character to serving the seniors in our community/family?” Please take note, I am not trying to be holy, but these beautiful qualities are so attractive that I could not resist; we have to incorporate these virtues as part of ourselves. So after an overnight soul searching, here is what I am going to propose my plan of actions when working with our elders.

Be passionate, consistent and kind. It is not an easy task to always remember our elders and their needs. This is especial true when you have a family with children, or for the confreres doing a full time job ministering the youth or managing a parish. The seniors are usually the silent minority in the family or your community. I have to make an effort to pay better attention to the aging family members.

Be happy and serve with joy. For the Salesians, this is a familiar theme; being positive and welcoming is definitely one of the attributes that Don Bosco had passed down to us. Using this principle towards the care of the elders, I need to focus of what they can do and what is “so right” about them. Again, it is easy to dwell on what they cannot do. I have to remind myself of their achievements and their positive contributions. This holds true on any relationship; in my work as a nurse, I have to bring out the positive aspects of the patients that I care for, and incorporate into the plan of care of what they can do well. For our elders, as an example, I should be a good listener of their life stories rather than quizzing them of what they lost in the memory lane.

Be humorous. Life is too short to focus on the negatives; it is more fun to have a good laugh and don’t take things seriously. Most of us will walk down the path of memory loss, slowing down in physical activities or insisting on doing things based on our old beliefs. If all possible, let the seniors be as independent as possible. Do not argue with them if they insist on certain old habits. I have to remind myself: “More laughter, less ridicule!” is the way to go.

Be in the community. This point is what I embrace the most in caring for the elders. If all possible, stay with them, be present, be there for them which would negate isolation and loneliness. For those who are weakening in health, make every effort to keep them in the home/community. Home is the ultimate remedy for emotional stability and many physical illnesses.

Be in union with God through prayer. For us Salesians, this is again another attribute that is easy to execute. In caring for the elders, like Don Bosco, our prayers need to turn into positive actions. I interpret this last item as paying special attention to the seniors. When you pray for them, you will gravitate to interactions that translate into love and kindness.

Thank you Fr. Ted for an amazing delivery of the Homily yesterday; I learned a lot from your story.

Your homework assignment from the Care Ministry this week: Tell yourself: “I can be Holy too!”

The Care Ministry welcomes your comments/suggestions: