Emotions and elders

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

Understanding that grief over lost independence is one of the contributory factors for seniors to be grumpy would be the first step to cope with such tantrums. In 2002 the National Institutes of Health held a “Successful Aging” seminar. In synthesizing the information presented at the seminar Dr. Judy Salerno, who directs the NIH’s National Institute on Aging, concluded, “Disease and disability are not inevitable consequences of aging.” In other words, simply seeing signs of aging doesn’t have to lead down a slippery slope of hopelessness or despair.

                        Easing the Tension

In support of Salerno’s synthesis, University of Wisconsin professor Gloria Sarto told the conference that attitudes like self-esteem, quality relationships, defining life as meaningful and exercising some independence can help people age well. “Find something positive in the face of adversity,” she said. In these findings are true, we caregivers can contribute toward more positive attitudes in our seniors.

                        Helping Them Feel Loved

One of the first ways can do this by helping them feel loved. Since our personal methods of expressing and receiving love may differ from those of our parents, psychologist Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages is helpful to study. Chapman’s premise is that individuals use different ways, different languages, to express and receive love. It may be through words that I feel most loved. It may be through quality time, acts of service, giving of gifts, or tender touch.

For example, if words are the primary love language, then spoken affirmation will lift the elders’ spirit. But if their primary love language is quality time, and they could not be scheduled into our busy schedule, then even if we meet their physical needs and say nice things, they would still feel unloved.

Reflecting on the above strategies, it is very easy for us Salesians to be positive. Don Bosco always stressed that we need to let people know that they are loved. To be positive, happy and letting people know they are loved are part of our lives.  We do these randomly and most of the time without planning or thinking. It is in our DNA! Hence we urge you to bear in mind that we execute our daily routines in these extraordinary ways: positive and loving, especially to our seniors.

Your homework from the Care Ministry this week: identify one of the seniors that you know and determine whether which way that person is more receptive to feeling loved.

Love to hear from you: kunlouis@gmail.com