“Whenever you get around to it. I know how busy you are.”
How I dreaded those words! After living in California for six years, I’d come back to Texas and lived almost around the corner from my parents. They never demanded I do anything, but the cloud over my head was full of favors they needed me to do…whenever I got around to it. Problem was, I was busy and I never got around to anything.
Then I had the brain storm. No matter how busy I was, I made it to the appointments on my calendar. If I moved my parents from “whenever I got around to it” to a specific time, written on the calendar, I would avoid the permenant guilt trip I’d been dragging along behind me. Now, when Mom brings up something they need me to do, my answer is always, “We’ll take care of that on Thursday.”
A few words of caution, however:
- Get them to buy into it. I didn’t just make a plan and start executing it. I sat down with my mom and explained what I was planning to do. At first Mom was reluctant to tie me (or herself) up to a definite committment, but when I explained it would help me organize my time, then she was fully on board.
- Be respectful of their schedule. Though it may seem to you that mom and dad just sit around the house waiting for you to show up, that’s not the case, at all. They have a life. Their activites may not seem critical to you, but older people thrive on routine. Find a time that works for you and for them.
- Be consistant. Though my mom believed in my good intentions, she never dreamed I’d keep at it – but my consistancy built their trust. Now my parents order their lives depending on my assistance and I have the confidence I’m making a proactive contribution to their well-being.
- Be flexible. Though committed to the time set aside for my parents, I’m not religious about it. Sometimes, I need to change the day I will spend with them. Sometimes I make multiple visits during a week.
- Be gracious. Don’t rush in, scurry about like a madman and wear yourself out looking at your watch while you’re with your seniors. Even though they need you, they don’t want to be a burden. Assure them frequently that you feel your time with them is a privilege and you are honored to have their love – because it’s the truth. The day will come when you’ll wish you could go spend time with them. Don’t waste the valuable time you do have with them, focused on other things.
I’m extremely fortunate my life allows me to devote one day a week to Ruth and George, but I realize others might be lucky to find one hour in a month to devote to their seniors. But whatever amount of time you carve out for this responsibility, you will discover it eases your mind in the balance of your hours.