Sending flowers, candy and greeting cards are de rigueur for mom on Mother’s Day but, as members of the Baby Boomer generation, we recognize that what your aging mother really wants on her special day is to feel nurtured.
Ellie’s mother, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, no longer recognized her. Ellie felt very sad but resigned. “Mom is so sweet, even if she doesn’t know who I am most of the time. It’s now like I’m her mom and I feel good being able to help her when I can. I just want to get her the best care possible.” Ellie’s attitude helps her understand the changes in her mother and plan what to do now.
Sandwiched Boomers recognize that aging is a natural progression and a normal part of the life cycle. But just as it is difficult to accept your own aging, when you witness your mother regressing, the facts of life provide scant comfort. Acknowledging your mother’s decline in well-being, becomes the first step in your plans for realistic long-term care for her.
Research shows that money, title, or good health has less effect on life satisfaction than strong personal relationships. So this Mother’s Day, make a commitment to do what you can to improve your relationship and give your mom and yourself positive memories. Here are six tips to help you get started.
1. The gift of time is one of the most precious presents that you can give your aging mother. Spend some quality time with her talking and reminiscing. Look through old family photographs and ask her to tell you stories about when she was a young girl. The time you spend with her now will sustain you both.
2. Make your mom feel more valued by concentrating just on her – plan a date with her for lunch or shopping. Let yourself become absorbed and delight in these pleasurable activities. Pay attention to the details. Talk about what you are doing, appreciating and enjoying. Linger awhile in order to make it last.
3. On some of your visits do a chore to ease her burden – go grocery shopping together, accompany her to the next doctor’s appointment, cook a delicious meal with enough left over for the next day.
4. The old fashioned art of letter writing can help you develop a closer bond. Write her a letter about how grateful you feel to have her as your mother. Sharing these feelings increases good memories about the past and leads to greater personal satisfaction for both of you.
5. If you have some old issues to work out with your mother, you may be able to move forward in addressing them by writing her an apology letter or a letter offering forgiveness. When you apologize, you free yourself from shame or guilt and your mother from dwelling on anger or resentment.
6. When you forgive your mother for some past transgression, it doesn’t necessarily excuse the action, but does free you from ruminating about it. Forgiveness releases you from the past; it is a gift that you give to yourself.
When Agnes was a teenager, she felt that her strong mother was trying to control her. She looked forward to getting out from under her thumb and moved far away when she married and raised her own family. As her children matured, so did Agnes. Soon she recognized that she admired and respected many of her mother’s characteristics – her sense of responsibility, her independence, her humor, her common sense. She forgave her mother and began to reach out to her. “After she had a stroke, I moved her into our home. We all became closer and I began to understand her better. I wouldn’t trade that year for anything.”
Enjoy your mother today and savor these moments. Reflect on the positive feelings you have from the past and cultivate rich memories now to sustain you in the future. And have a happy Mother’s Day.
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