What it means to “Respect your Elders”

Like many Tennesseans, I was raised to “respect my elders.” As a child, that meant holding a door for them or giving up my seat for them or many other small daily kindnesses. As an adult, respecting my elders is exhibited in different ways because both my elders and I have different capabilities than we used to have. These are the small kindnesses we can do for our elderly elders:

  • Talk to them about what they want. Find out how they want to live as they age and what sort of help would be most appreciated.
  • Create a wallet sized list of medications they take (names and dosages), their primary care physician’s name and telephone number, allergies, and any prior hospitalizations. If your parent carries this in their wallet, doctor’s visits and emergency department visits will go more smoothly. Update this list regularly.
  • Attend doctor’s visits with them, if your elder allows this. Sometimes doctors are in a rush or your parent might not understand what was said.
  • Set up automatic payments of regular bills through the bank, if your parents permit this. This step can protect your parents from the ramifications of missed insurance premium payments or missed mortgage payments.
  • If you can afford it, arrange for a housekeeper to do some light cleaning once a week. This can make a big difference in an elderly person’s ability to stay in their home.
  • Spend time with your parent going through old photographs. Sometimes short term memory is weak, but the long term memories are still there. Reviewing old photographs and old memories can strengthen the relationship between you and your parents, and you may learn quite a bit of family history that you did not know.
  • If your parents seem to be losing weight or skipping meals, call the local Meals on Wheels program. If that does not help, call the doctor.
  • Encourage them to be active. Walking, if possible, is a great exercise for seniors. For those that cannot walk, chair yoga can get the blood flowing.

Most importantly, let your elders know that you still respect them, even when they need your help. Continue to seek their advice as you always have, and listen to what they have to offer, even if you disagree with it. Conversely, let them know you have devoted time to learning about caring for seniors. You may want to share resources you have consulted. Above all, patience, kindness, and courtesy are the foundations of a peaceful family.