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Remember those coveted times growing up when you shared moments, just you and your mom? From childhood activities like baking, planting in the garden or reading together to teenage years where shopping was a must-do, time spent with my mom has yielded a friendship that has endured decades. But now that Mom has aged, been stricken by a stroke and lost her first-born daughter, time with Mom has changed. Her stroke yielded a condition called aphasia, which creates a blockage in her brain that causes her to lose the ability to always voice her words; she can think of the word but can’t always say it. In addition, she has lost mobility of her right arm and walking has become a challenge.
Perhaps for your mom, the only change is age. Nonetheless, the relationship you have with her has probably shifted. Things you might have enjoyed doing together years ago have become next to impossible to do today. So, here is a list of what I call “transition activities” that have helped me maintain a strong, loving relationship with my mother.
Internet shopping vs. trips to the mall: At the tender age of 78, my mom does in fact enjoy doing certain activities online. From banking to playing games, she has certainly become knowledgeable when it comes to the basics of online activities. Given that walking is a bit of a challenge and her stamina just isn’t what it once was, we’ve started hanging out around the computer for shopping activities. For example, where we live, certain grocery stores have online shopping options.
I started out by sitting with Mom to show her the required keystrokes and go through each item she wanted to purchase. Now, it’s a blast to see Mom whip through the online process to complete her grocery shopping each month. Sure, she sometimes says that she wants me near in case she makes a mistake but, really, she can handle the task with no problem. This method also works for other shopping needs such as clothes and personal items. We simply shop a few hours away right at home. The time we spend shopping online is time spent laughing, talking and enjoying each other’s company.
Keep the parties at Mom’s: Many mothers like their houses to be the central spot for family gatherings. But my mom was devastated when she lost mobility in her right arm because that meant she could no longer do the cooking and preparation for family gatherings. At first, we simply moved the location, thinking that we were lifting Mom’s burden. But as I watched her diminished participation during these events, I held a “Mommy and me” session. “Mom, what’s wrong? You seem so quiet,” I asked. Her reply said it all. “I just miss being able to have things at my house. I guess I just can’t do it anymore.” That is a clear sign of depression that can come with age.
I think we owe it to our senior family members to come up with viable solutions to lift that sadness. For my family, we opted to move events back to Mom’s but do almost all of the work. Mom supervises it all of course and takes on a single task, like preparing her favorite dish, which allows her to stay involved. She is her happy self during these events now and, while she won’t admit it, I think she enjoys the supervisory role as we cook, set up and clean up before we leave family events.
Keep it moving: So those Saturday excursions of shopping, having lunch and hanging out ’til dusk are now a distance memory. But, in the words of my mom’s rehab specialist, “Move it or lose it.” Lack of movement for the elderly can result in a lack of mobility, which starts a slippery slope toward losing their independence. One solution to counter this is to engage them in activities that are focused on their interest and needs.
My mom was wheelchair bound when she arrived home from her rehabilitation center so it was easy for her to say that she physically couldn’t exercise. But, thanks to technology, I found lots of videos and exercise classes that are specifically meant for the wheelchair bound, seniors or those wishing to improve mobility with exercises done in a seated position. From then on, Mom and I have had a blast doing her 30-minute workout together. While she is now able to walk, she sits in her wheelchair for support and I sit in a chair to exercise. We laugh and work out and, once we’re done, we are left with the accomplishment of doing something good for our health and wellbeing.
>> Read more: Why Healthy Habits Are A Family Thing
Assist; don’t take over: It is a sad reality for the elderly when they begin to lose their driving ability. They can become sedentary and isolated, often spending days on end in the house until someone offers to take them somewhere. While it may sound funny, my mom’s routine has always been to get her hair done every two weeks. With my busy schedule, this task became frustrating for both of us when Mom could no longer drive. We then looked into Metro Access, a drop-off and pick-up service offered to the disabled and elderly through our city’s public transit system. This allows my mom to maintain her independence as she makes her hair appointment, schedules her pick-up and drop-off requests and faithfully heads off to her hairdresser.
Many cities have options to assist with the transportation of seniors. This allows your aging parent to do the things they want without feeling guilty for relying on others. Sure, I could rework my schedule to accommodate my mom, but by doing so, I would be diminishing her independence. She likes to come and go as she pleases and age shouldn’t change that.
I’ve come to know and enjoy my mom differently now. I recently told her that I’ve fallen in love with her all over again. Perhaps it is because I see a new strength that I hadn’t seen before or because I realize that there is some truth in the saying that you turn into your mom. Whatever the reason, the truth is that Mom will forever be “my girl!” She’s the best buddy I could ever have and as we march forth in time, I will forever feel blessed for the memories built during our “Mommy and me time.”