Being included is what makes a person feel respected, proud, and important. And inclusion contributes to one’s sense of self-worth in a huge way. That’s why it’s a huge part of caregiving—whether you’re caring for someone who’s 9 or 99!
Doing with instead of doing for: that’s what person-centered care is all about.
Including your son with special needs in decisions. Engaging your mom with MS in day-to-day tasks. Acknowledging your aging parents’ opinions and beliefs matter. These are all ways to honor your caree’s autonomy and nurture a sense of self-worth.
Include your loved one in big decisions.
Last week, my grandmom’s refrigerator stopped working. While she wasn’t able to contribute much in the physical areas of cleaning out the fridge or going out refrigerator shopping, she truly enjoyed looking at the pictures and pamphlets we brought back from the appliance store. We left the paperwork with her, and she studied it all day long.
Sometimes I forget to treat my grandmom like the adult that she is. I forget that a huge portion of my own self-respect comes from being treated like a capable, respectable adult, so the same is true for her.
That said, doing activities with her that might be perceived as “childish” (like snuggling a stuffed animal) are fine when they bring joy or comfort. But I’m also trying to be mindful about including her more in adult decisions—like the study of boring refrigerator pamphlets!—because she is a homeowner, and that responsibility is something that contributes to her identity and sense of self-worth. It also fulfills her desire to contribute and be helpful!
Make activities meaningful AND interactive.
Think of things your caree used to love (or still loves!) doing, what they used to love to look at, or to eat, or to talk about. Then, brainstorm ways to tie those activities and preferences together.
If your grandfather loved fishing but can’t get out in a boat anymore, look up fishing videos on YouTube for him to watch, and bring his old tackle box in for him to plunder through.
If your mom loves birds but can’t get outside on her own to feed them, put a bird feeder right up next to her window, and sit and make peanut butter pinecone bird feeders with her! Ask her questions about birds while you do it—maybe even download a bird song app and ask if she can identify any of the calls.
My grandmom loves everything that has to do with clothes: sewing them, ironing them, styling them, admiring them. She’s a fashionista through-and-through. So recently, my mom has been pulling out some dresses that AJ made years ago, ironing them where she can watch (AJ can’t lift the iron anymore, otherwise that’d be fun for her to do as well), then putting them in front of her to admire.
Pulling out the dresses to show them to AJ would be a great activity in itself, but adding the extra step of watching mom iron then gets her even more involved, more interested, and more invested. And that’s what makes life exciting!
Hone in on their passions, preferences, and abilities.
Hone in on what your caree is passionate about, and use that as a basis for how to fill their days.
Does your caree enjoy giving gifts? Sit with them and put together a gift basket or make a card to give to someone you both know. Is your caree passionate about music? Sit with them and sing, or invite over friends who play instruments for quick musical visits. Has your caree always been a nurturer? Wrap up a baby doll for them to babysit!
By redirecting their focus to something they’re passionate about doing—instead of what they CAN’T do—it inspires joy, gives purpose, and hopefully lessens feelings of depression.
What are some other ways to refocus on the personhood of your caree? Community is integral in caregiving, so your ideas and experiences are golden to us! Share your insights in the comments below.