It is easy, and quite understandable, for seniors to get wrapped up in the negative aspects of their lives: the loss of loved ones, diminishing health, and slow days after a lifetime in a busy career or bringing up children can really take a toll on a senior’s mental well-being. We are often told that we should always strive for happiness, as if it is a magic cure, but being happy is not always that easy.
Working with seniors as a home caregiver, you probably have a better understanding of the trying circumstances seniors need to face and deal with on a daily basis, and you may wonder what you can do to make it easier on them, without trying to tell them to flip the “happy switch.” Practicing gratitude is one way to help seniors deal with their troubles. Practicing gratitude is easy to do once one gets in the habit of it, and the benefits can be enormous.
Benefits of Practicing Gratitude
Many studies have shown that by being kind to one another and showing gratitude to the people around us can have a positive impact on our lives. Here are a few benefits of practicing gratitude:
Emotional benefits: Feeling more relaxed, more optimistic, able to dwell on happier memories, feeling good more often, feeling less envious towards others, and being less depressed.
Social benefits: Being more social, being friendlier and more likable to others, able to have deeper relationships and more friendships, and people are kinder towards us.
Health benefits: Improved sleep quality, increased energy, being less sick and having less physical pain, and a decrease in blood pressure.
Tips on How to Practice Gratitude
When helping a senior in your care to practice gratitude, try not to implement too many things at once. Take it slow, and encourage them throughout. Here are a few tips home caregivers can try:
Instead of just going for a walk with the senior in your care, go for a mindful walk. Point out the beautiful things around you and encourage them to appreciate it as well, like a pretty flower, the clouds, or the little girl playing with her dog in the park.
Do a guided meditation with the seniors in your care, where you encourage them to focus on the things they are grateful for.
When going down memory lane, help seniors to concentrate on the positive memories and not the difficult times.
Help seniors to reach a level of acceptance for their situation. Although their circumstances may not be desirable, it doesn’t mean that there is nothing else to be grateful or thankful for, but they may need someone to help them realize that.
Encourage them to keep a gratitude journal. Focusing on the people, events, and experiences that have a positive impact on our lives for only five minutes a day can help us to be more grateful for what we have.
Writing gratitude letters can help to hone in on the people that are special to us and the positive things that happen in our lives. There’s no need to send the letters out if the seniors in your care would rather keep them private.
Encourage saying “please” and “thank you” when someone helps them or gives them something. This can be small things, like saying thank you to the person who made dinner or cleaned the room.
A fun thing to do is to make a gratitude collage with pictures cut out of magazines of the things and places they appreciate.
Making eye contact, smiling, or complimenting someone can do wonders for the soul.
Watching inspiring videos can help remind us of the good there is in the world.
Help seniors to avoid negative things like the news or pessimistic people.
Doing a small act of kindness every day will make people feel good about themselves.
Thanks and gratitude can be shared during meal time while encouraging everyone to participate.
If the senior is able to, they can benefit immensely from helping others. Here are some ideas of meaningful activities they can help with:
Spending time at the local animal shelter to care for, play with, or to take an animal for a walk.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, there is a Foster Grandparent Program where seniors can spend time teaching, supporting, and loving children and youth who may not have access to a grandparent otherwise.
The Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) San Francisco gives seniors the possibility of volunteering in non-profit organizations in many diverse roles.
If the senior isn’t that mobile, the Elder Wisdom Circle, an online initiative, connects seniors with young people where the elderly can give them advice on various issues.
The Power of Practicing Gratitude
We shouldn’t ignore the hardships of the seniors in our care as if they doesn’t exist. They need our validation and recognition for the things that hurt, physically or emotionally. As home caregivers, we can’t change their pain, but we can help them to be grateful everyday to enhance their lives and make their pain easier to handle.
If you need any help in implementing any of these tips, or you need emotional support, don’t hesitate to get in contact with Alegre Home Care. We are there to assist both seniors and fellow home caregivers.