V is for value.
I have dementia. I can't remember things. I don't recognize what or who should be familiar (probably including you.) I'm also elderly, and many parts of me don't work well any more. My walk is slow and shuffling, with the help of a walker. Macular degeneration has stolen my eyesight and I don't hear well. My arthritic fingers can't grasp fine things.
How do you show me I am valuable?
Value and purpose are close cousins. If I feel I have purpose, I feel valuable. The problem, in North America at least, is that value is often tied to what I do. If I can't do much, then I must not be worth much.
So, so, wrong. Yes a lie that many seniors believe. I'm only of value if I can do.
Today, we had a birthday in our neighbourhood. It was announced on the digital screen, so people kept stopping to with the "birthday girl" happy birthday. At noon, large group of staff marched into the dining room with a gift bag full of goodies, singing "Happy Birthday." All the other residents joined. After the meal, there were many congratulations and smiles.
That resident didn't do anything. We celebrated who she was, and the fact that she was born and lived among us. We assigned value to her.
Here are some other ways to assign value. It's sometimes subtle, but so important.
- Watch your facial expression and tone of voice. Look genuinely happy when you see them
- Share your life with them--funny stories about your family or yourself. Favouite foods. A funny thing happened yesterday...
- Laugh together.
- Listen. Sometimes you may not be able to make sense of what is being said. Make positive noises ("Hmmmm. Oh really. Wow.")
- Listen with your whole body. Look at their body language.
- Do something they enjoy--together. Walk outside, eat ice cream, look at pictures.
- Ask their opinion. There is nothing that instills value than the words, "What do you think?" or "What would you do?"
- Boast about them to someone else. "My friend is so good at _________" or to them, "I love it when you__________"
- Tell them. "You have added to my life. I have learned so much from you."
Value is saying, "Who you are has made who I am a better person."
Find a way (or many ways) to say that today.