Q: Grandpa is not getting any younger. Although he is reasonably independent we know the day will come when he will have to go into a nursing home. Since Grandma died a little over two years ago he has not been as spunky as he once was and we are worried that he may be going down hill. What do you think we can do for him?
A: Your grandfather may prefer to stay at home as long as he is able and he may well want to die there. With the home care, hospice care and palliative care services now available, this may be possible.
Bill Thomas, a well known gerontologist in the United States, says that people who are aging suffer from loneliness, uselessness and boredom.
Loneliness for your grandfather is straight forward. I have no doubt that he misses his wife but you cannot replace the love he and she had.
However, you and your siblings can make an effort to spend time with him in his own home. You are the most important people in his life.
Your grandfather has spent a lifetime looking after his wife and his family. Caring for all of you gave him a sense of purpose.
That part of his life is over, but that does not mean he cannot have something for which he is able to draw some level of responsibility and therefore meaning within his own life. Some people take up gardening, others have pets for which they have to be responsible.
You may not know what will work for your grandfather but the more you can encourage him to accept some duties beyond the kitchen or the television set, the more likely it is that he will find that “spunk” which you sense he has lost.
Boredom is common for many seniors. They need more stimulation than they are likely to find on television. Make sure that Grandpa has connections to the social life in his community.
He might need some encouragement but chances are good that he will enjoy getting out for a few socials with people his own age. It will be worth the time you took to drive him to whatever activity you and he can find for him.
The thread throughout all of this is the respect you need to have for your Grandfather. Your job is to love and encourage your grandfather. His job is to be responsible for his own life.
He may not always agree with your support but if you continue to give that support within an aura of “awe” for his personhood you will be helping him more than you can possibly imagine.