During this time of crisis, we must be diligent about caring for our parents if they are still alive. Not only are they likely to be more vulnerable to the virus, they also are likely to find themselves alone, frightened, and in need of assistance. We offer some ideas, advice and resources to assist you in this caring act.
Returning the Care
Dr. William Bergquist, a member of the Global Psychology Task Force offers a brief videocast in which we offers suggestions regarding how we might be of assistance to our parents–as well as a few ideas about what we might do regarding inviting our parents to stay with us during this challenging period of time.
Providing Emotional Support
The key factor might end up being emotional support. It is not uncommon for our aging parents to have fewer contacts in their community. Their friends have moved away, have become more isolated themselves or have passed away. It is often hard for our aging parents to get out into the community as they encounter obstacles in their movement physically and their ability to drive. The virus only adds to the problem of isolation. Emotional support thus becomes very important.
As caring children, we become important sources of this support. And here are some other ideas offered by members of our Task Force. One of our members bought a kitten for her aging and isolated father–he loves having this at-home companion. Another team member suggested to her mother that she set up a specific time each day to talk with her best friend. Yet another team member encouraged her parents to find five minutes each day to step out in front of their house and talk with a neighbor (at a distance) with whom (by phone) they set up the neighborly meeting.
We might also help our parents set up Zoom on their computer — and suggest that they leave Zoom on all the time (in part so that we can call them frequently to check on their condition by seeing them as well as talking to them). Here is a special website prepared by Zoom specifically for the coronavirus.
One more important point. Emotional support should never be offered or expressed in a manner that implies our parents are no longer capable of being in control of their life. We know from psychological research that we increasingly fear the loss of control as we grow older. The world seems to have passed us by and we no longer have much influence (we have become “invisible” to other people). We have no place in society and have lost status–for our society no longer knows how to honor their elderly citizens.
As children we must always couch our assistance as a way of recognizing and (as we noted above) “giving back” the care we have received from our parents throughout our life. Yes, our parents have not been perfect–but are we any better? The famous psychologist, Erik Erikson, proposes that the primary task for us during the middle and later years of our life is to finally forgive (and honor) our parents. Maybe at that point, Erikson suggests, we can even begin to forgive ourselves. During the time of the virus challenge, the act of forgiveness might be especially important.