Thursday, August 20, 2020

How to Encourage Elderly Parents...

Parents and grandparents are precious... even when they are elderly and unable to do as much as they have previously done. They need more encouragement, especially in these uncertain and frightening times. Sometimes, something simple can encourage ...

 My parents have experienced difficulty as problems of  current times cut them off from visiting friends and family, decreased their outings, made them question their purpose in life, caused them fear and led to much loneliness. 

I wanted to help them, but was unsure how to do that. I was already sending cards, pictures and made many phone calls. Still, I could tell they needed more and were not flourishing, but were sad and "down".  They were very vulnerable, and listening to the "news" only increased the unpleasant emotions they were trying to process.

Their health was deteriorating bit by bit. Mom hasn't been able to read much for quite a while now, except for little bits of large writing. Dad puzzled me as he developed attitudes contrary to what he had always had and I was concerned. It took much digging in my talks with him to uncover that he had become unable to read his Bible as the words moved around and he couldn't understand what he was reading. This was making them very vulnerable to some questionable tv preachers and I was concerned.

 I wasn't sure how to help from afar, but they definitely needed some encouragement fast... and often. It seemed they were experiencing fear in several areas, like so many in our uncertain world.

I had the idea that if I could send some reminders of what is important in life, along with the cards and mail, they might enjoy reading those things in the days until I sent another card.

 I have a large collection of 3" x 5" cards I have written out for my prayer reminders and go through them most days. I have interspersed those prayer cards of thanksgiving, praise, needs of friends, family and others and many other prayer needs...  with verses I collect as I read my Bible daily. It is amazing how God will use Scripture, even those I know well, to encourage me as I read through some of them each day. It has been a blessing and has increased and improved my prayer life.

I thought that a similar idea could help Mom and Dad, so started making cards for them.

At first I wrote a few cards with Scripture, simple prayers and a few Remember when....? cards. Since Dad was having so much trouble reading and seemed so uncertain, timid, unsettled, angry and quite unlike normal for him, I used bigger cards... 4" x 6". I wrote with a fine point permanent marker on the cards and each of the three categories had a different color and I wrote large letters so they could read them easily.

That first group I sent to them was urgently done as I could tell they needed something... fast. I probably sent about 20 cards total that first time and it took quite a long time to do them. Several days later, Dad thanked me for them, but we didn't really talk about them. 

I kept sending a few cards most weeks and gradually added other categories. I give God the credit for giving me these ideas and I wanted to share this with you as it may also help your loved ones. 

Eventually, I added Songs, Quotes, Did you know...?, Remember when... ? cards and still continued the original categories also. I numbered the cards in each category and keep track of how many of each I have sent, so I know what to number the new ones I make. 

Originally, I thought they would put them into categories and keep them that way, but I think they are keeping them all mixed in without being in order and it is working well for them.

Once in a while, Dad and Mom would mention thanks for the cards and one day, Dad said that they read through them several times a day every day and they really liked them. As I added the newer categories, he seemed to come "alive" again and the stress and panic diminished. I wanted to remind them of happier days, of good memories, of things they could be thankful for... and it worked.

Dad will sometimes comment now on the cards of  things he had forgotten or things he can't remember at all and we talk about them. He laughs more again. No, it hasn't been "magic" and can't take care of all of the needs, but this has been a blessing to them and I am so thankful. 

The riddles are simple and silly, but I knew my mom would probably know some of them which could give her some confidence and interest in life. I haven't sent many of them, but it was early on when I was searching desperately for something to help them when I wanted to add another category.

The prayers were simple and designed to help them be thankful and change from focusing on the negative. I also encouraged them to stop watching the "news".

I have a friend who detests hand-written cards and notes and she does everything on the computer and wants it to look "better".  I do both and for these cards, I felt the personal connection was important and would touch them more to see that a person had written them, especially since we could not be together.

Sometimes I do beautifully hand-written cards, but I knew it would be easy to be so conscious of "perfection" that it would take longer and these were needed immediately. My life is so busy, yet this was an urgent need and I felt it was imperative to do it quickly and regularly, so these are not "pretty", but much love is sent through them and it is easier to do a few cards to add to a note I am sending to them, so I do it quite regularly.

The Scripture cards bring back to their minds familiar words from the Bible. The prayers help them direct their thoughts. The songs are simple and many are children's songs from their childhood which draws them back to happier times away from covid problems.

The Did you know... ? category came from when I taught homeschool...  we wrote a family newsletter and for a while I required each child to submit a Did you know...? article each week. I told them to find a fact and put it in the form of Did you know.... ? The kids did NOT enjoy doing those articles, though they enjoyed learning new facts. They LOVED hearing and reading the facts from siblings and Mom. It was a fun part of our newsletter. I know my parents enjoy bits of trivia also and knew these would be interesting to them.

The cards are not as desperately needed now as they were at the beginning, but I get the feeling they are still very important, even though Dad has encouraged me that I do not have to take the time to do it. I am thankful to see the benefits from this simple exercise.

So far, I have sent 27 Scripture cards, 16 Prayer cards, 18 Remember when... ? cards, 8 Song cards,
2 Riddle cards, 7 Quote cards and 4 Did you know... ?  A total of 82 cards, so far. Yes, it is time to send more and I will continue to send a few at a time. Maybe I will add more categories sometime.

This is my mom and dad a few years ago. I am thankful for them and they need more help, so I am helping them in the way I can. Thankfully a brother and sister-in-law are closer and can help them in other ways.

Our parents, grandparents, older neighbors and family members can benefit from our thoughtfulness. They are worth the effort and though this is a little thing, it can be used mightily by our wonderful Lord.

This is a time of great vulnerability and fear for many and our elderly suffer much. What a blessing it is to minister to them in little ways and encourage. This idea would be nice for elderly parents and relatives, but also for elderly church friends, neighbors, former co-workers and more. The ministry of encouragement is many times neglected, but is so important.

A similar idea could even work for a troubled teen, a tired mom, a grouchy neighbor... or anyone who needs encouragement... and actually, don't we ALL enjoy being encouraged?

Thank you for visiting today. I'd love to hear your thoughts of this idea and if you have encouraged in a similar way. I hope you have a great week and that you know the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

                                                                                             ~ Gentle Joy


  1. I'm glad you were able to think of a way to encourage your mom and dad! Sending them these cards is so sweet!

    1. Thank you. It has helped inspire more conversations too. :) I appreciate your comment.

  2. This is such an amazing idea! I haven't stopped by to read blogs for probably a year but I am so glad that I did. I know a few elderly people who could use some encouragement like this. Thank you for sharing it.

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