Once an Adult, Twice a Child

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As adults we largely choose for ourselves, which means learning our preferences for foods, employment and hobbies. When we were young, adults would make the choices in our lives about where home was or what food we were eating. As we become older we may need someone else to make these decisions for us.

This is the concept of “once an adult, twice a child.” Same as children need parents or guardians, we may age into a period where we must be reliant on a caregiver. It is important to consider this as we approach our geriatric years, and what can be done about it. Understanding who we are and what we like focusing on will be the key to maintaining a quality lifestyle in our futures.

Be Sure to Know Yourself

Working with an aging population, it is common to see aging adults who are unsure about their activities, hobbies and choices. Often these folks will not know how to communicate what good caregiving can do for them. These decisions will become a caregiver’s responsibility, and that person may not know their heart’s wishes. This won’t mean that the elder party will be neglected, however it will affect whether the choices made for their care are what would be preferred.

Some people may find that maybe they went along with others. Scenarios such as ‘putting the family first’ are often sacrifices that leave us bereft of the knowledge of ourselves. Whether we supported our partner in their own endeavors, down to serving the family their favorite meals – which was never their own. People may not know what they like about themselves due to the demands of adulthood. Several of us set aside our own desires to serve the needs of the whole.

So how should we avoid this issue in our own lives?

Let’s start by asking what do we prefer as an independent adult? What choices make us who we are? What hobbies or activities do we enjoy the most? It’s important to ask, and write down your answers, as what is your ideal world.

Start asking yourself questions like:

  • What clothing do you like to wear if you didn’t feel judged?
  • What colors do you prefer?
  • Is there music that makes your heart happy? Or music that doesn’t?
  • What foods and drinks do you like the most?
  • What entertains you the most? More specifically, if you could choose the movie to see, what type would it be?
  • Which friends do you connect with the most?
  • What have you always wanted to try in life?

Once you have the answers to these questions, you can communicate them to those who may be providing for you in the future.

Twice a Child Emotionally

When we enter adulthood, it’s easy to believe we will be free ourselves of the things that were uncomfortable, chaotic, distasteful, traumatic, controlling or smothering. Unfortunately, it’s not always the case that we can avoid those issues. How often have you seen yourself or others unintentionally repeating the same behaviors or actions that we find uncomfortable? Perhaps as a parent you lean into the same bad habits your own parents were guilty of. Maybe you can’t break away from unhealthy foods or alcohol.

If you are wondering about what life will be like in your elder years, it is a perfect time to explore these issues about yourself. Discover how your childhood has affected your choices in adulthood. Explore how these actions have led to the relationships you have made with those around you. Paths to exploration can be journaling, a counsellor, or a reliable person of faith in your community. When we lose control of our emotions, studies show we revert to our childhood emotions, habits and anxieties that are unresolved. Resolving these issues as soon as you can is important.

Anxiety and Depression in Geriatric Illness

No one plans to have a debilitating illness in their lives, yet most of us will experience trauma which will impact our ability to make choices in the future. Unexpected illnesses such as a heart attack, stroke or cancer may severely impact your lifestyle and lead to anxiety or depression alongside unresolved issues.

People can confuse anxiety with stress, but anxiety is defined as a nervous disorder characterized by excessive uneasiness and apprehension. In other words, a feeling that something is wrong. Anxiety is also a typically compulsive behavior of acting in ways the person would rather not. Anxiety may lead to panic attacks or “freak outs.” Depression is a feeling of persistent sadness, lack of interest, anger or frustration that interferes with a person’s daily life for longer than 2 months.

Be conscious of predispositions that would lead to anxiety or depression. You may have a family history of anxiety or depression. Consider any traumatic events in your life or childhood such as abuse, neglect, a chaotic environment, drug or alcohol abuse of a loved one, or even the death of someone close.

The combination of experiencing the issues listed above with an unexpected illness can cause low levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemicals made in our body to cope with stress or pain. Low levels lead to depression or anxiety. Low levels of neurotransmitters can be treated in a number of ways including medication, healthy choices like sleep and nutritious food, as well as activities that make us happy.

If you believe you may be at risk due to childhood or adult trauma, begin working through them now. Working through issues while you have the cognitive ability to do so is a safeguard to put in place for our future lifestyle. Seek a counselor if you feel you need help. If your insurance policy does not provide coverage consider community mental health options or rearrange finances to acquire the help you need. Many counselors will work on a sliding scale if a person is truly invested in their therapy. Also, many group meetings and support groups are available to help.

Reach Out Now to Prepare for Later

Once you know what you like to do as a person, don’t keep it to yourself. Ensure your choices in life are fairly represented by letting your family and friends know what you like to do and what makes you happy. Engaging in activities that make a person happy increases their brain chemicals, which combats anxiety and depression. Let your relatives and friends know specifically what can ward off depression like taking walks or your preferred style of bed sheets. Also make them aware of items that may induce anxiety like uncomfortable clothing or music you don’t like.

Here are some examples of knowledgeable care helping a loved one:

  • A daughter brings her 98 year old mother flowers and takes her out to eat. The experience makes her cheerful.
  • A 91 year old mother has a pair of daughters who come over to clean and organize her house. While organizing they talk about the business affairs of the family, which make the mother happy.
  • A 93 year old man and his son don’t talk at all. Instead they watch sports on TV and eat items like ring bologna, onions and have a beer. This makes the father happy.

These are examples of caregivers knowing the patient. The activities are different, but the positive impact is accomplished through the knowledge that has been passed on.

If you are a person who feels it may be selfish to ask for help, know that this attitude WILL NOT SERVE YOU AS YOU AGE. Some of us have been raised against selfish acts or value putting others’ needs in front of their own, but it is key to ask for assistance. You could talk to a spiritual leader or counselor about your thoughts and feelings. While many faiths teach giving of yourself, most also teach a form of self care.

Most importantly find someone you trust so you can communicate what is important to you and who you are. You only get one adulthood to understand who you are and what is important, but knowing what to pass on to those who will care for you will make a positive impact in your geriatric years. 

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