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She was going a mile a minute with 5 kids, a husband and lots of grandchildren and was always busy and doing things for everyone else. She now lives alone, requires a caregiver and has very few visitors especially due to the pandemic. I live far away and call every day, but it is so sad to hear her speak negatively about herself now because she is "unproductive". Any advice would be much appreciated.

I have been my grandma's full-time caretaker for the past 6 years, just started a year ago she has trouble coping with other's and doing stuff on her own. When she want to help around like cleaning, dishes. I found out lettering her sit down helping fold clothes, has made a real difference in her knight downers. Now she remembers home at night.
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Reply to PussJr
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ChristServant, baking cookies for first responders is a wonderful idea!    She could realize that she still has worth.     LunaATX, perhaps her caregiver could help her.  Even if your mother just gets together the ingredients, and (of course!) samples the cookies, she's making a valuable contribution.

Some folks who've found ways to help during the pandemic eventually get public recognition.  Imagine if that happened, and/or if the local fire department or police force gave her a certification of appreciation, or honored her publicly.

LlamaLover raises another issue:  how actively is she involved in her grown children's lives?   Could she call one of them daily, rotating the sequence?  Or call her grandchildren?   

I think she could make arrangements with her own grown children to bring the next generation into getting better acquainted with her, sharing their interests, and in turn helping her think more highly of herself because she's NOW making a contribution to the second generation.
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# 1 make sure she is not using this as manipulation to get sympathy from you and give you a guilt trip that is a form of abuse.

# 2 find out what she is good at and help her with it as a hobby.

# 3 for many they are the go, go ,go crowd and now that they are old they cannot live that lifestyle. It has taken away their independence and joy of life. Maybe you can get someone to come in and help her bake cookies for nurses, fire department or police. Have them write her a thank you note for the cookies. It goes a long way.
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Reply to Christservant
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Imho, you should reassure your mother that she is still a productive member of society. Certainly her life has changed from taking care of 5 kids, et al, but there is much that she could be involved in, depending on her interests. Prayers sent.
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Reply to Llamalover47
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Remind her that this year is "different" because of COVID. Everybody is seeing less people, some have lost jobs while others are working from home, kids are home schooling for the most part. She is not being unproductive; she is being safe. Since she has so many family members, maybe she should make it her project to check in on everybody regularly and listen to their concerns. She can offer the wisdom of all her years or experience. Help her set up a schedule to check in on family and ask her caregiver to help her make the phone calls.
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Reply to Taarna
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Nana had a good idea with the cards.   Cicibee, your comments on kindness are appropriate as well.

My father's local Meals on Wheels worked with school children who drew cards for the senior MOW recipients.    Just the thought of the time they spent was heartwarming.  My father always enjoyed them.

Given that the USPS needs support, I've decided to back off on e-mailing and send letters or cards instead.  I used to use copyright free art to make my own cards, then either print them with colored ink or hand color them.   The coloring was very, very soothing, as has been observed when folks with dementia have been given art projects.

I'm also coloring some for drop-off at rehab, AL and other facilities.   Adding a bit of mystery, I won't be signing my real name, just something like "someone who wishes you a pleasant day", or something uplifting.  Then I'll hand deliver them to the facilities.   

I'm also working on finding ways to do the same for the Veterans, either in the VA homes or VA hospitals.  

My2Cents, good ideas about staying active, especially exercising at home.    Listening to music is very therapeutic and helps avoid depression.   And people can "dance" with their feet while sitting down.   

Luna, you might want to send your mother a series of cards, each focused on something she used to do, and compliment her on those accomplishments.  One thing I've noticed as have others here is that mobility tends to make us feel diminished.    Anyone who believes that should read about Stephen Hawking, who was probably more challenged than most of the people for whom we care. 

Granted, he had more support and access to assistive devices, but he also kept his mind active.   He'll be remembered not only for his fight against ALS, but also for his scientific activities despite his disabilities.

Lockett, I feel for your pain, but I think you really undervalue yourself.    First, I think the concept of what is "normal" is not relevant for most people, and especially elders.   Second, STOP referring to yourself as a misfit!

Think of all the wounded soldiers who have wounds, amputations, TBI and other war inflicted injuries that most of us would never get, or even see.  Yet they're working and fighting for more normal lives.   Granted that they do have the VA as well as support organizations, but they also have the benefit of military training and of perseverance.

Please think of these situations.   I rode the bus to work for years.   One woman who periodically also rode had some type of limb disability and was unable to walk straight, or move her legs or arms in a straight line.   Yet she rode the bus.   Guessing her age, I would say in her 20's.

Another was blind, and rode the bus daily.   She got off in one of the toughest areas.    I always admired these women and wondered if I would have the courage to be that strong and brave if I had the illnesses they experienced.

So, Lockett, please reassess your situation and think more positively of yourself...please?

And Luna, consider at home activities for your mother such as writing, art work, making and/or writing cards for pick up and delivery to other homebound people.  

Reaching out to others in need is a wonderful form of productivity.
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I will be 87 and am l00% with it and handle all of my own affairs, drive, work two jobs (51 years animal welfare local to international) and power of attorney to someone for l4 years. But I am physically handicapped and can't walk. However, aside from intense pain which I choose to ignore, I force myself to do everything with great effort - and I do succeed. But I feel like a useless piece of shit because I am NOT NORMAL and can't walk and do the things I want to do, travel, take hikes, etc. I know how your mother feels and there is nothing that you can do or say to make her accept what is happening to her. Best is to let her talk and just listen and nod or change the subject. It is heartbreaking and I understand because that is how I feel and nothing will make me normal again. I hate what I have become and am so ashamed of myself for being a misfit.
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anrean Sep 12, 2020
You are not a misfit! As we age and grow ill, our bodies change, too. For some of us it is like aging in reverse - we end up becoming like little ones who CANNOT do things!

I had to give up most of my fun things, including work, because my body chose to fail and yet my mind works perfectly. It has been hard to accept, but learning to accept it has changed my perspective to one of gladness that I can still be here for my family.

Not sure what "normal" is for any of us - normal changes. I finally learned that with the 5th primary cancer! There really isn't a normal for anyone - we do the best we can, and accept that we cannot do all that we once did. I miss work! I miss being out and about with friends! I miss playing! I miss being independent! And I accept that these things have changed.

The best thing I did was accept and understand that I can no longer do what I did, and need help doing most of the things I used to never even think about doing. It made it easier on me and easier on those around me. Fighting the changes just made me fall into a deep depression - accepting that I cannot do what I did, and working on doing what I can, has brought me out of the depression.
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My Mum went through a period in the spring after 2-3 months of social distancing due to Covid. All her regular activities were canceled, Church, Dragon Boating, volunteering, Hospice Support Group, swimming and much more. She felt completely useless and unproductive. She wrote out a list and went to the family GP, as she had had some chest pains.

The GP read over the list and acknowledged how hard the isolation has been on so many of us. He also sent her for tests and likely the chest pains were anxiety, her heart is fine.

Mum is 86 and lives 100% independently. She has a remarkable group of friends who are all in the 80's many have outlived their husbands. As time has passed, several have decided that they have to live life, and they are getting together again. Mum went swimming most days with one friend. On Friday nights a group in her neighbourhood gets together to play dominoes.

Finding a way to be social engaged really has helped Mum to get through these last 7 months.
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Reply to Tothill
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Is it possible the caregiver is doing things that she could possibly do to be more active? Sometimes we tend to do it because the elder person doesn't do it as fast and 'it's just easier to do it myself'. Perhaps you could get the doctor to order some home health physical and occupational therapy to get her exercising arms and legs. It will be someone coming in and will increase her mobility.

Was there anything that she enjoyed such as crochet, quilting, etc? Send her some patterns and the items she would need and see if she will get back at it.

It's also possible she is a little depressed. It is very difficult to find yourself unable to do what you did before and your mind is clear enough to recognize your own decline. Talk to her about what she would like to be doing. If she can live with any of her children, ask her about that, too. Maybe being in a family setting again would help
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Reply to my2cents
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Sounds good to connect with friends. Sadly, at age 87 many old friends are either dead or incapabe of socializing. Hope you can find some younger people willing to connect.
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Reply to Dosmo13
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My Mom is in assisted living right now and I'm experiencing the same thing. She loved participating in activities and going out and having lots of visitors and now she is depressed and bored because she's not allowed out, we r not allowed in and activities are all cancelled. Some ideas I had that seemed to cheer my Mom was to send an email to all my friends and family and ask them to mail her a letter or a card. She loved getting mail from folks she hadn't heard from in years. It was fun and a big surprise for her! I also bought her blank recipe books and cards from Amazon ( her place does allow her to receive packages). She's making a recipe book for each granddaughter of all her favorite things she liked to cook. She could dictate the recipe to her caregiver to write down or they could google recipes and use those if she can't remember. I'm planning to rent a house on the beach for Thanksgiving and I'm taking my Momfor 10 days. I feel like her mental health needs this and I'm not wanting my Mom to be away from her family for the holidays. We will have to be careful and social distance and not go out to shops and restaurants but I think with careful planning it will work. She already has had Covid and recovered. My point is plan something she can look forward to - can u visit for the holiday? She can cross off days on the calendar and look forward to it! Best of luck!
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Reply to NanaZ2018
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My mom ,84, has been incredibly bored since my father passed 3 months ago. I have found a couple of old friends to connect with on facebook. She enjoys calking and checking on her friends in the sane situation. Encourage mom to write letters if she can. Can she read or listen to audiobooks? My mom has an evening sitter everyday to help her. She lives in a senior community but in an independent apartment. On good days mom has interests in cooking something simple.
Will she tend small plants like herbs from her home?
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Reply to InFamilyService
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One thing I have said to my mom is that the world can always use more kindness, and she, in her interactions with others, is always giving that. It's powerful stuff, that everyone genuinely appreciates. She makes other people's days better.
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Reply to CiciBee
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Grear that you call everyday but you should FaceTime everyday..
She needs more Visitors, try to arrange 7 different peiole to pick an hour one day a week to visit her so she'll get a Visitor every day.

Try to find things she can do like paint by number or coloring, making stuff if she knits or crochets.

Let her know just what you said about everything she's done and now it's time for her body to rest.
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Reply to bevthegreat
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Luna, she may not cook any more but I am sure she did in the past. If you can not find anyone to help her write then recording her would be another way to do it and you would have her voice ...something that you will treasure later
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Reply to Grandma1954
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RedVanAnnie Sep 8, 2020
Nice idea
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Thank you - very good suggestions and much appreciated!
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cherokeewaha Sep 13, 2020
I wish I had recorded all the ancestoral information my mom had told us about over the years. She was the grand daughter of a Cherokee medicine man and some of her family I believe to be great or great great grandparents were in the March of Tears. Her mother was half Cherokee but raised by white aunts after the plague took her parents. I think it was yellow fever.

Just a few of the things your mom could record or write down for you. Memories to share with the family for generations.

I spoke to mom as often as possible before she went into MC and would ask for recipes, family names, etc. Anything to help her feel useful and helpful and it also helped me.
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What kind of decline?
Is she still cognizant? You do not give any details in your profile.
Can she start a Family Favorites Cookbook? And a little history behind the recipe. Did she get it from her mom? her Mother in law? What is the "secret" to the stuffing she always made? (I would love to have had this from my Mom or Grandma)
Can she start a family history book. Where did she come from? her mom, her dad? (so much better getting the real story rather than reading it on Ancestory)
If she can not do these things herself you might want to check with a local scout group maybe there is someone looking for a project to earn an Eagle Scout or the Girl Scout version is called a Gold Award.
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LunaATX Sep 8, 2020
Thanks so much for your reply! She has physical ailments (COPD and a-fib) and has mentally lost a lot of her sharpness. Your ideas are great and I will try that out for sure - thank you. She no longer cooks, no longer reads and rarely gets dressed, and to be honest I do not think she can write anymore.
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My dad very often felt this way. He missed taking care of others, his yard, his projects, and volunteer activities. He wasn’t much for reading or tv and found filling his time frustrating. We talked often and I always tried to reassure and encourage him that he was here for a reason, often that reason was to be a friendly voice on the phone to others who were isolated and alone. He would reach out to many former coworkers, classmates from many years gone by, people he’d known through church and his former exercise place, all kinds of people that could use a kind word on the phone and help them not feel isolated and like someone cared. Sometimes these old friends would come by for lunch, or when dad could get out they’d meet up, but often they’d just talk, reminisce and check in with each other. I was amazed by how many people he found from years gone by to reconnect with. He was a blessing to others. Perhaps your mother could find others in her same position and connect, it would life the spirits of both
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