Rocky Carroll’s Lessons in Caring

Rocky has helped care for his 86-year-old mother ever since her type 2 diabetes led to a heart attack. 

Linda Childers
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Let her know you’re counting on her.
“I regularly tell my mom I need her around, and there are stories only she can tell my daughter,” says Rocky. “Her memory is good, and we laugh a lot about the past. I also learn things about her youth that I never knew.” Letting your loved one know how much she matters is a simple way to bolster her esteem and motivate her to comply with her treatment—without having to nag. And there’s a bonus: People with chronic conditions who feel needed and valued generally have a more positive view, accept aging and its changes, and feel healthier.

Dish out healthy food for the whole family.
“We invite my mom to spend the day with us,” says Rocky, who notes that the meals they cook up include lots of fresh veggies, whole grains and lean protein. That means everyone at the table enjoys well-balanced meals. Bottom line: Everyone eats healthfully, and Ruby isn’t made to feel like she’s a bother.

Keep things upbeat.
Luckily, Rocky doesn’t have to work too hard at keeping Ruby’s spirits high. “My mom has been through a lot with her diabetes—she lost a leg several years ago and has been wheelchair-bound for about seven years—yet she’s never lost her positive attitude,” says Rocky. “Staying optimistic is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned from her.” What to do if you’re caring for a loved one who’s not a natural optimist? Help her see the silver lining. Try saying, “Isn’t it nice that we’re spending more time together?” Encourage her to pursue a goal, like knitting a scarf or reading several books by a favorite author. If she seems sad or anxious, let her know it’s okay to vent. Ask, “Is there something on your mind?” Talking can help to relieve stress.

Anticipate needs.
It’s hard for Ruby to get around, but Rocky takes the initiative by making appointments for her and getting her places so she doesn’t even have to ask for help—something that’s hard for many people with chronic health conditions. “Once a week I pick her up and we go, lunch, trips to the hairdresser,” he says. It’s a fun outing and a special time for just the two of them.

April 2013