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Celebrating Grandmothers on Mother's Day

Mother’s Day brings to mind brunches and flowers, children and families coming together to celebrate the strong, loving and supportive women in their lives who have created cherished memories, and chocolate. Never forget the chocolate. As important as your mother is, this Mother’s Day, let grandmothers know how much you care too! Whether she lives nearby or visits when she can, grandmothers play a very special role in families.

While I live on the sunny west coast, my grandmother lives way up in the northeast, along a pleasant riverside in New Brunswick, Canada. I spent many summers with my grandparents, watching old VHS videos in their musty basement, tormenting the cats, exploring under decks and around mysterious sheds, and playing cards with the grownups until I fell asleep on the stairs listening to the sounds of my aunts and uncles singing together and laughing over old stories.

Reminiscing about my grandparents is some of the most peaceful memories I have. No matter how long it had been between visits, as soon as my mom would turn the corner onto their long driveway, my grandparents would be outside waiting with waving hands and joyful smiles. Hugs started before our feet touched the ground and we were ushered into their home, surrounded by the smell of freshly baked rolls and sweet sugar cookies. The house was always welcoming, regardless of our past or current situations. There was unconditional love and acceptance. My grandmother would have baskets ready for my sisters and I to join her blueberry picking, then we would come inside and make a pie. Her flour coated hands would roll and press and flip so gracefully; a rhythm that had been ingrained in her since childhood, now perfectly crafted and beautifully executed. My grandfather would be eager to show us all his new inventions and creations, including secret passageways through the woods to rickety ziplines, sketchy treehouses, makeshift stairs, or rope ladders. I couldn't wait to see what mysteries I would discover each year.

As an adult, time got the best of me and the months in between visits turned to years, turning to decades. I was lucky enough to visit my grandparents before Covid hit and introduced them to their 3 newest great grandchildren. I had the honor of celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary with the couple and watched them hold hands and laugh like newlyweds, encompassed by the enormous family they had created. My grandfather had aged significantly and was staying in an assisted living facility, while my grandmother kept up the old house and visited him when she was able. My grandfather recently passed away, but his spirit lingers near, keeping my grandmother comforted during her time of loss. Even in the darkest of times, the strength shown by my grandmother is remarkable and I hope to someday be just half the woman she is.

Everyone has their own story. This one is mine, and I would like to honor my grandmother, and ALL grandmothers, on this very special day. Thank you for guiding our mothers and reassuring their mistakes while we were babies. Thank you for remaining calm while we ransacked your house, broke trinkets, spilled milk, and destroyed your flower gardens during our adolescence. Thank you for telling our mothers that we don't really hate them, reminding them of their own struggles at that age and that this phase will pass in a few years while we were teenagers. Thank you for supporting us in all our new endeavors and careers choices, even if they changed by the day while we were young adults. Thank you for showing our mothers the joys of being grandmothers themselves and being able to share that experience together. Thank you most sincerely, for always being there. We love you.

Five Reasons Why Grandparents Are So Important

Grandmothers impact the lives of their grandchildren. As many as 9 out of 10 adult grandchildren say that grandmothers have shaped their values and beliefs, studies suggest. Grandchildren learn about forming healthy relationships from the bonds they make with grandparents and other relatives and the support and intimacy they receive.

Grandmothers can help to reduce household stress. An emotionally close relationship between grandparent and grandchild is associated with fewer symptoms of depression for both generations. A grandmother involved in kids’ lives provide special times of creative fun, exploration and play. From a child’s perspective, grandmothers pass on a unique perspective on the world. In a survey from the American Grandparents Association, nearly three-quarters of grandparents believe being a grandparent is the by far the most important and satisfying role in their lives.

Grandmothers are an experienced and valuable resource. Through stories and lived experiences, grandmothers can often help shape children’s outlooks in ways their own parent or other adults cannot. They also provide a cultural and historic bridge between the generations. Children can more fully learn about who they are and where they come from through this connection.

Grandmothers provide an extra layer of support. In challenging times – or even in good times – grandmothers can give a sense of security which positively impacts children’s lives, and especially with teens. Close bonds with a grandmother can help teens avoid social problems or lessen acting out. When a child or teen finds it difficult to speak with a parent, a grandmother can give advice or simply be a neutral and empathetic listener.

Grandmothers are often a reliable and affordable childcare option. Roughly 2.7 million grandparents provide for the basic needs of a grandchild, while even more take care of their grandchildren on a regular basis. If grandmothers are willing and able to be an occasional babysitter or regular childcare provider, parents are comforted by having them in charge.

Whatever the reason, celebrating grandmothers on Mother’s Day is a wonderful way to let them know how much they are valued and appreciated for all they do!

Mother’s Day Gift Ideas for Long Term Care

  • It’s important to think small because there is often not much table or dresser space in assisted living accommodations and large flowers may overwhelm the room. Flowers with a strong fragrance are also not advised in close quarters. Try a petite bouquet, a small flowing plant or a small silk arrangement instead of a large bunch of cut flowers.

  • A lightweight, pretty throw can be a useful and appreciated gift for an elderly or unwell mother. Make sure any clothing or blankets can be washed in the laundry and are not too delicate. New slippers, nightgowns or dressings gowns are all appreciated in long-term care where these items are in constant use. Look for slippers with sturdy, grippy soles that offer stability and are easy to get on and off (think Velcro straps).

  • Photos: an album, digital photo frame or framed pictures are a great reminder that loved ones are thinking of mom. They also offer staff and visitors an opportunity to open a conversation about the resident’s family and friends and the life they have led.

  • Seniors with dementia may benefit greatly from listening to music they remember from their youth. An iPod, pre-loaded with a selection of favorite songs or a small cd player and a few discs can be a great gift that will help calm anxiety and bring joy to elderly moms.

  • Food, a small treat to be kept nearby, can also be a good gift for mom. Check with staff first to make sure there are no dietary restrictions or allergies to be safe. Again, think small, having too much candy or cookies may not be the best for mom’s health.

  • Try booking an appointment at the hair salon. Most long-term care residences have a salon where mom can get her hair done and, in some cases, her nails too. A little pampering does wonders for women of any age.

  • Of course, a visit from friends and family is always the best gift a mom can receive. Shorter visits, spread out over several days can be easier for nursing home residents. Rather than having the whole family descend at once, shorter visits from different family members may be appreciated. Try to look for a change of scenery if possible. Many assisted living homes have a garden space, library or common gathering room. Call ahead to see what may be available.

-Heather Lackey

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