December 18, 2020
Maybe you and your parent have been discussing setting up some goals for him to work toward in 2021.
Goal setting is a great way to motivate someone and give them purpose. It can be the thing that helps break old, bad habits or cycles and it gives the mind something to focus on the is future-facing rather than centered on the past. As you and your parent discuss goals, use these directions to help make them attainable and promote a sense of success in your parent’s life instead of producing stress or failure.
1. Choose just one or two. If your parent is looking to create a new habit or start a new hobby, start by choosing just one thing to focus on. Instead of deciding to begin woodworking, painting, poetry writing and birdwatching, ask your parent which one seems most desirable to him right now and start there. You can always add the rest once the first one is mastered.
2. Choose small steps. By creating smaller goals while reaching for the larger goal, your parent can experience success and build off that momentum. If your parent hasn’t exercised much in the past, setting a goal of walking 10,000 steps a day may be overwhelming and may cause him to quit early because of not reaching his goal. Discuss setting steps along the way to reach his goal. Perhaps his first mini-goal will be to reach 3000 steps a day for two weeks straight and then increase that to 5000 steps.
3. Set up assistance along the way. Don’t just set a goal with your parent and then walk away, hoping he’ll achieve it. Give him encouragement and helpers along the way to help him reach his goal. If his goal is to start birdwatching, have your elder care provider bring him to areas to where birds are known to migrate to, so he can successfully find some gorgeous birds to watch. Or create a bird’s paradise in his backyard to attract colorful birds to stop by for food, drink or lodging. Your elder care provider can help keep bird feeders and bird baths full if your parent has mobility issues.
4. Keep your parent motivated. It’s not hard to start out strong, miss a few days and then never go back. Help your parent stay motivated by checking in with someone weekly about his progress. Whether it’s a caregiver like yourself or an elder care provider that visits, have your parent report how he’s doing with his goals. That person can then encourage him if he’s gotten off track or hit a stumbling block.
5. Adjust as needed. Goals don’t have to be set in stone. If your parent worked his way up to 10,000 steps in the first month, then it might be a good time to add an additional goal to his agenda or increase his goal to a new number. On the flip side, if a goal just isn’t working out because your parent has discovered he’s just not able or interested as he thought he would be, then perhaps it’s time to start afresh with a new goal or activity.
Be willing to set goals with your aging parent so he has something to strive for. It’s never too late for him to set new goals and work toward creating a better world for himself.