What are Love Languages?
How do you like to receive love and appreciation? Discovering your ‘Love Language’ empowers you to ask for love in the ways that you enjoy receiving it, and encourages you to question how the people you care about prefer to receive love and appreciation from you. Dr. Gary Chapman’s renowned book, “The Five Love Languages” breaks down the different preferences of giving and receiving love into five main forms: Acts of Service, Quality Time, Words of Affirmation, Physical Touch, and Receiving Gifts. Applied to a variety of relationships, the Five Love Languages can take your relationships to the next level with this deeper understanding of yourself and your loved ones.
A particularly challenging relationship that this concept can bring renewed energy to is that of the aging parent and adult child. As elders age and the physical and mental challenges and limitations increase, their adult children often must step into the role of caregiver. This shifts the dynamic of the relationship and can often create some discomfort on both sides. Apply the love languages to the relationship with your aging loved one and watch your connection transform.
What do these love languages look like in the context of loving your senior loved one?
1. Acts of Service
If your parent’s love language is Acts of Service, they deeply appreciate the ways you help them out, big or small. They may not feel comfortable asking for help; taking the initiative to help them will go a long way. Ask yourself ‘what is something I could do that would make their life a little bit easier?’; perhaps hanging that shelf, donating that bag of clothing, or picking up groceries on your way over. “Let me do that for you” is the magic phrase for this love language. If you find there is a lot to be done, home care companions can help fill in the gaps.
2. Words of Affirmation
When someone is fed by Words of Affirmation, they feel most valued when you express your heartfelt feelings in words. Telling your parents that you love them, acknowledging them for something they’ve done, and sharing a quality you appreciate about them are all ways to show you care – and it only takes a minute to say. Leaving them a post-it note with an ‘I love you!’ on the bathroom mirror, or writing them a loving letter are simple but meaningful ways to leave them elated.
3. Quality Time
Someone whose love language is Quality Time feels most loved when you make space in your schedule to spend time with them and offer your undivided attention, really listening to them and showing genuine interest in how they are doing. Check your local SAGE Directory for activities with seniors and make a plan with them. If you can’t be there often, going out of your way to call and chat with them will help them feel loved. Hiring a companion is another way to meet their need for quality time when a busy life doesn’t allow you to be present as often as you would like.
4. Physical Touch
Loving and gentle Physical Touch often gets rarer as someone ages, which is particularly difficult for elders who speak this love language. Hugging, holding hands, gentle touch on the hands and arms, even something as simple as sitting close to them are warmly welcomed as signs of love and care. If you are responsible for the personal hygiene care of your parent, spend extra time massaging lotion after a shower, or put extra effort into brushing and styling their hair.
5. Receiving Gifts
Those who most enjoy Receiving Gifts are appreciating that you thought about them – that you put effort into knowing their taste and went out of your way to get them something. It isn’t about the grandiose gifts, but the fact that they were on your mind makes them feel special. As you go about your daily life, simply keep them in mind; the next time you’re in a store and see a book that you think they might enjoy, or their favourite flower, pick it up for them. Homemade gifts are just as treasured as the costly ones, so don’t feel that you need to spend a lot of money to make them feel loved.
Determining the love languages of your beloved senior can be challenging, especially if your loved one is dealing with dementia now. Take note of how they express love both now and as you were growing up. Were they affectionate or verbally encouraging? Did they make an effort to spend time with you, help you, or give you gifts to make you feel special? Make it a fun project and try incorporating a variety of these suggestions and see how they respond.