As a caregiver, you are focused on your loved one’s safety, finances, medical treatment, nutrition and therapy. You busy yourself with doing everything in your power to keep them comfortable. You worry about their reduced energy level, increasing fatigue, physical weakness and variable mental status. But do you know how important it is for them to just have fun? To laugh deeply, live in the moment, to briefly not be defined by age and frailty and to forget pain?
Below are some ideas on how to add fun and stimulation to their lives:
Seniors look forward to having a day out, but as they age, they don’t have the stamina or mobility for trips to fascinating museums, monster malls, wooded parks, loud modern restaurants, etc. But they may be able to go out for an hour or two. My mom adored a simple trip to the supermarket—colorful flowers, fanciful balloons, acres of fresh, bright produce, bakery smells, energetic families with huge carts. It was an hour that she talked about for days. Another day we drove one short mile to a local antique shop. “I had those gold Fostoria glasses,” she pointed out. “Your dad and I would stop at the Fostoria factory store on trips to see my brother in Washington, DC.”. Talk about the glassware led to reminiscing about her deceased brother, until she interrupted herself; “Look at the quilts—just like my Grandmother’s.”. And so on, pushing her walker forward toward the next memory. The first trip to a small local department store just before Christmas involved a little arm-twisting. But once there, lights, perfume, soft velvety fashions and just ahead a decorated Christmas tree, worked their magic. She relived it all week. Recently she had favorite rings that needed resizing, I invited her to come to the jewelry store with me. She appreciated being the “customer,” the center of attention. Other ideas might be a quilt shop for a former quilter, a hardware store for the ardent handyman, the library, bakery, family style restaurant, plant store or flower shop.
Fun at home
You don’t have to go out to have fun of course. Opportunities are right there in their home to have fun and fight boredom:
• Stage a sing-along to their favorite music. Play the music loud and clear. Get all dressed up and take some photo portraits—use them for family gifts.
• Rent/borrow movies—old ones, funny ones, scary ones.
• Have a deck of cards on hand and play the old familiar games—gin rummy, hearts, war.
• Scrabble is great fun with grandkids, and good for the brain too.
• Keep a puzzle going if you have a spare tabletop—people coming in always get engaged and stay to talk.
• Pull out a family album—get them to identify the older ones you may have forgotten and take notes or audiotape the stories you hear. Family photos trigger floods of memories.
• Rearrange furniture and pictures—just for stimulation.
• Order in or cook some favorite foods that aren’t usually indulged in as a treat.
• Manicures and pedicures are a special treat too.
• Have candy for drop-in guests and gifts for visitors—think about birthday and holiday gifts and “shop” online.
• Make up a holiday or birthday wish list from the web—send it to family members.
Think about what your loved one has always enjoyed, listen to what they talk about, look around your neighborhood and give it a try!