What you, the home health aide, the caregiver, and your patient can do for engagement and fun
Boredom is not fatal, my late mother used to say to the adults and children in the family. She would challenge us to find creative ways to entertain ourselves when a complaint was aired. It was often followed by a comment such as- you are smart. You can find yourself something to do.
As a parent, I agreed with this approach. It’s not the responsibility of a parent to entertain children. Learning to handle their own occupation is a process, however. I would give my children a list of options and suggest that they pick one or come up with their own ideas. My own daughter implemented this strategy to the point that her daughter would complain at age five-I am bored and I do not want options.
My mother was wrong, however, about seniors. Boredom can be fatal for older frail individuals or people whose confinement limits their engagement with the world. Depression, illness, and decreased longevity are the result of lack of stimulation in these populations. Without stimulation of social engagement, meaningful occupation, and varied experiences, the mind, the emotions, and the general wellbeing of vulnerable people are affected.
What is an adult child to do with a parent who is frail, elderly, and limited in mobility? She has an aide to help her with her activities of daily living (ADLs) and to complete the tasks she cannot do for herself. There is, however, plenty of time they need to fill. Watching movies or TV together is not healthy for your parent. Passive entertainment by screens is not good for her.
Caregiving can sometimes seem like managing a camp of one. The adult caregiver is responsible for health, safety, mood, entertainment, and social interaction even if there are paid caregivers involved.
One suggestion is to bring in volunteers and community members from a church or organization. Groups like the Rotary Club and AARP volunteer departments offer opportunities to give back to community members. High school students often need to meet community service requirements. Friendly visiting programs exist; reach out and find them. Do not do this alone.
Get your senior involved in a community recreation program, even if it just to help sign in the participants. It will get him or her out of the house and talking to other people. Others will depend on him or her. He or she will have something to look forward to and will most probably develop an interest in the activity. This could be a club that meets at the library, a community theatre group, or a local choir. It is smart to match the senior citizen with an interest or prior hobby, which will be motivating. This could be a sports club, a fan club, or a particular branch of the arts. Sometimes it is hard to get the golden ager to want to leave the home. Encouraging the retiree to follow that engagement may lead to personal relationships, mentoring, and more. Holding a group meeting in the home of the senior might be a possibility, too. Hosting is something a senior can do with planning and help. It will make the older individual feel like a giver instead of always being a taker.
Building a routine that involves other people will make social engagement natural. One day a week for the farmers market in town. One day a week for correspondence with extended family. Sending out pretty cards makes for a fun activity and will provoke calls to those that receive them. She can go out to shop for the cards and the stamps. Ask the home care aide to help with sending notes to a different group of people each week of the month. It won’t be routine for the recipients and they will be prompted to call. However, they will get a note a once a month and she will get many calls throughout the month. This needs planning and organization of course, like every camp activity. You may have to write out some words. You can suggest that the senior talk about a recent outing or upcoming holiday. The note can be all of three sentences. But it can create connection and a routine activity that will brighten many days.
To create a caregiving calendar for your senior and her home attendant or personal assistant, click here.