Activities, What To Do When There’s Nothing To Do
The elderly need activities, “work” and “play” just like everyone else. Most elder care centers employ activity directors and schedule social events to keep residents engaged. At home that jobs falls on us. As age and illness steal the senses, we need to get creative finding things to keep the elderly using their minds and faculties.
I read books and articles listing activities for seniors but most target seniors who can see. Since my mom is blind, they don’t work for her. How do you engage the minds of the blind, also suffering from dementia and limited in movement?
My dad still reads, enjoys the History Channel, plays games on his phone, makes cards on his computer and can entertain himself. Unless we give Mom activities she spends her time “rummaging”, a common symptom in dementia. She picks and pulls at her clothing, blanket, call bell, tissues and anything in reach on her table, hands continually in motion.
My parents like guessing games. My mom can still out-guess my dad in naming tunes, and most categories of trivia. My dad has the advantage in science, cars and some history. My mom remembers nursery rhymes. Their caregiver reads the Super Quiz from the newspaper each day. Some days they do well, some days the topics don’t hold their interest. Occasionally, I make up a trivia game for them with topics from their youth. I’ve used this book for ideas.
We’ve tried audio books for Mom but she falls asleep the minute they start. She enjoyed visits from friends until recently. Now it makes her anxious.
We’ve found she likes to fold laundry, husk corn on the cob, shell peas or snap beans. She feels useful doing needed chores she can do by touch. If she makes a mistake, it doesn’t matter. We used to involve mom in cooking or baking because that was her favorite hobby. Eventually, it caused more upset than joy. I ask about a familiar recipe but she can’t take part in the task.
I originally started raising chickens because Mom grew up on a farm with chickens. Four years ago we got our first batch. My parents liked holding the baby chicks. My dad would walk out to the brooder just to watch them. Now they occasionally see one walk by the window and laugh. Coincidentally, I’ve found raising chickens is a good stress reliever for me. They are comical. Working with them gets me out of the house (if only to the henhouse) giving me something totally different to think about
We talked last week about music and how it can unlock the minds of those with dementia and Mom enjoys music. https://www.llyarborough.com/2017/07/13/music-improves-memory-movement/
She likes hearing the life stories of new caregivers. On weekends we have different caregivers. Some of the stories Mom tells me about them are a bit muddled but sometimes she remembers details even if they’ve been gone for months. I think she’s always found people the most interesting. She asks where they’re from, their marital status (I know, kind of invasive but she doesn’t have social filters anymore), how many children they have and whatever other details she can ask. In that, she’s found her own entertainment.
If you are a caregiver, what activities do your elders enjoy? What works for you?