Activities for Home Bound Seniors

Activities for home bound individuals will vary widely depending on their interests, physical abilities and cognitive abilities. They can be for entertainment purposes only, or they can have a utilitarian function, such as caring for oneself or helping the household to run more smoothly. The right activities can help your loved ones meet their social and self-esteem needs. In general, there are three types of activities that caregivers find useful: Passive, energetic and interactive.

Passive Activities

Passive activities require no participation on the mart of the senior. Watching the television, listening to the radio, reading and sleeping are all examples of passive activities. Passive activities are not bad - most people enjoy sitting in from the of the TV for a little while every day or taking an afternoon nap. Furthermore, your loved one may have physical and cognitive impairments that prevent him from participating in active or interactive activities. In that case, leaving the television or radio on is preferable to hours of silence.

If your loved one is more active, however, try to limit passive activities such as watching television to only a few hours a day. When you do provide passive activities for your loved one, try to make them meaningful. For instance, rather than simply turning the television on to whatever channel happens to be playing, try to find programming they might enjoy.

If your loved one is cognitively impaired by Alzheimer's or another form of dementia, avoid crime dramas or violent movies. People with dementia often have trouble with reality testing - distinguishing what is and isn't real. They often think the people on the television set are in the room with them and can become understandably frightened at having a gunfight going on in their bedroom.

Sleeping

If your loved one has a terminal illness, being very tired and spending more and more time asleep can be a natural progression of chronic disease. If their illness is not terminal, however, keep an eye on how much they sleep during the day. If you think they are sleeping too much, have a word with their primary care physician to determine which sleep patterns are normal and which are not. People who are recovering from an illness or injury may genuinely need lots of rest. On the other hand, seniors sometimes sleep a lot because they are bored or depressed. You may bee to gently encourage them to become involved in more active interactive pursuits.

Energetic Activities

These are activities that require some involvement and response from a person. They can range from doing puzzles such as crosswords or Sudoku, drawing pictures and craft projects to getting dressed or helping prepare dinner. Activities that require some action on your loved one's part can be extremely positive for self-esteem.

You can encourage your loved one to be active in many ways. One of the most important contributions you can make is allowing them to do as many activities of daily living as possible. Activities of daily living involve the things we do to keep ourselves alive and healthy, such as moving around, maintaining personal hygiene, dressing and eating, for instance. Even though a loved one may have physical or mental impairments, and even though it might be quicker to just provide care without their help, offer the chance for participation. Every little bit of independence the person maintains will play a role in increasing self-esteem.

It is also important to continue to participate in instrumental activities of daily living. Instrumental activities of daily living are not necessary for survival, but they do help maintain a sense of choice and independence. Examples include shopping, managing money, caring for pets or plants, preparing meals and doing housework.

Other instrumental activities of daily living that your loved one may be able to help with include folding laundry, dusting shelves, helping with shopping lists, watering plants, wrapping holiday presents and assisting with caring for pets.

One housekeeping activity that is not usually a good idea is vacuuming. It's just too easy to get one's feet tangled in the cord, which can lead to a nasty fall. If your loved one has cognitive impairments, you should also discourage cooking or ironing unless you are available to closely supervise. Other activities that require your loved one's participation include reading, writing, drawing, making shapes out of non-toxic clay or Play-Dough, doing jigsaw puzzles, doing crosswords, word search puzzles, or Sudoku, and helping to sort and identify old pictures. Use your imagination. You will be surprised at how much fun you are able to have.

Interactive Activities

Interactive activities rely on connecting with a person or pet. Sometimes the best activity of all is just having an engaging conversation. You can talk about a news story that an something funny that happened to you at work, or share a favourite childhood memory. You may also just want to sit quietly with your loved one and hold hands or offer a backrub. Time spent in silence with someone you care about can be just as precious as time spent discussing a topic.

Nina Pflumm Herndon, Executive Director of Sage Eldercare Solutions www.sageeldercare.com, shares this advice in the Handbook of Geriatric Care Management by Cathy Cress:

  • Social interactions can be supported by coordinating regular communications from family and friends, such as a once weekly telephone date' with a sister in another state or a best friend from childhood.
  • Consider a "Presto" printer (www.presto.com) so your loved one can receive emails and photos from the family without having to use a computer; this is an especially wonderful tool for people who would enjoy a snapshot of their grandchild at the park earlier that afternoon or to receive a photo from an adult child who is visiting a place that the older adult had visited with them in the past.
  • Accompany your loved one to a movie, visit a public garden, go to the library to check out a classical music CD, or organize any other outing that has been customary and can be sustained. If your loved one has typically gone to the corner store to have a cup of coffee and read the newspaper, you can be instrumental in sustaining this ritual. This can bring connectedness, predictability and a sense of accomplishment.
  • In order to promote stimulation of the mind, creativity or idea exchange, simply engage the person in conversation about their work history, their first car, their favourite subjects in school, favourite foods, or other topics that night be explored when getting to know someone. Reminiscence activity cards are available as are mental fitness cards that are full of ideas about 'brain aerobics'.
  • Even for those who have no history of creative expression through art, it may be surprising to see how a set of coloured pencils or watercolours and an invitation to see how the colours look on the paper sets off the imagination or provides an opportunity for expression when words and/or memories may be more elusive. The Alzheimer Association's Memories in the Making program has enjoyed great success in engaging clients with memory changes in creating art by using an "inspiration piece" and encouraging the client to copy an appealing image.
  • Many communities offer an abundance of lectures, performances and senior center programming that can be easily discovered by regularly perusing the local newspaper. Take responsibility for reviewing the newspaper with your loved one to discuss options and create a plan to attend an event of interest. For many seniors, physical or cognitive limitations may make it difficult to rely on outings, community events or other people for opportunities to engage. For all, there is an opportunity to try to make 'down time' at home more engaging.
  • Create a customized therapeutic activity kit. This type of box (or basket, bin, etc.) contains activities that can be implemented by family members to stimulate the mind. Examples of items that might go in a therapeutic activity kit include letters in plastic coverings that can be read and reread regularly, music CDs, art supplies, postcards from places where the client has traveled, playing cards, balls or fabrics with different textures to help stimulate touch and photos or other items that trigger pleasant memories and cognitive response. The most important aspect of creating a therapeutic activity kit is considering the individual needs, interests and capabilities of the person for whom the kit is created. Therapeutic activity kits can be created by a family member or a professional, such as a geriatric care manager or recreational therapist.
  • Cultivating spirituality can be done by helping someone connect to anything that gives them a sense of purpose and meaning. For some, the ritual of churchgoing provides an outlet to create order and build faith despite frustrating and sometimes painful health challenges that cause them to need care. For others, a connection with nature by sitting by the ocean and watching the waves, hearing the water and feeling the breeze, or working in the garden to continue cultivating the roses out front that are celebrated by homeowner and neighbors alike can be equally as powerful.

Activities for Seniors with Dementia

Dementia robs a person of his cognitive function, often leaving behind what seems to be nothing but a shell of the one who you knew and loved. Many people with late stage dementia spend most of their days sleeping or staring off into space. Often it is possible to engage the person in other activities. If you are caring for a loved one with dementia, this section provides a few tips for initiating activities.

  • Keep to a general schedule. Most people with dementia like know what they can expect out of each day. They may to an or angry if their routine varies too much.
  • Schedule times for personal hygiene, meals, exercise and active pursuits, as well as time for naps.
  • Encourage the person with dementia to do as much as possible for himself, even if an activity takes longer that way.
  • Don't give the person a chance to refuse. Use positive language and encouragement. For instance, do not say, "Would you like to eat?" Instead say, "It's time for lunch."
  • Keep instructions simple and short, and give each instruction one at a time.
  • Offer choices between no more than two selections. If you offer a wider range of choices, the person may become confused and upset. ("Would you like to wear your blue shirt or your red shirt today?")
  • Don't be afraid to make activities a little challenging. If your loved one shows signs of becoming agitated, stop that activity and shift his attention to something else.
  • Avoid activities and conversations that rely on short-term memory Most people with dementia have much clearer memories of the distant past.
  • Limit stimulation. One or two visitors are fine, but a roomful is too many. Likewise, don't try top lay dominoes with your loved one while the television is blaring, the dog is barking to go out, and the oven timer is going off.
  • Keep a few favourite items or activities stowed away to use if your our loved one starts getting upset. Agree with whatever your loved one is saying, and redirect his attention to the favourite item.
  • Never argue or get into verbal disagreements.

Carefully selected activities can help keep seniors stay psychologically engaged and at peace with their lives. Home Care Assistance Montreal offers Cognitive Therapeutics in the home, contact us for more details.


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