By Brenda Avadian, MA
The Caregiver's Voice
The longer days of spring are wake-up calls from nature’s winter solitude. Birds, bunnies, and blooms are inviting us to get out and enjoy the warmer days.
If it’s good enough for nature, it’s good enough for us and our loved ones to have fun amidst nature’s bounty.
Everyone is different, and has different needs. If you followed the first tip in Starting The New Year Right With Three Tips For Caregivers, you’ll have a better idea of what your options are.
Whatever you do, try to make it FUN, because chances are, what’s fun for you will be enjoyable for your loved one, too.
Despite living with dementia of the Alzheimer’s type, my father loved to get out and explore. He was in good physical shape and on no medications. While living in Wisconsin, he walked frequently – to the local store a few blocks away, to the bank a half-mile away, and anywhere else within a mile of his home. Unfortunately, he got lost often or locked himself out of his home.
By the time he was 87, my husband and I arranged to have him move across the country into our California home. Little did I know what I had gotten myself into. Caregiving is overwhelming day in and day out unless we find ways to break up the days with a little something different. For example, during the weekends, my husband and father would go on 45-90-minute walks exploring the neighborhood. I got the house all to myself to do whatever I wanted – usually, it was work, but it’s what I needed to do for sanity.
Some weekends, the three of us took short road trips where we explored California’s diverse geography. On New Year’s Day, we drove up to Mt. Wilson to explore the observatory. Even though it was a cold rainy day, we had fun walking around on the mountaintop in nature. On a warmer day, we drove over two hours to Ventura beach.
We never knew how my father would fare during each of these outings. He could start out in a great mood ready for adventure, and then something he’d see, read or hear might trigger a memory that made him react negatively. Regardless of how much we’d distract him, he remained irritable.
Mostly, the outings were fun adventures for the three of us such as the day we went to visit the hills covered in a blanket of orange during California's poppy-blooming season.
Today, there are far more options and resources available to help make life a little less overwhelming for family caregivers. What can you do this spring to have a little fun with your loved one?
A Half-Dozen Things To Do With Your Care Recipient
- Walk outdoors as winter thaws and gives way to spring. Visit a park and watch kids play. Visit zoo and talk about the animals.
- Go to a local bakery or coffee shop for dessert, tea or coffee.
- Invite fellow caregivers and their loved ones to spend a holiday together. Make it a potluck. Spending time with people who understand what it’s like to be a caregiver is empowering.
- Invite your loved one to help with chores at home. Your loved one will feel a sense of purpose when you genuinely show appreciation. Have fun even if the dishes are not cleaned the way you’d like or the clothes are not folded right. It’s the time you spend together laughing and having fun that matters.
- Work in the garden together. The fresh air is invigorating. Bake something together and sit outdoors and enjoy eating what you made.
- Finally, plan a caregiver respite. Hire an in-home caregiver to serve as your loved one’s companion while you get out of the house. Or do the reverse. Invite a caregiver to take your loved one on an outing to the local library or to see a matinee funny movie with popcorn. The change of pace will do both of you a lot of good.
Whatever you do, make it FUN for your loved one so that both of you will have joyous memories. Rotate among these six ideas over next 12 weeks or come up with your own adventures.