There is so much talk about happiness these days that it can feel like failure to not be happy every day. Maybe it’s not about feeling happy, but seeing what interactions or activities bring you—or a loved one-- joy or just satisfaction on a regular basis.
Each person engages in daily or regular routines that they do because they get something meaningful from them. This might be feeding the birds in the park, talking to a friend or family member on the phone, eating a square of good chocolate, brewing a cup of morning coffee or any one of many ways that they connect with the world around them. These are not idle pastimes, but connections that remind each one of us to be good to ourselves, to feel good, maybe even to make someone else feel good.
As a person grows and ages throughout life, their “simple pleasures” may change depending on their abilities, surroundings, and evolving preferences. It’s important for family caregivers and others who care for someone who needs help to preserve what brings them joy.
There can be an accidental removal of these simple pleasures from someone’s life as they change their living arrangements or lose some physical or cognitive skills due to age or illness. There are likely good intentions behind this, such as personal safety, but someone who loses their simple pleasures may experience depression and disconnect from others.
Keep At It
Figuring out someone’s simple pleasures—or even your own--depends on their current ability to communicate. Someone living with dementia may not be able to articulate what brings them pleasure whereas someone living with arthritis might be able to say what they want to do, but need help doing it.
The keyword here is simple. Simple pleasures are not family reunions or vacations or shopping sprees, but much more fundamental. Think of the five senses and what might bring meaning to your loved one daily. Scents, sounds, and sights can all be powerful memory stimulators which in turn can lead to meaningful sharing. Also listen and observe this person’s daily rituals to clue into what they want and need.
When it comes to maintaining a simple pleasure for someone as their abilities change, get creative while playing it safe. For example, if they love their morning cup of coffee but brewing it seems risky, put it on a timer so they can enjoy the aroma while it self-brews.
Think about what brings you joy and make it a healthy habit that replenishes you as you go about your day. When possible, help another maintain their simple pleasures in life.