If you are a family member caring for an aging loved one at home, then you may be looking for some entertaining activities you can do with them. This blog will give you some quick ideas. Activities such as conversations and arts and crafts are crucial for mental stimulation, and they can also be a great and healthy way to use time. If your loved one has a degenerative neurological disorder, you may have to provide the accommodations for them and modify these activities. You may even have to set a time limit for certain activities if necessary. Choosing an activity that your loved one will enjoy will depend on their preferences. If you know your loved one well, then choosing one will be easy!
1) Exercise and going outdoors:
If your loved one can walk comfortably, then going for walks outdoors is one of the greatest things you can do. Even if they must use a walking device or wheelchair, going outside can be a very beneficial activity for both mental stimulation and improving overall mood. If you can find a quiet road near greenery or a walking trail at a park, then take advantage of these places, even if you do not walk very far. If you and your loved one are able, you could use an outdoors area to do some light stretching.
An alternative to walking would be finding a peaceful garden to have a conversation. Getting outside, as obvious as it may seem, is an excellent way to spend quality time with your loved one offering everyone involved physical and mental benefits.
2) Making a bird feeder:
If you have children who like to spend time with a grandparent, or another aging loved one, then this is a great way to bond and have fun.
All you need are some recycled toilet paper rolls, a jar of peanut butter, and some bird seeds. Just spread the peanut butter on the toilet paper roll and dip it in bird seeds. You can then take some thin rope and string it through the two holes of the toilet paper rolls. Lastly, hang it from a tree branch! This activity is fun for the whole family and also requires you to go outside.
3) Listening to your loved one's favorite music:
An easy activity but also entertaining is playing your loved one's favorite music on the radio, stereo system, or on any smartphone/mp3 player. Listening to music is a wonderful mental stimulant and can be done leisurely or actively through discussion and reminiscing.
If your loved one has a degenerative neurological disease, such as Alzheimer's, then listening to music may be difficult if there are other distractions in the environment like people talking, television, clattering dishes, etc. In this case, buy headphones that go completely over their ears to drown out other sounds. You may also have to try different kinds of music if your loved one reacts negatively to certain genres.
Listening to music that you and your loved one enjoy is not only fun but actively stimulates neurons in your brain. Music is not solely an auditory experience but an emotional and physical one, as well. Certain types of music can invoke feelings of extreme bliss or wistfulness. It excites our muscles when we begin to clap, tap our feet, hum along, and change our facial expressions. Its effects are physically and emotionally complicated and may elude our understanding, but what we do know is that it does stimulate us-even those whose minds may be affected by neurological disorders.
Another entertaining and stimulating activity to do is painting. You can either paint on a canvas with brushes or use your hands to create more abstract artwork. You can easily buy canvases, small paintbrushes, and paint at an arts and crafts store. Find straightforward images to paint and try to copy them to the best of your abilities. Or you can also buy paint-by-numbers if you think your loved one is willing and able to follow the detailed instructions.
5) Read together or read aloud:
Reading books, newspapers, or magazines are especially mentally stimulating if you participate in discussions about readings you've done together. If your loved one has a difficult time reading for whatever reason, then you can find passages that you think they will enjoy and understand, and then you can read it aloud. Reading aloud to someone can be helpful if your loved one is indisposed or has a neurological disorder. Also, try reading outside if the weather is agreeable.
Allowing your loved one to reminisce about when they were younger or about times they particularly remember is a soothing, yet engaging way to spend time with an aging loved one. Reminiscing can help you (and perhaps your children) learn more about your loved one through story-telling and reflections about the past.
You may have to prompt your loved one by asking a question like: "Tell me about the time when. . ." or "What was going to school like for you?" These questions are open enough to allow your loved one to respond any way they want.
These are just a few ideas for activities to do with your loved one. They may also be springboards to come up with your activities. Helpful websites like Pinterest (for which you need to create an account) may be helpful for generating some more ideas. Whatever you choose to do, allow it to be engaging, stimulating, and, most of all, entertaining for everyone!
Oliver Sacks, "The power of music," Brain 129, (2006): 2528-2532.