Each day, you get your parent up, washed and dressed, dentures and hearing aids in, morning meds administered, breakfast served ... if you’ve been caring for a parent with memory loss for any length of time, you probably have the rest of their daily care plan down. But what about their daily life plan? Is your loved one engaged in meaningful activity throughout the day? Do they feel valued and safe? Are they happy?
“Family caregivers are often so busy providing for their loved one’s growing physical needs that they lose sight of how important daily mental and social stimulation is to effective dementia care,” says Michelle Straughn, Executive Director at YourLife™ of Tallahassee, a Memory Care community in Tallahassee, Florida. “If their parent seems content sitting alone or napping several times a day, family caregivers may be grateful for the ‘downtime.’ But too much downtime can have adverse effects on their parent’s quality of life.”
Straughn acknowledges that periods of rest are vital, of course, but what often appears to be contentment might really be depression. “Without mindful engagement and social interaction, it’s easy for people with dementia to become apathetic, disinterested in hobbies, and self-isolate.”
Luckily, once you find what your loved one responds to, adding some life to their daily care plan doesn’t require a lot more of your time, just some planning and patience. In this post, we’ll share five tips to help busy family caregivers weave joy and meaning into their loved one’s daily care routine with ease.
1. Hours of Joy in 15 Minutes or Less
Choose a handful of fun, interesting, or soothing activities your loved one likes and tack them on your existing care routines. A game of checkers or Go Fish after lunch, morning stretches before dressing, a walk around the block after dinner, hand massages with their evening pills, and reading a chapter from a favorite book before naptime are examples of activities that will add a few minutes to your care routine and hours of positive vibes to your loved one’s day.
2. Involve Them in Your Own Routine
Asking your parent to assist with household chores, gardening, and meal preparation is a great way for your loved one to exercise their motor skills while you get some work done. The extra 10 minutes or so that it might take you to provide instruction – or to refold towels, resweep floors, repot plants, or remeasure ingredients – is a solid, low-cost investment in your loved one’s self-esteem. Working side-by-side toward a mutual goal can help your parent feel respected with a sense of purpose, accomplishment, and assurance that they are a valued member of the family.
3. Reminisce Here, There and Everywhere
Multitaskers can get a lot of mileage out of reminiscence therapy, which can benefit their loved one anytime, anywhere they are up for it. You can use your drive-time to doctors’ appointments to recall fun family road trips or other vacation stories together. When making desserts for yet another bake sale, invite your mom to tell you about her prized pumpkin pies everyone loved so much. (If your oven isn’t producing the right aromatic inspiration, light a pumpkin-scented candle to help spark fond associative memories.)
TIP: Aromatherapy can complement virtually any activity. It can also help calm your loved one during bath times and other aspects of care they may find frightening or unpleasant. Some essential oils that show signs of improving cognitive function and behaviors in persons with dementia include lavender, peppermint, rosemary, bergamot and lemon balm. Note: Use as instructed. Oils can be used with a diffuser, added to a bath, inhaled or applied topically, but some oils must be diluted or applied with a carrier oil.
4. Make It Safe and Easy to Enjoy Activities Independently
Depending on the stage of your loved one’s dementia, they may not require your constant hands-on involvement or instruction. Simply being in your company while they occupy their hands and minds can make them feel safe and productive.
Your loved one may enjoy large-print books or crosswords and jigsaw puzzles while you pay bills or catch up on news. If your parent enjoys crafts, painting or drawing, make a handy art kit filled with craft supplies, an apron, watercolor books and brushes, adult coloring books, fingerpaints, washable markers, and plenty of blank pages. Besides adding a few minutes for cleanup, all you’ll have to do is pull out the kit and clear a space at the kitchen table for your loved one to get creative while you do dishes or prepare dinner.
In the later stages of memory loss, your loved one may find their peace and joy by self-soothing in a comfortable rocking chair and listening to music or spiritual services. Make them comfortable, cue up YouTube, and use this time of day to take a much-needed break yourself.
5. Keep It Up
People with dementia thrive on routine. Without it, they can become anxious, confused, or feel adrift – and this can lead to challenging behaviors and frustration on both sides.
“For routine-driven people, the ‘when’ is just as important as ‘what’ you add to your loved one’s day – or night,” says YourLifeTM of Tallahassee’s Michelle Straughn. “Incorporating activities that the person with dementia finds enjoyable, intriguing, or comforting in the morning might annoy them at night. Keep rotating appropriate activities in the schedule until the pieces click, and then stick to it until their needs or preferences change.”
Once you find what makes your loved happy – and when – you can combine their daily care and daily life plans into a routine that works for you both.
To learn about our Creative Expressions program and life-enhancing approach to care, call YourLife™ of Tallahassee’s life enrichment team at 850-250-5671.
Inspired ● Engaged ● Fulfilled
If someone you love is living with memory loss, you want the absolute best for them. You’ll find it at YourLife™ of Tallahassee. Because Memory Care is all that we do, we have the unique ability to focus all our energy, attention and resources into creating an environment that caters to each resident’s needs, preferences and abilities while providing unequaled peace of mind and support for families.
We see each resident as an individual because we understand that each resident has their own story. Using this idea, we develop personally inspired care plans that value and support each person’s independence while creating beautiful days. No matter how much care they need, our team of attentive, caring YourLife™ Personal Care Specialists can help with all activities of daily living while providing reminders, guidance, support, and cues. Even better, residents and their families experience true peace of mind knowing that expert care is on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Our personal touch doesn’t stop at our care. In fact, it’s only just the beginning. We create days that leave residents feeling Inspired. Engaged. Fulfilled through our signature programming, YourStory. With individual experiences centered around each resident, engaging outings, services and amenities, activities, dining and more, we create opportunities to learn and pursue new endeavors. At YourLife™ of Tallahassee, everything was designed for you, but it is defined by you, creating a lifestyle that makes every day a joy. Contact us to learn more!
Call us at 850-250-5671 for more information or to schedule a personal visit today.