If you are a family caregiver for a senior loved one, the concept of “fun” may be the furthest thing from your mind. You have a lot of responsibilities, and there is emotional and physical stress associated with caring for a person you love who is becoming increasingly dependent upon you.
Fun is not going to come of its own; you need to find it.
How do you do that? An old song contains the lyrics “accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative.”
With that in mind, let’s look at some ways to have more fun caregiving.
Accentuate the Positive
Regardless of age, everyone loves to laugh. Rent a funny movie or watch a comedy TV show with your senior loved one. Read a book together by a favorite humorist. Laughter releases endorphins that reduce stress hormones.
You personally will benefit from a few minutes of fun and relaxation each day. Take a short walk. Sit outside on the patio and focus on the nice breeze. Take your mind off all of the things that you have to accomplish. You might also find your loved one would enjoy some of these moments with you. More enjoyable conversations are probable when you are both relaxed. And depending on your senior’s physical and cognitive condition, there are many things you can do together. Try these ways to have fun caregiving with your senior loved one:
- Listen to music
- Review a photo album
- Watch a movie
- Play a video game
- Share a hobby
- Complete a jigsaw puzzle
- Celebrate holidays
- Cook and share recipes
Eliminate the Negative
You can’t have fun if you are depressed, frustrated, and frayed, so you need some strategies to overcome those feelings.
Avoid self-criticism. You are doing your best and, sometimes, you will make mistakes, but do not keep thinking about all your imagined shortcomings. Think about the things you have done well for your senior loved one, and things that you like about yourself. Negativity feeds on itself. Break the cycle.
Caring for a Senior with Dementia
If your senior loved one has dementia, your stress is multiplied by watching the disease take its toll, but there are still some ways to help you and your senior make the best of the situation.
Do not worry when your senior adult makes a mistake or cannot recall information they have just received. It only drives up the frustration and stress levels for both of you. If Dad believes he just bought a new car when he hasn’t driven in years, what’s the harm in letting him talk about it?
Offer comfort, and listen carefully. Your loved one is still trying to communicate with you. Let the conversation run where it will. Sometimes your loved one will recall a clear memory, something poignant to share, or even something to laugh about with them. Listen to their stories and tell some of your own. These moments will be a treasure you will always remember.
Latch Onto the Affirmative
Don’t neglect your health. Your mental and emotional state are positively affected by eating food that is good for you and exercising. Maybe you no longer have an hour to spend at the gym. Climb some stairs in the house, work out with bodyweight exercises, and take three five-minute walks during the day if possible. Keep moving and keep eating well. You’ll sleep better and feel better about yourself.
When the stress mounts, talk to a trusted friend. He or she may not be able to offer any advice, but just sharing will give you some release, and may make you more aware of what you are feeling. In addition, sometimes a friend can supply a perspective of which you are not aware. Also, a friend or relative may be able to give you a break and watch Mom for a while allowing you to run some errands or do something just for fun.
As a caregiver, it is easy to be trapped in the details—the medications to be dispensed, meals to be fixed, bills to be paid, doctor’s appointments to attend with your senior loved one. The list seems endless, but you need to find a way to slow down enough to focus on the present moment and enjoy what it has to offer.
As a senior caregiver, you might need some extra support. Explore convenient care options like Respite Care for a temporary break, or Care Management to make sure your senior loved one is receiving the best care possible. Contact us to learn how these programs can help you manage your duties and have more fun caregiving.