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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Caregiver's Enthusiasm Can Spark An Elderly Senior's Interests Again

As a paid caregiver on rows of 24 hour stand-by-assist shifts, sometimes for weeks at a time, I've tried to make the days interesting for elderly seniors I assist. An enthusiastic caregiver can be the spark and the friend who starts activity rolling again if a senior is confined at home and has lost interest in usual activities. A "Beauty Parlor Day", a "Health Spa Day" , or a " Restaurant or Cafe' at Home" day can be activities for a caregiver and a senior to share for enjoyment.

Making a special event out of "Jeopardy" time, with snacks and beverages adds to a "party" atmosphere. Watching old movies on the Turner Classic Movie station with "we're at the movies popcorn" makes it an event to brighten up the day.

There can also be "Life History" time and Genealogy time. Hearing about someone's ancestors can start both of us making family trees and sharing stories.

If the weather is nice then sitting on a porch, patio or deck is an option. If an elderly senior uses a walker or wheelchair the porches and patios are still accessible and this outdoor time can make the day more pleasant. Breakfast with a newspaper, or one of the other meals outdoors as a "picnic" can be a treat.

When a 24 hour caregiver is on long rows of shifts without a break it can be helpful to make each day a little different for the elderly person. Keeping a calender of upcoming activities has helped me plan and provides an upbeat anticipation from day to day. Sunday afternoon might be oldies but goodies movie time, Saturday might have a favorite show on, and the middle of the week might have other special events.

Listening to audiobooks of interesting autobiographies and biographies has been an activity some people have enjoyed also. When audiobooks are not available sometimes I get one of the person's favorite books and read out loud. Listening to musical classics, often from the 40's and 50's is another activity some seniors enjoy.

Some of my favorite times assisting seniors have been when we have joined up to start a project together. Several have joined with me in creating their own private version of a "university" at home, and naming it after themselves, too. Of course, everybody graduates.

On rows of 24 hours shifts it helps to make each day have some variety for both the senior and the caregiver. Looking ahead in the TV Guide for shows and movies that an elderly person would enjoy helps create a schedule days ahead of time to look forward to and the shows can be marked on the calender.

One person in her 90's told me she used to like creative writing. She started thinking of writing again, and had a poem published in the newspaper's poetry feature. It was exciting for both of us to see her name in print, and the poem was beautiful.

Home style cooking and preparing meals to freeze for the upcoming week is sometimes "Cafe' (insert senior's last name) the Famous Restaurant." Some of this might sound silly, but often we turn ordinary days into days with a "party" this way. As a paid caregiver on rows of 24 hour shifts I have always been trying to think up new ideas for activities.

Asking questions led to a project with one senior that included studying religious and philosophical material from a university that we found in the storage room. She remembered the professors from long ago and told me about the classes. We also found some newspapers that were 50 years old and we had a great time reading those and discussing them.

Another told me some hilarious escapades that included climbing the town water tower as a young rambunctious redhead, and she made a recording of the story.

Alone, they did not have the motivation to start these projects, but with an interested caregiver providing enthusiasm they got old interests revived, and I had an enjoyable time too.

Asking people questions about their life history helps them to remember things that trigger more memories. Questioning and listening can lead to digging up favorite interests that have been long forgotten. Sometimes seniors have been alone and isolated.

The caregiver can be the spark and the friend who gets enthusiasm rolling again.

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