Keeping Your Loved One Engaged And Aware
When someone you love has reached the point in life where long term elder care is a necessity, due to dementia and/or Alzheimer’s disease, you may find yourself in the midst of the most challenging engagement of your life. It is so difficult that both you and the new caretakers will feel the urge to simply nod along instead of listening or place the person in front of a television rather than seek activities that will continue to stimulate and enhance his or her life. Both of these urges, while understandable and intermittently forgivable, are a betrayal of the very concept of engagement. Getting to know your loved one ‘all over again’ will be the key to navigating this path.
Granted, any long term care facility should have a calendar filled with activities carefully selected by a Recreation Coordinator or someone in a similar capacity. You will find, however, that playing a board game or cards, reading a book or even taking a walk may each present it’s own challenges depending on the condition of the individual.
Tell Them Their Story
Regardless of how familiar someone is with the events or memories that make up a life, the benefit of being able to tell a story is incalculable. Shows on television may be telling stories but they are not telling the ones that your loved one needs to hear. Recounting favorite memories and key biographical elements will produce visible relief in a person suffering from an illness known for scrambling such information to the point that one’s life can become unrecognizable to oneself. Keeping that in mind, no matter how often you grow weary of repeating yourself, the transformative power of storytelling remains the most powerful form of engagement there is.
Let Them Tell Their Story
Self-expression is one thing that you can count on prevailing throughout one’s life. Engagement will be key to determining how a loved one now prefers to express themselves. It may be through any number of forms of artistic expression. You may find yourself discouraged by the effort to comprehend this person whom you conversed with so effortlessly for so many years. Beyond conventional arts and crafts activities, there continues to be means by which we can trigger communication with our elders. Technology has come to the rescue.
Television vs. ‘TV’
Most nursing homes and assisted living facilities are now outfitted with Smart TVs. Using the television as a search engine can produce magical results. With this quantum leap in control over content, there is no reason why you or any caretaker can’t turn to YouTube for unprecedented levels of engagement. YouTube alone is like a time machine in the hands of the right person. Encourage elders to yell out favorite singers, actors and comedians. Since it is likely they may not recall on the spot, this is where your own imagination and ingenuity can shine. As you get to know your loved one all over again and piece together their stories, these very details will likely surface. With the internet in your hands, you have an instant audio-visual dimension to your storytelling efforts.
However, simply plopping someone in front of a television screen is not “engagement.” Watching television as a passive activity does little to nothing for the mind of a person with dementia, and just as we like to monitor the amount of television our children watch, so too do we want to do the same with seniors. Everyone, no matter their age, needs to be engaged in some sort of stimulating activity. Whether it is playing cards, sewing, reading a book, taking a walk, conversing with people or skydiving, these forms of engagement offer more stimulation than being parked in front of a television watching a game show. Just because one ages and slows down a bit, doesn’t mean that a person has to become sedentary. Just because someone needs the use of a wheelchair doesn’t mean they are going to enjoy being parked in front of the latest big screen behemoth in the den.
Engagement and activity go hand in hand in keeping a person vital. Engagement stimulates the mind, fosters relationships and keeps history alive. Activity encourages movement, gets the blood flowing and is good for your health. Doctors recommend daily exercise and exercise is movement. So, on your next visit with your loved one, think about getting them out of the house and engaged in an activity that they can safely do and that they enjoy. Consider doing something they haven’t done in a while; visiting an old haunt, taking a class together or finding a new hobby. While taking 98 year old Aunt Gladys ice skating might not be a good idea, perhaps taking your mom to a museum might be. You’ll never know what you’re missing and you just might find out about your father’s hidden culinary artistic abilities.
Archer Brogan Can Help
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