HOBBIES ARE GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH

Do you have a hobby? Hobbies can give meaning and purpose to your life in retirement. As Robert Putnam points out in his book, Bowling Alone, it’s easy to discount the importance of hobbies and social engagements. Putnam details the widespread decline in civic engagement, from PTA memberships to neighborhood potlucks and bowling leagues. Over a couple of generations, Americans have misplaced the concept of free time.

SPECIAL PLANS FOR YOUR SPECIAL PEOPLE

Lily is a beautiful, active and full of personality toddler who happens to have Down syndrome. Lily’s parents and I have been friends for years and I have the continuing pleasure of watching Lily and her siblings grow up. While Lily is becoming a physical therapy rock star and hitting all her milestones in a timely fashion, her parents have started planning for the future.

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WHY WE ENJOY OUR HOBBIES

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a hobby as “a pursuit outside one’s regular occupation, engaged in especially for relaxation.” Hobbies include anything from playing a musical instrument to gardening, bird watching or sewing. A hobby is a way of focusing on something you enjoy just for the sake of that enjoyment. It may also be a way to clear your mental palette. You could be stressed out by a situation at work or the challenges of raising children and need an escape.

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•  Talk openly with your care receiver about his or her wishes. Discuss living arrangements, outside help, surrogate decision making, medical intervention and end-of-life care and funeral arrangements. Be careful not to make promises you may not be able to keep.

•  Help your care receiver get his or her affairs in order, including completing paperwork such as advance directives, powers of attorney and a will. Consult with a lawyer who is familiar with eldercare issues.


5. Are you open to simplifying your life?


•  Keep a caregiving log so you don’t have to rely on memory when it comes to medical history. Include notes about medications tried and their results; acute illnesses; hospitalizations; tests; diagnoses; treatments; and surgeries.

•  Keep relevant medical, financial, legal and other documents organized in a binder or filing system for easy access.

•  Seek ways to streamline your life. Set priorities and stick to them. And let go of the need for perfection.

•  Take things one day at a time. Learn to live in the moment and focus on simple pleasures.


6. Do you practice self-care?


•  Look after your own health. Make it a priority.

•  Find something relaxing you can do to give yourself a daily break at home.

•  Schedule regular breaks from caregiving duties. Take a couple of hours, a day or an overnight.


7. Do you have supportive people in your life?


•  Stay connected to friends and outside activities.

•  Find someone you can talk with openly, who will listen and empathize.

•  Talk with other caregivers. Join a community support group or an Internet group.


8. Are you receptive to help?


•  Recognize that you can’t and shouldn’t do everything alone.

•  Accept offers of help. Ask other family members to share the load. Be specific about the type of help that’s needed.

•  Research and take advantage of respite services in your community.

Whether you are new to caregiving or have been at it for a while, you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed and worried about your ability to handle all the responsibilities involved in looking after a person with a long-term health condition.


What better time than the start of a new year to reflect on your role and how you may be better able to manage it. Take time to honestly answer the following questions and consider the advice offered here.


1. Do you accept the realities of your care receiver’s condition?


•  Give yourself permission to experience all emotions that surface.

•  Grieve losses, but don’t dwell on them. Adapt your goals and expectations.

•  Recognize there will be good days and bad days.


2. Are you open to learning new things?


•  Educate yourself about your care receiver’s diagnosis and share the information with family and friends to help them understand.

•  Be open to learning practical skills, such as proper transferring and bathing techniques. Mastering these tasks will make caregiving as safe and easy as possible.   

8 REFLECTIONS FOR A NEW YEAR OF CAREGIVING

•  Find out about community services in your area that can help. The local office on aging is a good resource.


3. Do you keep communication lines open?


•  Involve your care receiver (if able) and other family members in decision making as much as possible. Don’t shoulder the responsibility alone.

•  Develop a partnership with involved healthcare professionals. Share information about your care receiver, ask questions, seek advice and offer opinions and suggestions.

•  Keep family members informed of changes in your care receiver’s status. Don’t act as if things are okay when they’re not.


4. Are you prepared for changes and challenges?


•  Find out what to expect during the course of the illness in terms of symptom progression and caregiving skills, medical equipment and community supports that may be needed.  

LISA M. PETSCHE

Lisa M. Petsche is a social worker and a freelance writer specializing in boomer and senior health matters. She has personal and professional experience with eldercare.

more articles by lisa m. petsche