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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and have guests visit one or two at a time. Instruct guests to introduce themselves to your care receiver by name and relationship – for example, “I’m Mary, your brother John’s wife.”

•  Place guests’ coats and handbags in a secure area if your care receiver is prone to  rummaging.

•  Clean up immediately after entertaining, before your care receiver has a chance to consume anything that might make her ill.

•  Before inviting overnight guests, consider how disruptive this might be to your care receiver’s routines.


Outings


•  If you accept an invitation, do so on the condition that you may back out if your care receiver is having a bad day.

•  Limit the time away and ensure there’s a quiet place your care receiver can retreat to if he can’t handle the stimulation.

•  Take along medications, adapted dishes and utensils, a bib, extra briefs and a change of clothes as needed.

•  Recognize that your care receiver may not eat as well as she normally does because of anxiety or distractions.

•  Attend an event without your care receiver, if it’s not feasible to take him with you.


More Tips


•  Let family and friends know your needs and limitations.

•  Share plans with your care receiver on a need-to-know basis.

•  Include your care receiver in simple preparations to make her feel valued.

•  Share holiday memories. Bring out photo albums or home movies and play favorite seasonal music.

•  Schedule holiday activities during your care receiver’s best time of the day. Space them out and try to stick to routines.

•  Have a plan in place to deal with challenging behaviors.

•  Don’t pressure your care receiver to participate in festivities. Events he previously enjoyed may cause distress if he doesn’t understand their significance or no longer recognizes loved ones.

•  Last, but not least, find something relaxing you can do each day. And do treat yourself to a special gift.

Many people consider the holiday season a hectic time due to the preparations and festivities that typically take place. Staying sane – not to mention enjoying this special time of the year – is even more of a challenge when you’re caring for someone with dementia.


If your care receiver has changed significantly, you may be particularly uneasy about the approaching holidays. Follow these suggestions to help keep stress manageable for everyone in your household.


Gifts


•  Shop by mail order or buy gift cards.

•  Use decorative bags and boxes to streamline wrapping.

•  Keep presents stored away until it’s time to exchange them.

•  Be prepared to make suggestions when friends ask for suitable gift ideas for your care receiver. Gift suggestions should take into account cognitive and physical limitations.


Decorating


•  Don’t decorate too far in advance.

•  Keep decorations minimal and out of reach as much as possible. Forego anything valuable or fragile.

HOLIDAY HELP FOR ALZHEIMER’S CAREGIVERS

•  Avoid lights that flash or play music and sound- or motion- activated items.

•  Don’t keep food, such as a gingerbread house, out in the open.

•  Don’t let extension cords dangle or run across walkways and don’t rearrange furniture.

•  Avoid using decorations that could be harmful if ingested.


Entertaining


•  Whenever possible, entertain at home rather than go out. Familiarity provides comfort.

•  Prepare guests for your care receiver’s cognitive and physical functioning and any uncharacteristic behaviors.

•  Enlist a friend to supervise the care receiver while you’re engaged in hosting duties.

•  Keep rooms well-lit, since shadows may cause confusion and fear. Avoid using candles.

•  Keep music soft and familiar.

•  Keep gatherings small. Otherwise, situate your care receiver in a quiet spot

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