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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5. If your loved one is prone to wandering, consider putting extra locks on exterior doors or have door alarms installed. You should also register him or her with Safe Return, a national program of the Alzheimer’s Association. For more information or to register, contact your local chapter or go online to www.alz.org.


6. Keep in mind social situations involving more than a few people tend to be over-stimulating and are best avoided. Otherwise, keep your loved one in a separate room –with accompaniment – and have people come in to socialize with him or her one or two at a time. It is preferable to entertain at home rather than taking your loved one out to an unfamiliar environment to visit with others. If you would like to accept an invitation for yourself, arrange for a friend or relative to stay with your loved one so you can go and have a stress-free time.


7. Accept that it is impossible to reason with someone who has dementia. This will prevent power struggles that can lead to escalation of unpleasant behaviors. When your loved one is fixated on a certain idea or activity, try distraction instead of confrontation. Use humor to deflect a tense situation.


8. Learn to recognize early signs of escalating behavior and be prepared with some calming strategies to head it off – for example, putting on favorite music or serving a favorite snack.

MEETING THE CHALLENGES OF ALZHEIMER’S CAREGIVING

minimum and try to avoid open-ended ones, especially those that begin with “Why” or “How.” Offer limited choices (for example, “Would you like coffee or juice?”) to allow your loved one some control without overwhelming him or her.


3. Buy clothing that is easy to put on and can be mixed and matched. If your loved one is prone to layering clothes, limit access by storing only a few items at a time in their dresser or closet; put the rest in another location. Alternatively, you may want to try using childproof safety latches on drawers. Be aware these may cause frustration for your loved one.


4. When self-feeding becomes difficult, try adaptive utensils, plates and drinking cups found in medical supply stores and use finger foods as much as possible. If spills are frequent, stick to easy-care clothing and purchase extra tops and pants. (If money is tight, shop at second-hand stores.) You may find it worthwhile to use an adult bib or apron, ensuring coverage of the torso and lap. Don’t serve hot foods or beverages until they have cooled down enough so they won’t burn you or your loved one should an accident occur. Since people with dementia are easily distracted and confused, clear the table and offer one item at a time.

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.

A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is life-altering for both the affected person and those close to him or her. The diagnosed person experiences a variety of emotions, including denial, anxiety, fear, anger and resentment, embarrassment, loneliness, sadness and despair. Depression is common in people with Alzheimer’s.


Family and friends provide most of the care people with Alzheimer’s require. Like their loved ones, these informal caregivers experience a wide variety of distressing feelings. They are at risk for burnout due to the physical, mental and emotional toll of caregiving.


It is common to feel no one understands what you and your loved one are going through. Even if friends and relatives have a good understanding of the disease, they may withdraw out of discomfort, fear or a sense of helplessness. Caregivers become further isolated because they cannot leave the affected person alone and therefore do not get out much. If you are a caregiver, you might find the following strategies helpful in looking after your loved one:


1. To maximize your loved one’s independence, simplify tasks and break them down into manageable steps, communicating them one at a time. Repetition may be needed, and demonstration is often helpful.


2. Use a low-pitched voice to convey calmness and reassurance. Keep words simple and sentences short. Also keep questions to a