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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Dad loves music but can no longer operate his CD player, so playing music during our visits is a must. Sometimes it will play softly in the background while we’re chatting; at other times it’s louder and we sing along, tap our feet and so on. It triggers many good memories.


It goes without saying that technology is a real blessing at this time. If you have a tablet or smartphone, you can ask family members to send you short video clips, such as babies babbling, toddlers newly walking or older kids telling anecdotes, and play these for your relative. You can also facilitate video chats between your relative and other family members and friends. Phone calls can be arranged as well. In Dad’s case, he no longer initiates or answers phone calls, so the only opportunities for phone conversations are when someone at his end facilitates this.

SUPPORTING A LOVED ONE IN CARE DURING COVID

These are some examples of how I’ve been staying connected with my father in care and trying to maximize his quality of life during the pandemic. Here I focus on in-person visits – which in many facilities are confined to the resident’s room – and will address in next month’s column how to remotely support a loved one.


Visiting tips

For visits, I bring a newspaper and read aloud headlines and stories that might interest Dad. I also share news about family members, especially his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, even if it’s just little things. Such news is gleaned largely from social media these days.


I regularly bring recent photos from online postings or emailed by family. Often we’ll peruse a photo album together. Whenever possible, I tie in reminiscing to the current season and any special occasions in the offing, such as Valentine’s Day, which helps orient Dad to the time of year. I also decorate his room for every possible occasion. This helps make it cheerful, keeps it visually stimulating and doesn’t involve much money since the items are from dollar stores.  

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.

COVID-19 pandemic restrictions have had a major impact on seniors in care, both in terms of maintaining their connections to others and, more generally, their quality of life. Community programs they once attended have been suspended. Some residents are not allowed to leave their buildings or can only go out for medical appointments. Some have furthermore been confined to their room.


To make matters worse, visiting has been greatly restricted in care facilities, depending on the pandemic situation in the community and the residence. No- visitor policies have been common, with exceptions made if death is imminent. Currently, many facilities are allowing one or two “essential caregivers” who can’t be swapped out and are subject to a host of rules and guidelines.


In my father’s care home, currently one essential caregiver can visit under certain conditions.  Family and friends have been challenged to find new ways to support our loved ones in care, often from a distance. This involves creativity and flexibility on our part. And more than a little heartache, as we worry and wonder about a loved one we can’t be with. The concern is even greater if that person has dementia, as Dad does.


When we do connect, it can be difficult to find things to talk about, especially other than the pandemic. Since both residents and their families have had their activities and contacts with others curtailed to a significant degree, they may not have as much to share as they normally might.