While engaging in a lovely chat with a friend of mine, I learned that she had recently embarked on a journey of caregiving. I wanted to give her a word of encouragement or comfort. She didn’t ask for advice, although she had said that she read my book, “Finishing Well: Finding Joy in the Journey” and had gleaned some information which she felt might be helpful and ideas that she would try to keep in mind.
My heart broke with the knowledge of what would likely be a long journey ahead of her. It is no easy task. Many of our loved ones require constant supervision and need help with everyday activities. I hoped that she would have the strength to endure in the difficult times. She mentioned that this was not something she had taken on alone – which is such a blessing as it divides the load and shares both the joy and sorrow. Since she is a believer, my friend will also be drawing on the strength and comfort that comes from the Lord.
Joy is what will be needed for this endeavor
I encouraged my friend to find as much joy as possible by finding social networks and opportunities for her loved one to laugh and smile.
Look for ways to increase the music artistic expression in their world. Sometimes it will be a challenge to go out in public due to mobility limitations or possible inappropriate behaviors.
My sister, Peggy Whitten has a great saying that I love to quote when it comes to caring for a loved one: “They can’t enter your reality, you have to enter theirs.”
Some days their reality may seem like you’ve stumbled upon a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. That’s okay. Try to discover what activities you’re loved one might enjoy doing, (although this may change over time). I would encourage you to venture out when you can. Help your loved one go to their place of worship, attend concerts, browse art galleries, feed ducks at the park, or visit a zoo.
Do whatever your loved one enjoyed prior to dementia and even add a few activities whenever possible. When it comes to food, help your loved one share a meal with others whenever possible, whether it’s at a restaurant, with a church group, or a local senior center. Dining with others may also help promote better nutrition which is crucial.
Is there something that will give your loved one a sense of purpose? My Mama enjoyed folding towels. I often would bring them to her still warm from the dryer – she would hug the pile of towels and smile large. Eventually, she would begin folding and stacking them next to her. She enjoyed it so much that I must admit there were a few times I took clean, folded towels out of the linen closet to toss them into the dryer in order to give her something to fold. She also loved sorting colored beads and picking nits off of sweaters.
Anything, no matter how silly it seems, if it helps your loved one feel as if they can still do something to contribute is a worthwhile activity. Remember, the journey can be long, use your imagination to lighten the load and find all the whimsical joy you can.