Seniors require regular physical and mental stimulation to maintain their health and delay the progression of cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
It may be easy to let seniors sit in front of a TV watching shows for hours at a stretch. But this may cause depression and increased cognitive decline. Caregivers must make sure that their clients are getting proper mental and physical stimulation by incorporating activities and games which the seniors like in their daily care routines. These activities can help improve the bond between the caregivers and their clients and overcome barriers in the caregiver-client relationship by facilitating dialogue, trust and mutual respect and promoting mental well-being.
But sometimes, finding fun, therapeutic, and engaging activities with a senior can be a bit of a challenge. Below, we share examples of some activities for seniors which can not only engage them mentally but also help strengthen the bonds between them and their caregivers
Low-impact exercise can be tremendously beneficial for older adults. Exercise can help seniors maintain their strength, balance, flexibility and improve mental agility. Exercising lowers the risk of insomnia, depression and increases stamina and energy. Moreover, it is a mutually beneficial bonding activity if the caregivers join their clients in exercising.
Some examples of low impact/fun exercises which the caregivers can do with their clients include :
- Strength Training
- Water-based exercises such as water aerobics.
- Bonding over Pets
2. Bonding over Pets
Sometimes, a senior may not have close family or friends, or they may live far away and cannot visit often. Many such seniors may own pets for company.
Pets can reduce depression and anxiety and improve seniors’ self-worth. Caregivers can bond with these seniors by caring for the pets together. For example, they can help with feeding, walking, or taking a pet to the vet.
Most caregiving agencies include any duties expected around pet care in the care plan for the clients and also make sure that they match caregivers who are comfortable with pet care with these clients.
3. Music Therapy
Music is called the food for the soul and for good reason. When a person listens to music, the cognitive brain functions are activated. It reduces blood pressure and stress while elevating happiness levels. For seniors, listening to music is not only relaxing but also nostalgic as it can bring back good memories. A song or melody may have a special memory attached to it, such as their wedding or family activity in the past. That is why for dementia patients, specialists may use music therapy to rekindle old memories.
Listening to music or watching music performances at events or on tv together can be a great bonding activity for seniors and their caregivers. Before starting a placement, a caregiver should make sure that the care plan includes the types of songs and music their client listens to so they can make sure that they include playing that in the daily caregiving routine.
4. Art Therapy
Art Therapy is another technique often used by specialists for dementia patients. It is an alternative form of communication that is fun and promotes visual and sensory expression. It can be calming, help manage behaviour, improve dexterity, and reduce depression and pain.
Joint art activities can create great opportunities for bonding between seniors and their caregivers. They are straightforward, and there are multiple ways to incorporate art therapy in senior care. They can include painting, drawing, sketching, sculpting, knitting, weaving and building scrapbooks together with your clients.
Caregivers should try to understand the type of art activities their clients like most at the beginning of their placement so they can incorporate them into the daily routines with their clients.
5. Brain-stimulation Games
Brain stimulating games can reduce anxiety, aid in memory retention and improve concentration. They are also a great way for caregivers and their clients to pass time, especially during the long Canadian winters when both the caregivers and their clients may be confined to the indoors for extended periods. There are dozens of brain-stimulating games that caregivers can choose to play with their senior clients including chess, crosswords, jigsaw puzzles, scrabble, cards and trivial pursuit.
Some seniors may even like electronic games. There are a number of great senior-friendly games that caregivers can play with seniors on Nintendo, Playstation or Xbox consoles.
6. Cooking and Baking
Many seniors love to spend time in the kitchen cooking and baking. As cooking involves measuring, mixing and stimulating smell and taste, it can help seniors improve their cognitive skills.
It is possible that your client cannot complete the steps in cooking or baking themselves due to physical limitations. However, you can help maintain their independence by assisting them whenever they need help, such as reaching out for utensils, chopping vegetables, etc.
Great conversations can be had while cooking together which can improve the senior-caregiver bond. Moreover, cooking, smelling and eating their favourite food can bring back memories or transport seniors to their younger days and relive great memories.
Many caregivers make a note of their clients’ favourite recipes, keep them at a handy place and make sure that they find opportunities to use them on a regular basis.
7. Outdoor Adventures
Depending on the weather, going outdoors to a park or a lake can be a great way to refresh the client and yourself and strengthen your bond.
You and the client can walk around and get fresh air in different surroundings. It can be a welcome break from your daily routine. You can visit a botanical garden, go birdwatching, feed the ducks at a pond and even have a picnic together.
Joint activities such as exercise, games, cooking, listening to music or art projects can help nurture the client and caregiver relationship and strengthen their bond. They help develop trust and friendship, which are vital for caring for a client. Once a client trusts a caregiver, they will allow a caregiver to enter their personal space and are more likely to accept care.
ConsidraCare encourages its approved caregivers to understand their clients’ interests and hobbies and try many of the bonding activities listed above with the clients as they can lead to improved relationships and better delivery of care.