Boredom is an important quality-of-life issue for many senior citizens. Family caregivers must ensure that the physical, mental and emotional needs of seniors are being met. As we take care of parents at home, we must also strive to provide stimulating activities in order to prevent loved ones from sinking into a pit of depression that’s hard to climb out of.
Studies suggest that the brain’s ability to engage multisensory attention remains intact as we age (Source: Wake Forest University), so family caregivers need to be creative in coming up with activities to prevent boredom.
Aging is a process – boredom is the danger
No one likes to be bored, at any age. Senior citizens are no different. Your parents have led productive and active lives, but may suddenly find themselves ill or injured to the point where they can’t get around as well as they used to. Those individuals are at an increased risk of boredom and feelings of uselessness, which may lead to severe episodes of depression. Preventing such feelings should be a major concern of health care providers and caregivers to the elderly – as high on the list of importance as adequate medical care and supervision.
Boredom leads to multiple emotional issues, including:
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Feeling that life is no longer worth living
- Feelings of intense restlessness
- Feeling unloved or uncared about
Such issues are extremely difficult to tackle, so preventing them in the first place is the best approach to fighting the debilitating effects of boredom and depression. How can caregivers fight boredom?
Develop new interests
Family caregivers can encourage parents to develop new interests at any age. Who says you have to be in school to learn a new language or skill? Studies have shown that stimulating the mind can help exercise not only the body, but the brain as well. Learning something new at any age helps promote new neural cell growth, improves concentration and increases adequate oxygenation, creating healthier, more active cells. It even helps prevent and slow the growth of Alzheimer's and related dementia.
Caregivers of seniors at all age levels, physical ability and mental acuity can find new, stimulating activities for the elderly through a variety of brain teasers, physical movement, or social interaction.
“Older adults were also quite similar to younger adults in how much of their attention was captured involuntarily," notes a study by Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. "Even as we age, the brain’s ability to engage multisensory attention remains intact."
Mix things that your parent has always liked to do with some new things. Go to a movie or the zoo, or just go out for lunch. If your local florist is having a class on flower arranging, call to see if the physical environment in the class would support your mother's needs and take her to a class. Volunteer with your dad to read books to a small group of kindergarteners in school once a week. Go to a museum or art gallery or local festival. Be creative and have fun!
Encourage seniors to develop an attitude!
Encourage your mother to tackle that crossword puzzle. Coax your dad into taking up a new hobby. Caregivers should constantly offer new and stimulating activities to those in their care. Start a storytelling circle with Dad or learn French with Mom. The possibilities are endless.
Seniors who require home health care need your help getting involved in activities. Help them understand that they are still interested and interesting. They have something to give to others while they gain from being with others, or from being with you in a new environment and sharing new experiences.
Photo courtesy of J. Elliott