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Ways to Reduce Family Caregiver Stress and Help Seniors Enjoy Activities Outside the Home

Posted May 13, 2019

Do you want to enjoy caregiving activities and experience less stress? Preparing in advance for activities outside the home can reduce stress for both the family caregiver and the person in his or her care. Knowing what to do and where to go, ahead of time, benefits family caregivers and senior loved ones receiving care. Getting extra help from a dependable family member or caregiver provider can also reduce stress for the family caregiver. Obtaining assistance from a skilled care provider is even more critical when caring for an older adult with dementia.

Poor planning, along with an absence of dependable routines and a lack of assistance can heighten stress and anxiety in people with dementia. Well-intended but spur-of-the-moment outings can quickly cause unintended stressful consequences for family caregivers and seniors receiving care. Planning activities in advance, creating routines, and organizing a dependable caregiver support group can contribute to a more productive schedule while reducing caregiver stress and unnecessary confusion.

Take important steps before adding activities to weekly caregiving schedules

Before making choices on what type of activities outside the home to include in a senior’s weekly schedule, always get input from the person receiving care. Find out what crafts, hobbies, or outdoor activities are a senior’s favorite. Ask about childhood hobbies and life experiences to narrow down a list of favorite programs or activities to include in daily or weekly schedules. Find out which sports, hobbies, and activities they have taken part in that still pique their interest.

Consider the following:

  • When selecting events and programs to include in a caregiving activity schedule, add events and programs that boost social interaction, physical activity, and mental stimulation.

  • Check with a physician before starting exercise programs or taking part in group activities at the local gym. If senior loved ones want to start a daily walking routine, encourage them to obtain a fall risk assessment from their physician first. Also, ask a physician or a licensed occupational therapist to assist in identifying appropriate activities for senior loved ones.

  • Organize a support group with dependable caregivers and family members that can provide continuity to weekly schedules and routines. If a family caregiver is unable to accompany a senior loved one to a scheduled program, support group members can step in and provide home care assistance and transportation for the person needing companionship and care.

Add activities that offer multiple benefits and help boost social interaction

  • Joining a choir increases social interaction, provides a sense of belonging, and enhances emotional wellbeing.

  • Attending craft or art education classes can foster social interaction, increase artistic expression, and stimulate the mind.

  • How about sports? Would family loved ones enjoy taking golf or tennis lessons? Group exercise activities not only increase physical activity and social interaction but also stimulate the mind when participants are actively engaged in learning new and challenging activities.

•    Love being outdoors? How about taking senior loved ones to a Florida u-pick blueberry farm during Florida blueberry season. This type of outing can be a fun outdoor activity for seniors and family caregivers, especially for those who live alone and do not have a garden. Gather friends and family members to make this a fun seasonal outing. Check the Florida Blueberry Growers Association website for more information and current listings of u-pick blueberry farms. If you miss this year’s blueberry-picking season, you can always plan ahead for next seasonal events.

Make alternative plans to help provide continuity and reduce stress

Well-planned projects can sometimes fall short, so it is essential to prepare ahead of time for unexpected cancellations due to road closures, weather conditions, or issues with a venue. Having alternative plans in place enhances continuity and lowers stress levels when sudden changes do occur. Planning and preparing for the unexpected allows the family caregiver to concentrate on more immediate needs.

Check out these helpful tips:

•    If a scheduled trip is canceled due to a traffic mishap or last-minute venue cancellations, plan for an alternative visit to a favorite neighborhood park, a nearby cinema or museum.

•    Always have a well-supplied home-activity box ready to use should planned outings are canceled due to weather conditions. Include favorite crafts, games, puzzles, art supplies, a portable radio, and a battery-operated lamp. Provide seniors with ways they can access their favorite music. Keep extra batteries on hand, should anyone have to use battery operated equipment. You can also save favorite tunes and songs to smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices. Make sure electronic devices are fully charged. Include mobile charging equipment in the home-activity box, along with extra headsets, earphones, or earbuds. If possible, download a music app to your mobile device. Before downloading a selected musical application, always check and verify reliable reviews, privacy information, and hidden costs.

•    When creating a written schedule, also include older adult’s favorite substitute activities. Inform care providers, and support group team members of all substitute plans and activities.

Give everyone enough time to enjoy out-of-the-home activities safely

Allow everyone enough time to get ready, reach their destination, enjoy their outing, and return home safely without having to hurry. Rushing to get things done at the last minute can cause unnecessary confusion and anxiety. Being in a hurry can affect everyone’s ability to focus and can impact senior safety, especially when caring for persons with dementia or older adults who use assistive devices and who are at risk of falls. Provide extra time for bathroom breaks and meals. Also, before heading out, always notify family and friends of planned activities, locations, and scheduled times.

We hope the information we have provided helps you plan and enjoy some wonderful out-of-the-home activities with senior loved ones.

Should you need assistance in caring for senior loved ones and would like to make sure they take part in those much-needed outings and weekly activities, contact Senior Helpers Orlando. Call us at (407) 628-4357 or at (407) 915-0862. Senior Helpers Orlando provides home health care services and Alzheimer's care in the counties of Orange, Osceola and Seminole.

Ana P. DeLane
Senior Helpers Team Member

 

References and resources

Falls Prevention; Productive Aging; The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA); retrieved May 3, 2019, from https://www.aota.org/Practice/Productive-Aging/Falls.aspx

Stewart, N. A. J., & Lonsdale, A. J. (2016). It’s better together: The psychological benefits of singing in a choir. Psychology of Music, 44(6), 1240–1254. https://doi.org/10.1177/0305735615624976

Florida U-Pick Blueberry Farms; Florida Blueberry Growers Association; retrieved May 3, 2019, from http://blueberriesfromflorida.com/florida-u-pick-blueberry-farms/

Florida Blueberry Growers Association; lhttp://blueberriesfromflorida.com/