Many seniors are forced to stay inside their homes during the COVID crisis, due to their increased vulnerability. Keeping seniors mentally active is an important part of caring for their mental health. As U.S. cases continue to skyrocket, so can a growing sense of loneliness, isolation, and despair in these individuals, who cannot interact with the outside world like many others are able to do. These feelings can contribute to severe depression, in which many neurologists state can increase the likelihood of dementia in older patients.
How can we as caretakers help address these difficult emotions in a helpful, constructive way?
Activities that stimulate the mind and creativity can help lift anyone’s mood and pave a path to a more positive outlook. Besides enjoying the creative process, your loved one or patient may discover a latent talent — and they’ll have the added benefits of pride in their work and a feeling of accomplishment.
Activities to Keep Seniors Mentally Engaged
Play with Adult Coloring Books
Coloring isn’t just for kids! Studies have shown that coloring can relax the mind and reduce stress. Adult coloring books feature plenty of detail, encouraging the use of varied color for fun and creativity — and of course, a stunning result! Consider framing these finished works of art and hanging them in a place your loved one or patient will see often.
Bake a cake
It’s no wonder that a baking craze has taken off during this epidemic — so much so that flour has often been hard to come by. Why? Baking is a fun way to get creative and help seniors remain mentally active — and when you’re done, you have a tasty snack to enjoy. You could say that it’s a case of having your cake and eating it too! The scent of baking bread or pastries may also take your patient or loved one back to their childhood, working in the kitchen with a parent or grandparent. Scent is a wonderful tie to memory — and reliving such pleasant family moments will likely bring happy feelings of nostalgia.
Paint a picture
If your patient or loved one seems to respond well to coloring, consider taking them to the next level. Working with color has been shown to lift the dullest of spirits. Something about seeing a brilliant swath of blue or green on the canvas moves the mind to its natural counterpart — the lush green of growing things or the deep azure of a September sky. Encourage your patient or loved one to experiment with a variety of hues to access their creativity and expand their vision. If they don’t know what to paint, offer suggestions, such as a cat or a sunflower. You can provide photos of different objects or scenes so they can try to imitate them on the canvas.
Painting doesn’t have to be limited to canvas, either. Consider painting rocks, wooden blocks, shells, or tiles. Get creative!
Make a flower arrangement
There is no doubt that flowers can make anyone’s day. Just watch someone’s face when they realize that the beautiful floral arrangement that arrived at the office is for them. Working with delicate blooms of rose, lilac, snapdragon, sweet pea, and other pretty flowers offers not just color therapy and connection to nature but also aromatherapy. If you don’t have access to real flowers, silk flowers can also be effective.
Create a scrapbook
This is an especially meaningful activity with a loved one, as you can share memories together. Get out those old boxes of photos and memorabilia and arrange the contents in an attractive and meaningful way. You can also add stickers, glitter, and other decorations to the pages for added creativity and fun. It gives your patient or loved one a chance to relive some of their happiest memories and tell stories about these special times in their life. If your patient or loved one is experiencing deep depression, however, consider holding off on this activity for another time.
Go on a picnic
Walking in public — be it on public trails, in your neighborhood, or at the beach — may be incredibly challenging right now. It seems more people than ever are out and about, and many of them are not wearing masks, despite guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People also often ignore CDC social distancing guidelines. But your patient or loved one is just like the rest of us — we all need to get outside once in a while. It’s good for the body and spirit to enjoy nature and spend a little time outdoors. Scout out an easy-to-access, secluded place with little foot traffic. You’ll want to avoid crowded locations like beaches, public parks, and other heavily used places where you are likely to come into close contact with others. Encourage your patient or loved one to help select the menu, participate in food preparation, and pack the picnic basket. And always be sure that both you and your loved one or patient wear a mask. Bring along hand sanitizer to use before you both dig in. It will surely be an outing you both will enjoy!
Host a Zoom party
This is a great idea for birthdays and other special occasions when your loved one or patient does not have the ability to see their families and friends in person. They may be amazed at how they can see everyone at once, and marvel at your magical tech skills. You can introduce creative activities into the mix, such as everyone trying to draw a horse. After the artworks are done, everyone can share and compare. Most likely, this will end up breaking into peals of laughter when these attempts are put on display. Best of all, a sense of connection to those we love is sometimes the best medicine — and your patient or loved one may see that although they are physically alone, they can still spend fun quality time with the ones they love.
As you can see, there are several ways to keep seniors mentally engaged while assuring their safety at the same time. Check back for more great ideas! We’ll be posting more as the pandemic continues.
If you find you need a bit of a break, we can help you get one. Advantage Home Care provides care for as little as 3 hours per day twice a week. Give us a call at (207) 699-2570 or send us an email at [email protected] We’re happy to help!