In my last post I talked about board games, card games and various types of puzzles that will keep your loved one busy during the cold winter months. I also mentioned that we play a lot of Wii bowling too. To see more about these activities check out Part 1 here.
Now lets talk about crafts, cooking and other activities that involve leaving the house.
Crafts for the Non-Crafty
I don’t think my MIL likes crafts very much. I’ve been told that she used to crochet and cross stitch when she was younger however I’ve never seen her do anything crafty or even seem interested in it since I’ve known her. Until we brought out the Rainbow Loom. One day Max and I were making bracelets with his Rainbow Loom and she wanted to try it. She was very proud of herself and would wear the bracelets all the time. So here are some other crafts I thought she’d be enjoyin based on the Rainbow Loom experience.
String beads to make necklaces
Amazon.com has some nice children’s beads but I think my MIL would also like to make some real jewelry. I know Michaels has some cool jewelry crafts. You can buy crystals and other pretty beads, clasps and strings to make a adult necklace or bracelet. But I have to tell you, jewelry is not my forte so this will be a serious project for me. When the time comes, I think I’ll head on over to Michaels or order one of these Jewelry Classes in a Box kits from Amazon. In the meantime I will probably settle for the children’s beads. I also saw this children’s rosary beads kit on Amazon and thought she might like that too.
As I mentioned before, my MIL really enjoyed using the Rainbow Loom when my son Max was into it. I remember the summer well. Max and his friends were all into buying as many color rubber bands they could but they were hard to find. Stores would sell out the same day the bands came in. Unfortunately that fad only lasted a month or so for Max, but fortunately my MIL (and secretly me) enjoy the loom and will use it all winter. We still have a million of the rubber bands to play around with and it’s pretty simple to use. We made the Fishtail bracelet that only uses two pegs and seemed to be the simplest one to make. Here is a video explaining how to make it. This project requires me to work with her step by step at the beginning but it’s repetitive so she gets it as time goes on. And she gets to wear the fruits of her labor!
My friend Lisa makes the most beautiful crocheted hats, scarves, blankets, you name it. Really, she is extremely talented. She also has the kindest spirit, so I know if I asked her to come over and give us a lesson on how to crochet, she would do so gladly. I don’t know how to crochet so I would be learning right along with my MIL but that might be fun for both of us. This is a project that doesn’t need to have a final result. I think the repetitive steps might be soothing at night while she watches tv. We can say we are making a big blanket or just a small wash cloth and I think it will be ok with her.
Cooking & Baking
My MIL had always cooked well until these last couple years. She really can’t make anything on her own and struggles even if someone helps her. However there have been times when she seemed excited to make a recipe and when I helped her she would be so proud of what she created. So I think I will make dinner with her once a week. It takes some preparation and hands on time but if I can get my FIL to tell me what he wants to eat (not always an easy task) I think this will boost her confidence and she will be proud. Not to mention they will be getting a good, nourishing meal.
On a similar note, baking is also a easy project to try. While neither of my in laws should be eating sweets (nor me for that matter) it is something they enjoy. A boxed cake, brownies or something along those lines is very easy to make and takes less time than a meal. It’s probably not a good idea to do this often if your loved ones have health issues but it is an activity that they will probably enjoy doing and of course sampling the final results.
Ideas for cooking/baking
- Try to make recipes that they used to make in the past. Food can be very nostalgic and they might be able to remember parts of the recipes. My MIL is known for her raviolis and pizzelles so my sister in law makes those with her often.
- Also try to make recipes that they enjoy. Their taste in food may have changed over the years or perhaps they have lost a bit of their sense of taste so try to think of dishes they would really enjoy.
- Don’t make anything too complicated or involves long periods of time. If it involves over night soaking or a few hours refrigeration before finishing a recipe, you might drive them and yourself crazy. My MIL doesn’t have a sense of time anymore so once, when we made a cheesecake that needed to be refrigerated before finishing, she got very confused. It’s best to keep your loved one occupied with something else if you have to let it cook, bake or refrigerate for a period of time before it’s finished.
Other Activities to Try
The following activities involve leaving the house. These might be good ideas in the fall or even milder winter days. As I mentioned before my MIL does not like the cold so I don’t know how many we will be able to do when the weather gets really bad.
Go Out For Coffee With Neighbors, Friends or Family
My neighbor Mary Jo is a wonderful, friendly person. She has an abundance of patience and kindness. There is a nice little place in a town near us that is known for making the most delicious doughnuts. They have a variety of coffees to go with them and they also serve breakfast. I think it would be a great place to take my MIL someday with Mary Jo either for breakfast or an afternoon coffee break. When my MIL was a young mother, she used to have her neighbor friends over for a cup of coffee and they would sit there drinking coffee and talking. I think it would be reminiscent of those times and she would enjoy it.
Most days when my MIL wakes up she asks me if we are going to church. Everyday is a Sunday to her. I think it’s something that is important to her and she worries that she will be missing it. At our church (we are Catholic) they have daily mass which is very short and might be something that she will enjoy. They also have bingo Wednesday afternoons and novenas on Wednesday nights. As with most churches there are always dinners, bake sales and other events going on so it is a good way to get involved with your church and be in a friendly atmosphere that your loved one might enjoy.
We have a Senior Center just 7 minutes from out house. My MIL joined last year but she didn’t seem too interested in participating in anything. In her defense, last summer she had breast cancer treatment everyday and it really confused her. She seems much better this year so we might give it a try. It’s only $10 to join for one year and they have discounted lunches and a variety of activities. The only caveat here is that my MIL would not be able to go alone and I’m not old enough to attend. So this is something my FIL would have to do with her and I’m not sure if it’s his thing. But it’s a good resource to have so check out your local Senior Center for some good ideas of things to do.
Get a Manicure or Pedicure
There have been times when my MIL is interested in doing her nails. She doesn’t take the best care of them now that her dementia is more pronounced so I thought a manicure would be a fun girl’s day out. Normally I am not a manicure type of person. I can’t be bothered to sit there and pay someone to paint my nails. It’s just not my thing. And truthfully my MIL would never pay someone to paint her nails either…she is very frugal. However if I tell her I have a gift certificate she might be up for it. She is so friendly, she would enjoy being out and talking to other women.
Everyday Chores & Activities
My MIL likes to fold clothes and she does a bang up job at it! Much better than myself. Chores that help your loved one feel useful are always a good thing. Though sometimes it’s more work for you to have them help. Last summer when my MIL wanted to help with something, I would give her my laundry to fold. I remembered her telling me that she used to do that with her MIL (who also had dementia) to make her feel useful. The only problem was that my laundry would be in little stacks all around the house. And once I found two pairs of brand new pants for Max in her clothes drawer months after the season past for him to wear them. So now I know that I have to sit there with her and keep track of what she’s doing. But she likes it and I don’t have to do it so it’s a win win situation.
Other chores that they could help you with are changing beds, sweeping, doing dishes, raking leaves. It all depends on their health and your patience level. My MIL is always asking to help out because she’s a very active person. You have to think about what kind of personality your loved one has and how they can help out, if they want to that is.
Go Through Photo Albums
I think everyone likes to look at old photo albums and reminisce. If they have old pictures you can put them in albums together or just go through their old albums with them. Sometimes it sparks good memories that they can talk to you about. Even if they don’t know everyone in the photos, they might want to try to remember (similar to my photo memory cards project) so it’s a nice activity for both you and them.
Make a YouTube Channel and Other Social Media
You can make a YouTube Channel that is private and keep family videos there. You can also ask family members who live far away or that have videos of their kids that they want to share to upload them to your channel. My MIL loves children and she gets a kick out of see the little ones walking and talking. Even if she doesn’t know who they are, she enjoys watching them.
You could also set up a family page in Facebook where other family members send messages and share pictures and videos. You can then check in everyday to see what others in your family are doing. Many times we have just scrolled through my Facebook page and clicked on pictures of people she knew. She of course especially loves the pictures of her great grandchildren. (I do too!)
Take Care of Plants or Pets
We do not currently have any pets as Max and I are allergic to quite a few things and we travel often. However we are thinking of getting a dog. My MIL always had a dog when her kids were growing up. So I think when we get one in the spring, she might like walking it and playing with it or maybe it will just keep her company. I’m not sure. I will let you know how that goes in the spring.
In the summer we have a nice vegetable garden and everyday my MIL enjoyed checking out the tomato plants. I would like to get some house plants this winter and see if she would like to take care of them and watch them grow. So on those days when she wants something to do, we can go check out her plants and see if they need watering or talk about their growth. Both pets and plants need love and nurturing and that is just up her alley.
That is all I have for you today. I will be sure to write another post and let you know how some of these ideas worked out and add any more I can think of. If you have some ideas you’d like to share, I’d love to hear about it. And one more thing to remember, as a caregiver it’s important to take care of yourself. I have a lot of help in my home but most people don’t so make sure to take care of yourself.