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Mon Nov 25, 2013, 04:33 PM

Keeping seniors engaged in life

My Mom is 92 and still pretty sharp mentally and active physically. But since Dad passed away in August she is not as engaged or active as she was. It sort of started when Dad was very ill last spring. Until then, they worked two crossword puzzles and several word games every day. After Dad's illness, he was not as able and Mom was not as interested in doing the puzzles by herself.

Now that Dad is gone, Mom is not reading - she used to read books after the puzzles were finished. While she says she is going to read, it seems that she no longer has the attention span or the ability to concentrate on reading.

She used to do needlework and quilting but her hands are now too arthritic for that kind of work. She spent years editing a local historical newsletter but she's turned that over to others and is no longer active in that group on a daily basis. She also no longer is interested in genealogical research, though she did that for decades.

My sister and I are trying to figure out what we can do to keep Mom engaged and mentally active. While we visit as often as possible, most of the time Mom is alone with caretakers. They are nice people but Mom does not enjoy their company and complains if they hang around her too much. We've tried for years to get her to write her remembrances about her life, the tales she has about growing up in rural Alabama during the Depression, about her time as a Navy Nurse. But typing is hard for her with her arthritis and she won't record her memories when she is alone or just with the caretakers.

When we visit, we talk with her about her memories, photos that she has, family, etc. but that only engages her while one of the family is there to encourage her.

We're worried that her mild forgetfulness will progress and worsen if we can't keep her mentally active.

Does anyone have suggestions on what kinds of activities we might be able to encourage her to do when she is basically on her own?

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Response to csziggy (Original post)

Mon Nov 25, 2013, 04:46 PM

1. Maybe not practical but

it seems that she, and many others similarly situated, would benefit from living AMONG others with whom she could develop common interests and friendships.

Dad was in an assisted living facility (after my mother passed, and he moved from Florida to Iowa to be near my brother.) He was losing his hearing and eyesight, very sad to us, but he did well making new friends, and enjoying music with them to the extent he could. He passed at 98.

Best wishes.

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Response to elleng (Reply #1)

Mon Nov 25, 2013, 05:11 PM

2. We've talked with her about going into assisted living

But she is a very private person and hates being around people all the time. We also are afraid that removing her from her familiar surroundings would be bad for her mental state. She has her routine - gets up, fixes her own breakfast, walks around her yard (she has an amazing green thumb and a greenhouse full of flowers), reads two papers, and is pretty active in the mornings. Afternoon and evenings are the problem. She takes a nap after lunch, then seems at loose ends after that.

Right now she has 24 hour caretakers - they clean and cook and make sure she takes her meds on time and is OK. She's fallen a few times and we have to make sure there is someone there if she has a worse fall and is hurt. She also is not allowed to drive anymore and the caretakers can take her shopping or for doctor's appointments if one of us is not available.

Frankly, I do think she might be better off in a facility because most have activities to keep the residents involved. But I don't think we will be able to convince her until she is too far gone to be safe at home.


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Response to csziggy (Reply #2)

Wed Nov 27, 2013, 01:27 PM

6. Maybe as an alternative to Assisted Living

would be a Senior Center in the area.

She wouldn't have to go everyday, but once or twice a week would allow her some interaction with others, be able to participate in various activities, etc.

Many centers offer transportation services or check with her county office on aging. There is more than likely a shared ride program that would transport her to and from at minimal cost.

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Response to csziggy (Original post)

Mon Nov 25, 2013, 05:46 PM

3. Get her a tape recorder and let her tell the story of her family and life.

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Response to sinkingfeeling (Reply #3)

Mon Nov 25, 2013, 05:59 PM

4. We've tried that - she just won't "talk to herself"

She'll open up if one of us is there and we are trying to record as much as possible, but she won't do it on her own. I've been trying to get her write stuff for decades, but she wouldn't even when she could type on the computer.

It was the same with our Dad, though he didn't share some stories with his daughters, ever. After he passed, I went through the documents on his computer and found numerous letters he had written to others with stories of his life that he never told us.

I have a video camera at Mom's house to record stuff, but I will get a digital voice recorder to take down this week. The video camera is more intimidating and I can switch on the voice recorder and be less intrusive.

But none of that gets to something she can do on her own to keep active. I tried sending her drafts of notes I made from what I remember her telling me, but she never got around reviewing them or making corrections and additions.

She may just be ready to let go, now that Dad is gone. Maybe we need to see if we can get a counselor to come in and talk with her?

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Response to csziggy (Original post)

Wed Nov 27, 2013, 05:05 AM

5. I'm thinking you are trying to have her match your needs, not hers.

She loves gardening! Don't move that lady into an institution, please. Maybe instead of writing her life story she would rather write a gardening tips column for the local paper, or join the local garden club...or start one. Do her caregivers enable her gardening? I'm sure it would be more enjoyable for her if someone would help move a heavy pot, or do the bending to pull a weed. Would she like more house plants, small ones like violets she could fuss with when her energy wanes at the end of the day?

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Response to alfie (Reply #5)

Fri Nov 29, 2013, 09:26 PM

7. She IS very happy with her garden - that's why I don't want to move her

My brother in law visits and helps with the garden and my sister helps somet. A few years back the family finally finished the greenhouse Dad was never able to complete and she has a place for her orchids.

She never got along with the garden club ladies - she thinks they don't know enough about their plants, LOL. She did 30 years of editing a newsletter and is not interested in writing or anything to do with publishing.

When I visit, I walk around the yard with her and help pick up fallen limbs and moss, but this visit I can't help much since my arm is in a brace.

The biggest problem is when we aren't there. Her caretakers are not interested in much at all and not in any of the subjects she's into. They don't read much and are just not intellectually stimulating.

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