Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Telephone that Works! and Appropriate Activities Are Challenging to Find!

Here is a phone I just purchased for my parents which does seem to be working for them.
It is the Memory Phone. This is the Ameriphone P300 Amplified Photo Phone by Clarity.
It has nine buttons for photos/names. I programmed in my phone numbers (home and cell phone), as well as the phone numbers of my siblings and my Mom's siblings. She has used the "box" quite frequently (maybe too frequently??) ... but it works and she can use it.

Now, onto the activities ... First, let me say that I am not a person who gives up easily. In fact, my husband has often commented on how much akin to a terrier I am... once I grab onto something, I don't let go. (Maybe I don't literally sink my teeth into it, though ...) Anyhow, after over 4 years of searching for activities to bring fulfillment and meaning to my elderly parents' lives, I might ... I just might ... have to let go. Because the common denominator that is lacking in every instance is: ME. All of the activities need a leader ... a person who will sit there and do the project, game, sing-a-long, whatever it is WITH my parents.

I say this because ... if you think about it ... What kinds of activities can you find that an elderly person can and will do on his/her own WITHOUT having someone help? What will spark their interest? What will hold their interest? What is physically and cognitively easy enough to handle on their own without being childish and pointless?

My parents are not the typical elderly people with dementia. Their English is perfect. Their grammar is impeccable. My mother enjoys the SAT vocabulary prep programs because they are "fun!" BUT neither she nor my dad can operate the computer alone. The telephone isn't even easy to use anymore. I have invested so much money in games, activities, puzzle books, etc., and to no avail. They don't enjoy any of them without someone being there to get it all going and to keep it going. This is the biggest challenge of all because, while I visit often (almost every day), I cannot stay and play games.

I am going to list the various things I have tried; however, because maybe someone else will be interested:
You Can Do It Art
This website has everything you need to learn the art of watercolor painting at home. I purchased the instructional dvds and they are terrific. My son and I enjoy them very much; however, I never brought this over to the assisted-living center where my parents live. This is definitely something they would need help with ... help with getting all the supplies together; help with operating the television and the dvd player; help with the actual "painting" ... and last, but not least, help with cleaning everything up after the lesson.

Art Games
Art Omino -- Impressionist art game
Art Memo -- I
My parents were always very interested in art and artists. When I was a child, we visited the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., as well as many other museums ... so, when I read that matching games could help improve, restore and halt the loss of memory, well, I soon ordered these. Again, my parents definitely needed someone to set up the game, start the game and keep it going. Oh, they'd play it all right, if you were there. They never would take it out and play it with each other.

Pattern Blocks and Games
Pattern Play
Find It
Pattern games were highly recommended by the Best Products for Alzheimer's patients store. I bought both Pattern Play and Quirkle. My parents had no interest in either. Quirkle was fun, I thought, but again, it was not something my parents were going to set up and play on their own. They didn't really like it, anyhow ... it was, perhaps, a little confusing for them. The pattern blocks in Pattern Play held no interest for them whatsoever. I read about the Find It games somewhere and thought these would be great, as my Dad is in a wheel chair and sits quite a bit. These are self-contained, sealed games you could easily do alone, in a chair. Nope. Both of my parents had absolutely ZERO interest in these and asked me to take them home with me.

Balls for Tactile/Sensory Activity
Box of Balls
After reading the benefits of tactile stimulation, I just had to buy this box of balls! Of course I did! If I come and open the box and take the balls out one by one, my parents are delighted to squeeze them and feel the various textures. I have left the box open on the table, but I've never come in for a visit and seen either one of my parents actually squeezing the balls on his/her own. *sigh

Music Therapy
Elder Song
After reading many, many articles on the benefits of music therapy and how singing along to, as well as listening to music (particularly music that was popular during their youth), my sister and I invested in a couple of the Elder Song cds. They are wonderfully easy to sing along with and you can purchase the lyrics in a song book so everyone can sing along ... but, again, my parents will only do this if we are there to get them going and sit there with them, singing along. It was amazing; however, to see my Dad actually sing again ... and both of my parents recalled the lyrics without the books! Who knew!

Bath and Body Works Aromatherapy Products
After reading many articles describing the fabulous effects of aromatherapy with elderly people, particularly the scents of rosemary, peppermint and lemon, I purchased some of the roll-on fragrances and also the sticks that sit in the oil and infuse the scent into the air. Well, my parents' sense of smell has really gone away. My father can't smell anything at all. These were all a big bust and didn't have any effect whatsoever.

Liquid Motion
Color Spectrum
Another product I had read about ... the benefits of looking at random colors moving in enclosed hand-held containers. Fortunately, I only purchased this one from a local toy store, and not all the various liquid-motion toys and products that are available ... because, once again, my parents had NO interest at all in this. It's still sitting on their table, though, in the hopes that maybe they'll pick it up one day and be happily surprised. I'm not holding my breath, though.

They don't seem to like to read anymore, although they were avid readers even just a few years ago. Nothing seems to keep their attention. They can't seem to sit down and focus on anything. The caregivers will put a movie on for them in the evening, which is wonderful, but even movies don't hold their interest for long. They do enjoy the idea of the movie; however. I read from the Best Products for the Elderly that dvds of nature, like the Blue Planet ... or Winged Migration ... or the Most Beautiful Places ... would be good, so we've all purchased these for Christmas. We'll see how it goes.

My last big expenditure on the games/toys/tactile things, etc., is this: The Breezy Singers Parakeet. We did have parakeets while I was a child and I thought, maybe ... just maybe, having a little fake pet would be good! I know, I know, I really am grasping here! This little parakeet is motion activated and can be removed from its perch to sit on your finger like a real parakeet. We'll see how it goes.

I think what I really have learned from all of this is the following: If you are able to devote a lot of time to your elderly loved ones, they will flourish. You need to be there to captain the ship. Sadly, we who are in the sandwich generation with kids (even teens) that we are still rearing ... or those of us with jobs or spouses (which comprise most of us, let's face it) ... we don't have the time to spend with our parents for these activities. We spend the time we do have on picking up their prescriptions, taking them to the doctor or hospital, meeting with the staff if they live in assisted living to go over their "individual service plan," paying their bills, purchasing snacks and clothing and supplies, taking them to church, doing their laundry, etc. When is there time to play? *sigh This is a very, very sad realization. I wish I had more time for all of it. But as I stood looking over my mom's shoulder as she did the SAT vocabulary prep, I started feeling guilty that I wasn't at home helping my son study for the SAT! I started thinking, "hey, if we focused like this for an hour a day, he'd be doing great!"

Life is full of these kinds of challenges and choices and it's so difficult. That's when, again, I take a deep breath, a hot shower where I can think and then I pray some more. For awhile, I kept thinking, "As soon as the dust settles, my life will return to normal. THEN I can do this or that or whatever." Then I realized this IS my life. The DUST is life. It's not going to settle, so I'm going to have to find out how to live with it! That's the challenge. I can't do it all. I have to admit that and live with that, too. I can't feel guilty about that, either. (Which is a lot easier said than done!)