Summer is a time when it’s generally easier for elders to be out and about than when snow and ice are an issue. Even if our loved ones havedementia, severe arthritis, lung issues or a combination of ailments, there are things we, their caregivers, can do to relieve a sense of being left out of life that can affect people in their situation.
Think about the personality of your ailing elders and consider excursions or entertainment that they may enjoy. A short outing of some type can leave a lasting memory, or it can simply mean that there were some enjoyable moments, but either way you’ve done something positive for them. Remember to take into account the fact that heat can be dangerous to elders, so prepare for outside activities by educating yourself about how to keep elders safe in the heat.
What would they enjoy? Here are some suggestions:
1. Drive through a park or anywhere that there are pleasant blooming gardens. We have a private college and two universities in our community and the all have gorgeous grounds during the spring and summer. I’ve taken my elders on many drives through the campuses.
2. Take a drive along familiar roads outside of town. If your parents have a farm background, drive out in the country to check on the crops. If you’re with a city person, drive around areas of town that the person may remember most. Point out changes if they can comprehend what has happened, or look for areas that haven’t seen much change if that’s a better fit.
3. Have a picnic. This can happen anywhere, even if the person lives in a facility and all you can manage is pizza or takeout food served in the back garden.
4. Go fishing if your elder is still healthy enough to sit on a dock. An old fisherman would love just holding the line even if someone has to supervise and help him bait the hook.
5. If you have a community zoo that isn’t overwhelming in size try that. As an alternative, a pet shelter can give a pet lover a chance to watch kittens and puppies at play.
6. Stop at a playground and watch children have fun. This could be incorporated into the drive through a park or it can be a separate outing. Many school playgrounds attract children during the summer as do day care centers.
7. Stop at a Dairy Queen or some find another outdoor treat. My mother particularly loved a sundae so we’d stop at Dairy Queen when we were out in the summer. At times, I’d even run over to get Mom and Dad sundaes and bring them back to the nursing home.
8. Take them to visit an old friend who rarely gets out. This can be tricky because sometimes it’s depressing for ailing elders to visit friends with even worse health conditions. However, if your loved ones have friends who have been close and are fairly healthy take all of them out for a picnic or just make a quick, pre-arranged visit.
Be careful not to overdo anything. Just because it took hours to get them ready to go and you finally have them in the car doesn’t mean that the outing should be long. Most elders, especially those with ill health, tire easily. Be sensitive to how they are feeling and ask from time to time if they have had enough or they want to stop and rest. Your effort to help brighten their day could have a big payoff or simply be a diversion. It doesn’t matter as long as they enjoyed the break to some degree.
Carol is a newspaper columnist and the author of Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories. She runs award winning websites at _ www.mindingourelders.com and_www.mindingoureldersblogs.com. On Twitter, f_ollow Carol @mindingourelder and on Facebook:_ Minding Our Elders
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Carol Bradley Bursack is a veteran family caregiver who spent more than two decades caring for a total of seven elders. She is a newspaper columnist and the author of Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories. Bradley Bursack is also a contributor to several books on caregiving and dementia, and is passionate about preserving the dignity of elders. Her website is www.mindingourelders.com. Follow Carol on Twitter @mindingourelder and on Facebook at Minding Our Elders.