Every so often we all experience situations and events that may make us feel unsettled. For an elder, a stressful situation may be worrying about paying for food and medicine, sad about not seeing family, misunderstandings, or any number of other circumstances. There can be stress that a caregiver may not even know about.
Helping an elder to decrease their stress level …
is important. Adding daily comfort activities may lead to contentment, relaxation, decreased agitation, and overall well-being.
Comfort activities for elders are different for each person. One may relax with a cup of tea, while another might enjoy a form of exercise. You may need to try different comfort methods until you find the right one for your elder.
Keep in mind that you may try these comfort methods or activities for those elders with dementia as well, who may become agitated or frustrated at times. **
Here are some comfort methods or activities to try to soothe an elder.
Pets and pet therapy
- Bring a pet to visit with an elder. Petting a dog, cat, or other animal; brushing their fur; feeding an animal; walking an animal are all beneficial things an elder can participate in. Even an elder who is in bed much of the time can visit with an animal on or by their bedside. Read more about the benefits of pets and their therapeutic value.
- The foods that we love most seem to bring comfort. Maybe it is a food mom used to make, or maybe it is something warm like soup or a casserole. Find what foods comfort your elder and offer those from time to time or regularly.
- Snacks throughout the day and as part of a routine not only helps to fend off hunger, but also eating a snack helps us to slow down and have a quiet moment while we eat.
Exercise and Movement
- Relaxing through exercise and movement can come in many forms. Pick the one that is right for your elder. Is it walking, tossing a ball back and forth, squeezing stress balls, working in the garden, sweeping, chair exercises, simple yoga, tai chi, or something else? Try several to see what works. Read more here about physical activities.
- Elders may not receive as many physical interactions as they once did. Hugs, holding hands, gentle massage to hands and arms with warm lotion, brushing hair, may all be things that can bring comfort. Do consider, however, that there are folks who do not like to be touched.
- Being out in nature can be a calming experience for some who enjoy it. Sitting outdoors or taking a walk can be beneficial and provide a distraction from a stressful situation. You may wish to schedule this as part of a daily routine.
- A hot cup of herbal tea like chamomile or your elders favorite decaffeinated tea, or other warm beverage might help to take a break and bring warmth and relaxation. Just watch the caffeine hidden in some beverages. Here’s a recipe for warm apple cider.
- Reading short stories like inspirational stories from Chicken Soup for the Soul, passages from the bible, short poems or even sitting down to look at pictures from a book can get our mind on other things.
- Some folks like holding on to things for comfort. Soft things like stuffed animals, dolls, blankets, quilts, and pillows may soothe some elders.
Caring for something
- Having to care for something like plants, an animal, a doll, or other thing might be a need for some elders which might bring about comfort.
- Easy games like card games, checkers, hangman, might keep our minds busy as long as it doesn’t become too difficult or upsetting. Brain games may be right for some elders because they keep the mind busy with things other than stress.
- Some people may love sitting in the peace and quiet and will value sitting in front of a window or sitting outdoors. If this is something your elder would love, schedule this as part of their day. Some professionals may consider this as sitting idle, but some folks relish this as a peaceful moment.
- Some of the most relaxing environments are the ones we find familiar. Those places that we find our own things and the things that we love. Surround your elder with familiar decor and furnishings where he is most comfortable. Outdoors you may provide surroundings and plants that they are familiar with as well. See this post on what every nursing home resident’s room should have. Many of these ideas work for other places or rooms that a loved one spends time in.
- Music can get us moving but music can also calm us. What kind of music calms your loved one? Do you have a playlist that you have put together for stressful times? Try out various kinds of music to see what may bring a sense of calm.
- Having a conversation may work with some elders who may be stressed about a particular situation. If there has been a misunderstanding or a situation that unfolded that they are confused about, taking the time to explain it may be helpful and provide some insight. Talking things through and lightening the mood might just work.
**When someone is agitated first consider that their basic needs are met. Are they hungry, thirsty, need to use the restroom, clothes fit comfortably, room is well-lit, cold or hot, etc.? They may not be able to communicate these basic needs so caregivers often times must anticipate needs. If you find that your loved one is sundowning (confusion, agitation, and anxiousness in the late day or evening), first find out what may be triggering it. You may wish to make a plan to use comfort activities each day. Try to schedule in certain activities that you know works. Experiment with what works best for him.