10 Things to Know About Activities With an Older Family Member

If you’re a caregiver,

you’ve probably already figured out some great ideas that work with your older family member or friend when it comes to many aspects of caregiving. Having tips for activities is no different.


Here are some simple things to know that may help to make activities less stressful and more successful.

  1. Doing activities is sometimes trial and error. If an activity doesn’t work, don’t get discouraged, just do something else. Be flexible.
  2. Engage someone in an activity in a variety of ways. Talking, laughing, using our various senses, etc… are all ways to engage someone. For example, if someone is visually impaired, describe things to them and use activities that focus on hearing, such as music. If someone loses focus, hold a hand or touch a shoulder to reengage them.
  3. Keep distractions to a minimum if possible. If you’re trying to have a conversation, turn off the TV.
  4. Make someone feel safe and comfortable in whatever environment you choose to have an activity. Be reassuring, if needed.
  5. Be sure your loved one has hearing aids, glasses, wheelchair, walker, or other assistive devices as needed. Having the assistance we need can make a world of difference.
  6. Make sure their physical needs are met. Being hungry, thirsty, or having to use the restroom makes us lose focus.
  7. Be light hearted. Laugh, sing, talk, have fun. In the end, it’s not really about the activity, it’s how it makes someone feel.
  8. Be open to any activity they enjoy. Try a variety of activities, but don’t overlook the little things that bring joy like reading the newspaper, soaking up the sun outdoors, bird watching, watching a favorite TV show, listening to a radio program, or reminiscing.
  9. When planning an activity for the day focus on their strengths. What do they do best? What physical, cognitive, creative, social, spiritual activities can they do?
  10. And if your older family member does enjoy something that is now more difficult for him to do how can you adapt it for him? For example, if he has a shorter attention span, shorten the activity; if he enjoys gardening, but can’t walk, garden from a seated position with pots; if she enjoys cooking, but can’t do many tasks, give her simple ones, like rolling out dough, stirring, or pinching herbs from a plant for a dish you are making.

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