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As caregivers we are so focused on health care, safety, finances and logistics that we can easily lose sight of quality of life — both for those we care for and for ourselves. Experiencing joy while caregiving isn’t always easy, but I believe it’s more than just a nice thing to do: It’s a crucial survival skill. Every moment of joy fills our tanks a bit so we can keep going. And a little bit of fun can go a long way to relieve stress, motivate, activate and connect — as well as relieve boredom.
I’ve learned to prioritize both noticing the inherent joys throughout the day as well as proactively creating joyful moments. Here are some ideas for infusing joy into your loved one’s life, as well as your own.
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Music. When I ask caregivers how they create joy and fun, music is the most common response. Play your loved one’s favorite genre of music — from 1940s swing to gospel to rock. Listen on the radio or television (watching Lawrence Welk reruns is my dad’s favorite thing to do), or set up a playlist on an MP3 player. You can use Pandora, iHeartRadio, Amazon Prime music and Sirius XM to play songs that bring peace, ease pain , energize, distract from anxiety, induce memories (such as military or patriotic music) or trigger a spontaneous sing-along.
Adventures. I approach every outing as an adventure — whether it’s to a medical appointment, shopping, dinner, a movie, a ball game or just a car ride to get out of the house. Outings are more difficult for my dad these days (he’s 93 and has Alzheimer’s disease), but we still go out for drive-through coffee and lemonade on good days. Plan ahead for the best places for parking, and recruit someone else to drive or come along to lend a helping hand and make it more fun.
Food. The taste and scent of good food as well as the act of making it can stir happy memories for all of us. Try making your loved ones’ favorite meal (or ask them to do so). Stop for a cup of coffee or tea. Bake together or watch cooking shows on television, and talk about the food you’d like to have. Savor every bite.