Going beyond personal care

Taking a break to do something fun can be vital for caregivers and care partners.


Time is fleeting — and it seems to fly by even faster for caregivers. In the midst of helping care for another person, it can feel as though there’s little time or energy for much else.

Some caregiving responsibilities may involve running to appointments and tackling errands, but most of the care provided takes place at home. Caregivers must navigate daily responsibilities such as assisting with dressing, meals and grooming.

As part of this routine, it’s easy to get caught up in a checklist of tasks.

And yet, it’s important that caregiver/care partner interactions go beyond providing basic physical care. That’s because in many situations, they’re each other’s main source of socialization.

Taking a break for a fun or engaging activity can help caregivers as much as it helps care partners, and there are many activities that can take place at home:

Play a personalized music playlist: Listening to music is relaxing for people of any age and can spark reminiscing and discussion. It’s also good for cognitive health and overall quality of life for older adults. Studies indicate that music can help soothe agitation and anxiety, increase socialization/engagement with others and increase cooperation and attention.

When creating a playlist, it’s best to make sure it includes a selection of favorite songs from over the course of a person’s lifespan. Free music sites such as Spotify and Pandora allow users to listen to music and create playlists and customized radio stations for free.

Try fun and games: Playing card games and putting together puzzles can be engag-ing and fun activities for caregivers and their loved ones. If you’re considering puzzles for people with memory loss, start with options that have no more than 50 pieces.

Tackle small tasks: Familiar activities often bring comfort to those who do them. Caregivers can invite their care partners to help them with tasks such as folding warm laundry, clipping coupons, sorting nuts and bolts in a toolbox or sanding a piece of wood. Even if a task isn’t necessary, it’s participating in the activity that counts and that helps care partners feel a sense of accomplishment. The goal for any activity is for it to be done with dignity — and not feel like a child’s activity.

Invite visitors: Asking a close friend or family member to bring over lunch and spend one-on-one time with a care partner — especially someone with memory loss — can provide engaging socialization that’s important in preventing and combating isolation.

Take a virtual trip: Sites like YouTube allow older adults and their caregivers to seek out customized content, including virtual tours of faraway places, free documentaries and even performances of favorite songs, skits and more.

Memory Minders: These kits for caregivers — offered through the Ramsey County library system — come in three activity levels and can be checked out from the Roseville and Shoreview library locations. See tinyurl.com/memory-kits.

Lisa Brown is a licensed social worker with 2nd Half with Lyngblomsten, a network of life-enrichment centers supporting older adults in the Twin Cities and a member of the Metropolitan Caregiver Service Collaborative.