Busy Hands are Happy Hands

Published In Blog

Okay, if you’re the caregiver I know your hands are busy. Your loved one needs your help but chances are you’ve taken over everything! You feel overwhelmingly needed but how are they feeling?

My daddy is generally a pretty happy person. The only time he gets down is when he feels he can’t do the things he’d like to. At 83 he still goes to the barber shop one day a week. He got depressed when it seemed too much to stay and cut hair for six or seven hours. I said, “Daddy, just work half a day.” Once he cut back on his hours he was able to not only make it through but really enjoy catching up with old customers while making a little “milk money.”

Most of our elders have lived very productive lives. They are a generation of “doers.” Their self-worth is often tied up with what they can do. So we need to find ways for them to contribute, even if the tasks are small. If my mother wasn’t able to get out in the yard and work in the garden, she would be very unhappy. She’s learned to just work a few hours at a time and then rest in between. At times she still overdoes it, but she is learning to pace herself.

Focus on What They Can Do

Even if your loved one has limited mobility, there are still things they can do. Maybe they’re only able to fold the clothes or put away the silverware, but keeping them busy makes them feel good about themselves and it helps us caregivers also.

Watering the patio plants and sweeping the porch are great activities for seniors who are still able to do those chores. It gets them outside in the sunshine. It has them watching plants grow and hearing birds sing. It’s good for them.

Make Them Feel Included

When your mom is not really able to cook the meals or dad can’t mow the lawn anymore, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing they can do to help. Include momma in the kitchen while you prepare the meals. Maybe all she can do is set the table or fix the salad while sitting and chatting with you, but it will make her feel she’s helping and that’s a very good thing.

Your daddy might not be able to push the mower anymore, but perhaps he can sweep the sidewalks or do a little pruning. My daddy loves to putter in the yard. He tells me that sometimes he can only last a few minutes. “I keep my lawn chair handy and rest when I need to,” he says. “When I feel up to it, I go back and try to finish.”

Small Chores Are Still Important

You have to get really creative if your loved one is totally immobile. Did your mom knit or crochet in the past? Get her some yarn to make a hat for that new baby, or a scarf for your daddy. Red flags should go up in your head if your loved one is just sitting and not doing anything but watching television. Get them a good book and have them read to you while you putter around the living room. Get them their address/phone book and have them call their friends. Just don’t let them become recluses. It’s bad for their mental and physical health.

Remind them how important they are to you. Talk about all that they’ve done over their lifetime and remember to thank them for each little task they do accomplish. We all need to feel appreciated and helpful.

(This article has been reviewed in February 2024 since it originally published July 2016.)

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