Dementia on the go, go, GO!
Updated: Dec 10, 2020
Or... I wish to gawd she'd nap.
Our mother can't abide sitting still. No relaxing naps, no kicking-back and Netflix bingeing, no putting one's feet up in front of the big bay window and spying on neighbors. This is especially debilitating to my sister and I when hangovers come into play (wine nights on the patio after Mom goes to bed are essential to my sanity). And yet, 'ya still gotta get up in the morning and get her, and yourself, moving.
And the Oscar for keeping her Most Busy goes to...
Well, a lot of things, actually. Around the beginning of the month, I start looking for free or inexpensive activities to start filling Mom's calendar with. Music events are always good. Anything to do with children is a bonus (What is it with old people and kids?- Sheesh! She didn't like us that much when we we're growing up!) And any beginning to moderate physical activities that she may feel comfortable with. And the best places I've found to check:
Community Centers: These little gems are a wealth of senior living activities and information. We utilize Pioneer Community Center in Oregon City most often for Walk Club, and senior day trips (usually just $5 - $15 dollars and you buy your own lunch). For myself, I try to attend informative seminars, like the Medicare one this winter which gave me a much clearer understanding of how Mom's Medicare works. The Milwaukie Center is also a biggie for us; Mom attends A Place At The Center - Group Respite on Wednesday afternoons giving my sister and I a few hours to take care of our own lives.
Community Newspapers: While print is dying for everybody else, it's become a lifeline for me, mostly because the local Pamplin papers which have the best listing of weekly affordable community events, can't seem to get their shit together to put those listings online. So every week I crack open the The Oregon City News and circle the week's events that will fill up Mom's day. Pamplin Media is responsible for the Portland Tribune, and a host of local papers. Check yours out for events suitable to your care partner's interests.
All Classical Events Webpage: The Cultural Events page on All Classical's website is a goldmine for me. A lot of these events are not within Mom's budget (I'm looking at you Oregon Symphony), unless it's a special occasion, but I'll still find at least one or two affordable/free community performances a week, including music, theatre, and festivals around the state. If you're not in Oregon, check your local classical station to see if they offer an events page. I'm not a big classical fan, but taking Mom to see any kind of music makes her happy, so I'm happy.
Mary's Woods @ Marylhurst: Mary's Woods is a Catholic retirement community located within the Marylhurst campus in Lake Oswego. They offer a lot of activities for their residents like OPB movies, choirs, Classical Music Club, author talks, happy hour in their lounge. While it's technically for the residents, no one has ever chased me and Mom out of a gathering. And their happy hour? Free wine and snacks! They update their Events page each month. Hmmm... come to think of it, I haven't seen a happy hour listed on that page since the last one Mom and I attended. Maybe they're on to us. Maybe next time I'll leave my pants on and not let Mom slither all over the piano no one is playing.
End of Term Performances - Local Colleges: At the end of each term most college performance arts departments put on shows, and they are usually really cheap! Here's the Events page at Clackamas Community College. Check colleges near you for affordable nights out that will liven up your care partner's evening.
Children. Children. Children. Childless by choice, I was a take-it-or-leave-it gal when it came to kids. Not anymore. When Mom is having a terrible day (and by extension, mine's gone to shit too) the slightest encounter with a bug-eyed baby in a grocery cart can bring out a big grin in the lifeless desert of her face. So now I consider children my allies, my troops, my foot soldiers that, like all foot soldiers before them, don't listen to a damn thing I have to say but still manage to get the job done. Children's theatre, recitals, sports, anywhere kids are running around being kids can make Mom's day. There's a neighborhood park with a water feature that is my #1 go-to during the summer when I need to coax a good mood out of her. Kids screaming, laughing, splashing, running does the trick every time. My two favorite children's theatre organizations are Oregon Children's Theatre, and Wing It. Each offer plays that are around the hour-long range, and if the show itself isn't holding your care partner's attention, some kid wiping his boogers on his little sister down the aisle from you will.
Getting out and engaging in activities can rate anywhere from a 5 to 10 on the Mom Satisfaction Scale. When kids are involved, we hit a solid 8 or higher. I'll take a 5 when an event's been a big miss as the alternative is a -100 on days when we have nothing to do. The priority is getting a smile out of her, relieving her anxiety, putting a cork in the brain melt, even if it's only for an hour. That's my job satisfaction, and the reason I'll tuck that hangover away, and hope the most beautiful face I know can let it's little light shine.
Share your tips and tricks for keeping your care partner engaged. I can always use the help.