When I was a primary caregiver for my best friend, I knew very little about what that role required. There was a lot of on-the-job training from home care nurses. I learned how to care for a bedsore (difficult to avoid when a patient refuses to be turned); use a Hoyer lift to assist with transferring him in and out of bed; bathe and dress a paralyzed person; manage multiple medication schedules, and on and on. If you are a caregiver, you know there is always something new to learn and each patient is different. Very quickly I got into a good routine of managing his needs. I had four young children and did my best to juggle everyone’s demands.

My friend was young (50 years) and paralyzed. It dawned on me one day that performing the basic caregiving wasn’t enough. He needed mental stimulation. He enjoyed reading but soon found holding a book fatiguing. He missed his independence. and didn’t want help with everything. One day I set up online banking for him so he could pay his own bills. Then we started feeding hummingbirds and observing them together. I set up online poker and other games for him so he could text other people and pass his time doing interesting and fun activities. It added a great deal to the quality of his life.

Providing stimulation and experiences for the people you care for can seem an impossible challenge. Between doing all of your tasks and balancing your own needs and, perhaps, your family’s needs, you might feel you don’t have the time to engage in activities. But if you think there is a way for you to squeeze something into your routine, you will find the person you care for is enjoying it. Just as importantly, you might enjoy the chance to sit down and just visit without being focused on a task. The internet has lots of suggestions for you but here are some ideas:

card games
manicures
reading a story aloud
looking at a photo album together
tactile experiences such as petting a soft dog

Start with 10 minutes once or twice a week. Your job as caregiver is demanding; try to make it more interesting for you and your patient.

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