As a caregiver, it is important to encourage independence in seniors, but also to interact with them in ways that provide the opportunity for them to maintain a better quality of life for themselves. By participating in activities with your senior loved one, not only are you showing that you care – the acts you undertake together can help improve their overall health. In fact, research indicates that keeping seniors physically, mentally, socially and emotionally engaged can help them retain better cognitive function, stay healthier and live independently longer.
As the seniors in our lives grow older, daily interaction is vital to their health and happiness. However, when caring for a loved one, it is easy to get into the habit of doing things “for” them rather than “with” them. Let’s face it – it can be more efficient to do everything yourself. Seniors are seasoned pros at doing things for themselves, but, due to aging bodies or underlying health issues, aspects of everyday living sometimes become a bit challenging both mentally and physically. Seniors may need your help, but doing everything for them is neither the answer nor does it cultivate a better quality of life that can be achieved by learning the art of Interactive Caregiving™.
Interactive Caregiving™ is not just a term defined by Comfort Keepers®, it is a specific, engaging way of life that its caregivers, known as Comfort Keepers, undertake when caring for people. By definition, Interactive Caregiving™ promotes physical, mental, social and emotional wellbeing. When put into action, this philosophy focuses on the person as a whole, helps seniors live the highest possible quality of life by keeping them happy and engaged, and fosters healthy independent living within their own homes.
The true art of caregiving for the elderly extends beyond task-oriented responsibilities and includes engaging in activities that help maintain a healthy spirit and body. Talk to the senior in your life to help determine what their interests are, then form a plan to do those things together!
When planning your activities, keep the elements of Interactive Caregiving™ in mind.
- Physical activity, which should always be approved by the senior’s physician, helps reduce the severity of illness, and makes seniors stronger and less likely to fall. Dancing can reduce high blood pressure, strengthen bones and lower the risk of heart disease. Dancing with friends also provides a social outlet that stimulates the mind and can reduce the effects of dementia. Activities such as gardening and cleaning the house inspire positive self-esteem and higher qualities of life.
- Socializing with family and friends, as well as attending parties or other events, makes seniors feel less isolated and promotes good memory retention. The effects of being socially active are just as beneficial as physical activity in terms of self-esteem and achieving a higher quality of life, which is important to note for seniors who are unable to exercise.
- Mental stimulation, such as crossword puzzles or other brain games, keeps minds active and facilitates healthy mental and emotional function. Mental wellbeing fosters a sharp mind and a positive outlook on life.
- Emotional wellbeing depends on several factors, such as feeling connected to family and friends, being involved in the community or taking on a hobby. Emotional stability helps seniors be happy and optimistic, which can keep depression at bay.
Encourage seniors to help with tasks they are able to perform, such as folding laundry and writing a grocery list. Play a game or work on a puzzle, read the paper over a morning cup of coffee, and take a walk together after lunch. Shopping together provides another form of exercise and the chance to do something together. Planting flowers and other gardening activities are not only fun, but provide a sense of accomplishment when you both step back to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
There are many more activities than these few that can improve the quality of life for seniors. Use your imaginations and work together to plan fun things that will transform even the most mundane daily activities into special memories that last a lifetime.
1 Comfort Keepers (2009). Interactive caregiving.