Activities for home bound seniors...give me your ideas!

christmasbabyJanuary 12, 2009

Hi everyone,

My mom is going on 93 and spends a good deal of her day watching TV. We solved the loud volume problem with TV Ears, but I would like to get her hands and mind more active. I have noticed a decline in the last few months and would love to stop it or reverse the loss.

She used to do a lot of quilting on baby quilts, but she has osteoporosis and her forward head position puts quite a load on the neck muscles, as well as her upper back. When she quilted, she would spend far too much time, even though I tried to limit it. She would "beg" to be able to do another 20 minutes. I even made a deal with her that she could only quilt on days she did her DVD with chair exercises for seniors.

She is past the ability to knit, crochet or do any needlework anymore, though we have tried.

She likes to do puzzles, but she can't handle full size ones. Kids 100 piece ones are about her level now. The same problem exists with the head position.

I have given her word search books with larger print, and 20 or so cards from a deck to play the memory game.

I would like to find some things that she could go for mind activity plus finger and hand dexterity that doesn't involve leaning forward and looking down so much. She can do it for short periods, but not be as long a time as with the quilting.

Do any of you have any ideas to share? Feel free to list ANY, even ones not good for the neck position, so that others on the forum can get good ideas for their loved ones.

With most of the winter in front of us, some fun activities to brighten our loved ones days would be of great benefit to all of us.



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Are there any Wii games that she could do - such as the Wii bowling game that is popular in senior centers?
(I don't have a Wii or any other gaming console, so I don't know if this suggestion is wacky or not.)

    Bookmark   January 12, 2009 at 2:34PM
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Wii would be great idea. She could probably do it sitting down since her balance is bad, but the price, right now is prohibitive.

Maybe we can try to save up for one.


    Bookmark   January 12, 2009 at 2:45PM
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Just a thought. Have you looked into those adjustable roll around tables that are used for laptop computers? The height of the table can be adjusted and so can the angle or tilt of the table top. Perhaps one could be adjusted in such a way as to alleviate some of the neck/back/leaning forward strain. I bought one for my mother and she used it for a while; she had the same difficulties you're describing. You can find them in most office supply stores. Here's just one example:

Here is a link that might be useful: Laptop/Reading Table

    Bookmark   January 13, 2009 at 12:52AM
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The other wacky idea that just came to me is a pet.
I'm certain that my mom keeps going because she feels that she's the only one that can properly care for our pets (re: spoil our pets) and has really taken to the guinea pigs, which are surprisingly friendly, tame, and pettable little critters. Sort of along the lines of therapy dogs and such - maybe a cat would give her someone else to "talk" to and pet. Just another thought....

    Bookmark   January 15, 2009 at 12:57PM
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I think a cat would be best. Guinea Pigs don't make good pets for holding because their ribs are so fragile. I read that is the main cause of their deaths. As far as things to do you have to be careful about making them feel dumb. My husband and i played cards everyday before he was diagnossed with AZ. He couldn't do the card count and got mad at himself for being dumb, it really depressed him. You cannot bring back memory loss.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2009 at 2:44PM
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A pet would be nice, but I am very allergic to most animals, cats especially. DH is not an animal lover anyway, but hopefully it might be a nice idea for someone else who is reading.

I am really trying to find some fun "occupational therapy" type things for her to do.

I am definitely trying to stay away from things that show her lack of cognition.

I looked at tables that tilt and while she has been doing some puzzles on her table, I simply put 2 phone books under the legs to tilt it at a better angle. Thanks for the idea. We'll see if it helps before we invest in a new table.

Keep the ideas coming.

Thanks, Terri

    Bookmark   January 16, 2009 at 10:32PM
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Would Scrabble be a possibility? My 87 year old mom lives with me and we play a game just about every evening...keeps the mind working and she has to manipulate the tiles (with a little help sometimes!) We make up our own "rule"...take 8 tiles instead of 7, that makes the game go faster so she's not sitting quite so long at one time...

    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 4:20PM
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Do you have old family pictures? I think it's sad that we have them and know they're relatives but nothing is written on the back of the pics. Perhaps it could be her "project" to write the names on the back of the pics using her table.
Then what about a recorder to tell family history and some things that happened. I love the stories of when my dad was growing up and have told my girls. It's special.
A lot of the time the short term memory gets bad but they can talk about years ago as if it were right now.
Just a thought, put it all together in a memory book and let her help.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2009 at 12:29PM
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Does she enjoy drawing? While it sounds childish, a woman my mother knew, used to love to color pictures. She had some childrens coloring books but it was of things that interested her like flowers, animals. She preferred colored pencils to use. The woman was of sound mind but she said she enjoyed the color and the results of her work. She gave the pictures to her grandchildren and other friends. Mom has one on her wall.
Could she string beads?
Maybe just a stroll through a craft store might give you ideas along with a walk through the toy section.

I do think Wii is a great idea. No age limit on that fun.
We had a bowling tournament at Thanksgiving and the ages were 3-84.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2009 at 5:29PM
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Thanks for the ideas! The picture labeling idea is good because we have tons of them. It would help to know who the people are and what they occasion was. I will ask for stories that go with the pictures and record them. Good idea,pfllh.

I think the idea of walking through a craft store with her is a good starting point. I can get her feedback on what she would enjoy.

I had gotten her some children's puzzles at the resale shop last month. They have 63 or 100 pieces and are much easier for her to do. They can also be done in a shorter time and put away. That way she doesn't sit so long, but still is able to enjoy an activity she did when she was younger. I also prop the legs of her table up to set it on an incline so she doesn't have to lean so far. (Thanks for the idea, shambo)

I found some games up in the attic like Password and Rubic's Race. I will look for our scrabble game too. She is not as good with words, but it will challenge her brain and maybe lead to some good memories with the words that come up. I used to have beads that little kids string, but I am not sure if I still have them. I think I need to think "second childhood" for activities and go back to her first for memories.

These are great ideas. I am still ready for more.

Thanks everyone...have a great day...I am thinking about you all.


    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 1:01PM
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Good evening! I love the idea that you are working to keep Mom contented and busy! I have also known several seniors who enjoyed coloring, which is good for their dexterity, too. My Father, who lived with me until he passed away, loved to have me feed birds outside the kitchen. He could watch them from the windows. He read all the bird books that go along with that. He often had ideas on where I should hang feeders, and we found a solar powered fountain that attracted them.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2009 at 1:36AM
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This topic really interests me since my 84 year old MIL came to live with us this past September. Her days are spent watching TV, which is fine with me as long as it's what she enjoys, but I think I see her mind & body going downhill more now. Unfortunately, she also has macular dengeneration, so her eyesight really limits what activities she can do. She's been fascinated with all my pets, so dh and I thought it would be great to get her a small lap dog, like she used to have & now misses terribly. So we adopted one from the HS and wouldn't you know it, the dog is completely devoted to me, and won't really give her the time of day. I tried everything I could think of to entice the dog to make her acquaintence, but nothing doing. So I now have a new pet of my own, and still searching for something to fill MIL's days besides TV. Her past hobbies were reading, cooking, and bowling, none of which she can do now. It's really heartbreaking. So I will be watching this thread for ideas. It's wonderful that this forum exists, and that people are so helpful.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2009 at 4:55PM
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Re: coloring books. If you think this might interest her, check out an art supply store. Our tiny local one has books to color or paint, some of which I wouldn't mind having myself. And they have colored pencils, too, in all price ranges.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2009 at 8:13AM
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I thought I've give you an update on what else I've come up with and how the ideas are working.

Mom enjoys doing the 63-100 piece kids puzzles. She struggled a bit at first, but is having the "how to" come back as she does more. I limit how long she can work on the puzzle so it does not bother her neck as much. Tilting the table up slightly does help.

We we at the store the other day and walked through the toy section. I was glad she reacted well to the idea and was not put off by it being things for kids. I was looking for things she might enjoy doing and that had dexterity and cognitive benefits. She chose a flat screen Light Brite. (Of course all the traditional toys my kids had have been updated, just like the TVs, in this case!) The flat screen works well because she can put it on her lap with a small pillow or sometimes a towel folded to hold it just right. The challenge is getting her somewhat arthritic fingers to work. It is good for her to use them, so I am sure it will get easier as she does more. The patterned sheets she can follow make her think about which color the lettered pattern calls for, but the plain sheets give her a chance to make decisions and be creative. I did have to separate the colors out in a 6 hole cupcake pan because the yellow and green are very similar, as are the pink and orange. She seems to enjoy it.

We also bought a coloring book that also had puzzles and crosswords and such in it. We bought colored pencils because I thought she could use them easier and less messily than crayons. It bought less expensive ones since I didn't know how much time she would spend coloring. It turns out she loves it...thanks to those who suggested it...but she isn't as fond of the pencils because thet have a harder lead and she has to press harder. I also bought her a pack of 49 crayons since a friend who visited was the one who told me she didn't like the pencils completely (I wish SHE would speak up!). She was like a kid at the beginning of the school year with her big box of crayons. So many new colors to choose from to make her mind work and make decisions.

She does do the memory match card game from time to time. It was hard to see her struggle with it at first. She had trouble learning how to do it and still forgets.

We plan to get the photos out next week. It has been a busy week or so and I haven't had time to get them out.

And now OT...

Her mind is still failing and she is more tired. I used to be able to take her grocery shopping with me, but now I have to do it in the evening after DH comes home from work. It is harder for her to walk to the bathroom so she tends to use her bed side commode more, which gives her less exercise and will complete the weakness cycle.

As she mind gets worse, I hate to admit it, but at times I almost avoid spending as much time with her because of the things she says. I know that it will get worse if I don't spend enough time with her, so I pray for the grace needed to do what she needs. I think I am reacting to the failure of her mind and I am tired. It's not the Mom I remember and it hurts. Did/do any of you feel this way? It is usually short-lived but I don't like reacting negatively to her. I want her to feel loved in the last season of her life.

Thanks for helping and listening...

    Bookmark   February 17, 2009 at 8:32AM
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Terri, I can sympathize with your feelings. My mom lives in an AL, in the memory care unit now. But I can definitely identify with what you said about almost wanting to avoid spending time with your mom. That's how I've felt many times too.

I think it's because conversations become such a labor. Trying to think of something to say that my mom will understand and be able to respond to. Trying not to bring up subjects that could be stressful or frightening. So there's no discussing current events or the news -- those topics are simply too frightening to the confused mind. In my case, not talking too much about outside activities because I don't want my mother asking to go home with me. There's no more talking about relatives or friends because she doesn't remember them anymore. Nor does she remember much of her past life, so recalling memories is pretty useless.

So we talk endlessly about the weather and the seasons. I bring her magazines with big pictures and we'll talk about the pictures. It's hard work coming up with a fresh take on an old, tired subject.

And, yes, it hurts. She's not the mom I remember either. It's sad to see her hugging a stuffed animal and kissing it and talking to it like it was her baby. I hate seeing her in that state. But it is what it is. I can't change the situation.

So I bring her cookies and we talk about the cookies while she munches on them. As I said before, I bring her magazines. Every time I see her, I bring her some little something that makes her feel special. And I joke around with her, stupid jokes that a four year old might laugh at. When she's had her hair done, I tell her that she looks like a fluffy French poodle. That always gets a laugh. Before I leave, I kiss her and always tell her to behave herself and keep herself out of trouble. She thinks that's pretty funny too.

I guess what I'm saying is that I'm pretty sure your mom knows she's loved. All your care with games & activities is not lost on her. She knows you are there taking good care of her. Even if she gets more & more confused, she'll always know that there's some really nice person who keeps helping her. She'll always know she's surrounded by love.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2009 at 7:00PM
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How kind to share your thoughts and struggles with your Mom. You seem very wise and caring and I believe your mom knows that someone special loves her too. I really appreciate your encouragement.

Mom is still "with it" in many ways and I don't have the challenges you have. I guess with being on call 24/7 has me tired, and less able to react as I ought all the time. When I "blow it" I ask for her forgiveness and pray to do better.

I think that trying to find activities to do with her will help me stay focused on her well-being and enjoyment of life. I think I will start reading easy-to-follow books to her again. We did that after she was in the hospital for CHF 5 years ago.

You mentioned cookies. Mom does like to bake and at Christmastime she helped me, as she was able, sitting at the kitchen table. Maybe I need to make another batch of cookies with her "helping" me. I do have her peel potatoes or carrots, and she folds the socks and towels for me.

I will continue to focus on the positive...she is mostly cheerful and agreeable and tries her best to make things easier for me. But as she becomes weaker, the physical strain is more difficult. I an a tad under five feet tall and Mom has about 25-30 pounds on me. When she loses her balance, which is one of her main health issues along with lack of strength, it is getting harder for me to physically handle her. That in turn makes it difficult to do as many things with her to keep her strong. I am hoping we don't have to switch her from her walker to her transport chair in the house.

I will keep in mind all of the challenges that you and others have and how you handle them... and that helps me put our situation in perspective. It is for a season of life that can change rapidly. With God's help, we will do what we can to show her the love we share.

Thanks again...Blessings,

    Bookmark   February 17, 2009 at 11:23PM
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Is there a adult day care in your area your mom could visit maybe once a week for a few hours? Are you active in any organization/church where someone even kids could visit occasionaly? Just to talk about the old days? Remise magazine from Reman magazines is good for someone to share with her. How about wasable felt color pens to use? Check the dollar store, children's area in drug stores, craft stores and even thrift shops.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2009 at 10:55PM
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I bought a nice tape recorder for my mom and bought her bible tapes and she follows along in her bible why the person reads. I got a tape recorder rather than a disc player because I figured she could take it and tape the preacher at church if she wanted or if she could not be there it could be taped for her. Also there are so many different tapes you can purchase and they seem much cheaper than the disc's. I got my bible tapes and alot of other tapes for her from they have a bargain section where you can get things up to 90% off, and often times you can preview what your buying from them so it is really nice. Just watch and make sure you buy a nice tape recorder for sound quality...i did a review check online and decided on the one i would purchase.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2009 at 7:31PM
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I know coloring books have been discussed, but I just wanted everyone to know the variety that is available.
If you search Amazon they have quite intricate "coloring books" for adults with topics as diverse as human and animal anatomy, botanicals, Old Masters paintings, architecture, tapestries- it's really amazing.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2009 at 8:52AM
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There are sites online that have jigsaw puzzles. AARP has one. You have a choice of different number of pieces, and they also allow you to do the perimeter pieces first, then add the inside pieces. Jigzone also has a daily puzzle. You can do the puzzle in many different cuts and number of pieces -- from 6 to over 200. I do one everyday. When I visit my grandsons, I do them every morning with them. They love it.

Can you try to get any family history out of her? I wish that we had done more with my aunts, uncles, mom and dad.

How about getting old tv shows on dvd for her to watch? She might enjoy Jack Benny, or others. I think that there are old radio shows available on tape, too.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2009 at 12:20AM
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There are a lot of things you can do. Music is good. Cards. Does she have a computer? Books on tape. Does she have a pet? Plants are good too. What about a class? There are a lot of instruction classes on PBS and TLC.

Here is a link that might be useful: Activities Director Jobs

    Bookmark   May 19, 2010 at 11:19AM
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look into Its a magizine for the elderly gives you a lot of ideas

    Bookmark   June 7, 2011 at 9:29PM
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