Art therapy

art therapy
noun
  1. a form of psychotherapy involving the encouragement of free self-expression through painting, drawing, or modelling, used as a remedial or diagnostic activity.

I love art therapy! I actually love anything that is considered creative.

Sounds silly? Well it is a very important for all ages – especially the elderly.

  1. Art therapy can positively improve a person’s mood.
    The elderly sometimes feel frustrated by their loss of mobility, hearing, or the physical changes due to the aging process. Taking time to do some art therapy can relieve the feelings of anxiety and stress.
  2. Art therapy can be a new form of expression for the elderly with difficulty in verbal communication or for those who have difficulty in writing. Those with memory loss will also benefit from art therapy. Art allows for a new way of communication and expression.  It opens up a whole new world for the elderly with limitations.
  3. Art therapy can reduce the feelings of depression.
  4. Art therapy has been known to assist in encouraging socialization in the elderly. It is hard to think of topics to talk about if you are not learning anything new, if you can’t read or even speak. Art therapy makes opportunities for talking and discussions.
  5. Art therapy gives the person a increased feeling of self – esteem. They are proud of their latest creation. People will admire and discuss the latest handiwork.
  6. And lastly, art therapy will reduce the feelings of boredom. It will help the day to pass in a short time. Sitting all day and looking at the 4 walls of the room can really be boring and depressing. I can say from the experience of being in hospital a lot of my childhood, the walls can start to feel like they are getting closer and closer. It is not a pleasant feeling. Don’t forget to display the finished project in the best possible way. It can be on the wall, on a bed or couch, or even hung up to move in the breeze from an open window. Please make sure that the art is visible to the creator.

The types of art therapy:

  • painting
  • line drawing
  • collages
  • pastels
  • chalk
  • stenciling

Art therapy can also benefit you as the primary caregiver. It gives you time to connect to your creative side. And art therapy can help relieve the stress that caregiving brings.  And you don’t need to be highly gifted to participate in art therapy. If I may, I strongly believe that if you can paint or draw lines, you are creative. There is no manual to creativity. Give it a try, you are creative in your way.

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Missing Sleep

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It is very important that as the carer, we don’t miss out on our sleep. An adult needs on average 6 – 8 hours sleep to be fully functional during the day. I know it is not easy to always get the required amount of sleep, especially if you are caring for an elderly person who is up and down during the night (this can happen a lot with the elderly).

I have a few methods that I used with one of my clients.

Before bedtime, I would ready the room by making it warm – in winter, and closing the curtains. This way I introduce the transition from daytime to nighttime. It also promotes a feeling of ‘winding down’ from the day’s activities.

I sometimes used lavender essential oil to encourage relaxation for a stressful person, or if the day had a stressful outcome.

If the person allowed it, I would give a light body massage or foot massage with some lavender scented cream. I mixed my own lavender scented cream by combining lavender essential oil and a water-based unscented cream.

I tried to stick to light suppers and avoided heavy meat or many starches for the last meal of the day. Keep the larger meal for lunch, and for supper make a salad, sandwiches or some vegetables. I tried to keep the meats for the lunchtime meal as this can make a person feel heavy and uncomfortable.

If it was possible, I would keep activities that could cause anxiety or stress (visiting the doctor, having many visitors) for the morning, and the calmer activities for the late afternoon (watching TV, reading a book).

Keep a routine at all times. There are those days that the idea of a routine is an impossibility. But on average, keep a routine. This will help the elderly person to know the different stages of the day and even if they are unaware of time, the human body will automatically adjust. Eg: tea every day at 10am, the human body will start to feel thirsty at around 10am, and the elderly person will or might start asking to drink something. They won’t be aware of the time, they just know that this is the time for something to happen.

I hope that everything I have said can help you get a good night’s rest. It is not easy. I know. If you find another technique that works for you, please let me know, I am always open to learning new ideas.

 

Valentine’s day

Yesterday it was Valentine’s Day.

It is a day where loved ones will buy roses, chocolates or write letters to their loved ones. I got a Valentine’s wish from a friend. It felt so nice to see on my phone that I had received a message. I opened the message and lo and behold it was a wish from a lovely friend.

I hope everyone can show love to their loved one all year round and not only on 1 day a year. Don’t wait for the designated day, it might be too late. Say “I love you” everyday. Show your love everyday by caring and giving to the person you are caring for. Actions are great, but sometimes we also want to hear the words.

And don’t wait for that special occasion to say those important words. It might be too late and you will never ever get to say the words to that special person. Love everyday. Life is too short.

Love!

red love balloon
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Simple Activities

What does one give to someone with dementia to keep them busy and occupied? What is easier enough to keep the hands active?

I have tried and seen these activities to be effective for people with dementia.

If your Mother used to knit in her younger days, then try this activity:

Give the person thick brightly coloured wool to wind into a ball. If prefer you can wind it into a ball and let them unwind it. Ribbon or cord will be just as effective as wool. If you are able to knit a sample piece and leave it on the needles, give it to the person to ‘knit’ over your work or let them pull it all off. The activity is to keep the brain stimulated and the hands busy. It doesn’t matter if the work is messy or knotty, let them have a go at it.

For men who used to work with wood, on cars or in workshops: give them a box of unsorted odd nails and screws. Let them sort it for you into 2 or 3 containers. Let them know that they are doing you a great favour and that you need this to be done for them. Men need a little more encouragement than women as they need to feel that they are not doing something silly or insignificant. If the man used to work with paints let them paint. There is ‘safe’ paint on the market. Finger paint will be a great type to use. For severe dementia persons, the small items will become dangerous as it might be a choking hazard. So for those cases, try hitting a few nails, screwing down a few hinges or bolts onto a wooden panel and let them ‘fiddle’ with all the bits while sitting at a table.

Ladies who used to sew can be given something similar like for the men with a wooden panel, but in material with the ‘fiddly’ bits sewn on them. This will keep the hands and fingers busy.

There are a few more ideas that one can adapt for an adult with dementia. Just never make the person feel like they are playing with children’s ‘toys’. Always let them feel that they are important and that they are the helping you out with every task they attempt.

This article is based on my experiences with working with the dementia people. If you don’t find any of the above listed activities helpful or if you have ideas of your own, please let me know. I am always interested to learn more.

Music Magic

We all have our favourite music genres, artists, and bands. The elderly also have their favorites. They might have dementia or be frail, but don’t underestimate the power of music.

I have witnessed late stage dementia patients sing word for word of their favourite golden oldie song. It amazes me how they can remember all the words and even the tune to the song, but they can’t remember basic daily routines. It is amazing how the brain can still remember the music and it is able to put the words together with the tune to make the full song.

Play your parent’s or your charge’s favourite songs on regular occasions. Listen with them and sing along (if you know the words) to stimulate the brain.

Music tempos can also have an effect on a person. Playing upbeat songs will liven the mood. If the person is feeling down and sad, play light, happy music to encourage happy feelings. The music may or may not have lyrics, but that doesn’t affect the benefits of the music on the soul.

Instrumental music playing in the background daily can encourage positive feelings in all the people in the room.

When a person is struggling to fall asleep, play soft classic music in the background. This will help the brain to relax and the person will slowly drift off into a good sleep.

Go ahead and try experimenting with music. It can be instrumental, rock ‘n roll or anything that your elderly person likes. It will have amazing results.

photography of vinyl records on wooden surace
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Ocean

seaside
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I love the ocean. I enjoy swimming a few laps and then just lay in the water looking at the sky. Not everyone loves the ocean and not everyone can stand the cold water on their skin. The elderly are no different. Some may enjoy the cool water on their ankles and others may not. If your parent used to enjoy swimming, why not take them to beach? Let them enjoy the cool water on their skins. The benefits of ocean water will also benefit them. Note: One can mix their own salt and water at home and add a little epsom salt if you are too far from the ocean or landlocked.

Just be cautious and observant with your parent’s balance when walking on the sand. It is not a firm or solid ground and they might lose balance often and falling might result in twisted ankles or fractured hips. 

But don’t let this fear stop your elderly parent from having fun. Let them also experience the benefits of ocean water on their skins. Just be careful with mobility.

The ocean has many benefits on the human body:

The salty ocean water provides minerals that benefit the skin. Here are a few minerals found in the water: magnesium, calcium, and potassium. These all help to treat skin infections, absorb toxins in and on the body, encourages the skin to heal and works to treat eczema.

Ocean water helps to soothe itchy, flaky or dry scalp.

The ocean sounds can help to reduce stress and encourages a person to relax. There is that calm quiet and peaceful feeling oceans bring to a person.

Ocean/sea air is very beneficial for the respiratory organs. The air causes the mucus in the lungs and bronchiole tracts to loosen and this makes coughing easier and it will encourage the airways to become clear. The sea air is also free of pollution and this makes it free from harmful particles.

Ocean air improves circulation in the body.

Ocean air improves sleeping habits.

One way that the ocean can indirectly benefit an elderly person, is that you get bonding time together. You have a chance to get a change of scenery and spend time together while you sit on the beach, or in the car. You both will benefit from the outing together.

I do understand that not everyone can get to the ocean or seaside, so if that is the case for you here is what you could do to set the ‘seaside’ scene. Play some ocean sounds on a ipad, tablet, laptop or CD, sit together and let the sounds flow over you. You can enjoy a cup of tea, or a cold beverage while listening to the ocean sounds. One can even get some builder’s ‘white’ sand and put your feet into it. There are a few ways to set up your own home beach. Don’t forget sunscreen if you sit outside.

I hope you enjoyed this article.

Dehydration

The elderly can become dehydrated a lot quicker than younger people. In my days working with the elderly, I noticed that the elderly don’t enjoy drinking water. I have a past article on the dementia person and their difficulty in seeing water. I know that they aren’t able to see water like us and this might be the reason that they don’t drink as must water as their bodies need. You can put a glass of water down in front of the person, and it won’t all be drunk, or only a little if the water will be drunk.

If you are concerned that your parent or elderly charge might be dehydrated these are a few signs to look out for…

  1. There might be an increase in confusion. So if the person seems to be more confused than he/she is already, it might be dehydration.
  2. The person will have a dry mouth.
  3. The eyes will become sunken.
  4. Skin will not lie flat down when a little is pinched. It will stay in the ‘ pinched’ state.
  5. The pulse will become rapid.
  6. The blood pressure will drop to a low reading.
  7. As there isn’t enough water in the body, urine output will be very little or not at all.
  8. There might be temperature, but this might not always be the case as the elderly can sometimes have no change in their temperature readings, or they can have naturally very low temperatures. ( I will do an article on the elderly and body temperatures.)

When an elderly person becomes dehydrated or when you suspect that the person is dehydrated, don’t hesitate to call the doctor. Dehydration is very serious and can result in death. In some cases the dehydrated person will be admitted to hospital where fluids will be given intravenousely. But sometimes it’s a simpler solution: just increase the daily fluid intake.

 

clean clear cold drink
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