For this edition of #CaregivingHacks, check out what Eliza has been sharing on our Instagram page to help with her grandmother who has dementia. These hacks were tested (and worked!) with her grandmother, but you’ll find these hacks can help caregivers and care receivers of all ages!
Make or buy an interactive lap quilt.
Consider getting a lap quilt for your loved one if they like to have things to fidget with. A friend made this for my grandmother, complete with a Velcro teapot, marbles sewn underneath the cookies that can be rolled around, a music box that plays Twinkle Twinkle Little Star when it’s tapped, a crinkle ribbon, a verse to read, and my grandmother’s favorite, a string of “pearls” attached at one end.
With so many different textures, fidgets, and colors/patterns to look at while she’s sitting, it is both heartfelt and incredibly useful! There are options available to purchase, or if you’re crafty, try creating one that’s personalized.
String up a card clothesline.
If you’re like us and have accumulated quite the collection of cards over the years, hang a string across a corner of the room in which your loved one spends most of his or her time, and display the cards for a few weeks, then switch them out. We just took down the Christmas cards and hung up some old anniversary cards to get ready for Valentine’s Day.
Before you hang the cards up, take some time to show them to your loved one. If they have trouble seeing, point out what the card looks like and read it to them loudly, slowly, and with good expression so they catch the sentiment.
There were some that my grandmother just wanted to hold for a while. This can be an emotional time, so be sensitive to that; give them some quiet time to process what the cards say, let them hold on to the special ones before you hang them up. This is a meaningful way to decorate, and it also uses those cards that have been collecting dust!
Make homemade hand warmers.
Hand warmers have been a life saver for us as the days get colder. My grandmother gets agitated and often can’t put into words what is wrong. This happened all last night; every few minutes she was calling out for help, and when I’d go in, I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Eventually, desperate for sleep, I stuck these in the microwave and gave them to her to hold, and she was out like a light!
These were a gift from a friend, and are made from a handful of dry rice sewn into a small flannel pouch. That’s it! You microwave it for 1 minute, and it stays warm for around 10 minutes.
The combination of the heat, the soft fabric/squishy texture, and the weight of them in her hand seems to be so comforting to her. You can even put a drop of essential oil on the fabric if you want it to smell nice! Keep this in mind if you have a wild child, a fussy grandmom, or anyone in between!
Have a list of “on-call” friends.
Have some friends visit you and your loved one regularly while you are caregiving, so they are comfortable in the space and with the people (your loved one, visiting nurses, physical therapy, etc.) Ask them if they’d be willing to visit sometimes when you’re not there.
That way, if a family emergency comes up, or a scheduling conflict happens that makes you unable to get to your loved one, you have some friends you trust and whom your loved one is comfortable around, to go over for a few hours.
Yesterday we got word that my grandmother’s brother wasn’t doing well, and that it was getting to be time to pay a visit. Thankfully we have some gracious on-call friends who were more than willing to stay with my grandmother while we went to see my great uncle, even when we weren’t able to provide what time we’d be home.
Caregiving doesn’t stop when life barrels forward, and you can’t be in two places when you’re being pulled. There are good people all around who would be willing to help.
Create a basket of sensory items.
Keep a few different items close by that all have vastly differing textures and weights. Let your loved one hold one for a few minutes, then give them another. These different stimulants keep the brain working, and will consequently keep your loved one interested and thinking, and also working his/her dexterity!
We use this yellow squish ball we got at the dollar store that is filled with gel beads, an unpeeled orange, (she doesn’t have enough strength to squish that, but make sure to think this one through!) a tennis ball, a pair of socks rolled up—really anything we can think of from around the house.
Keep these together in a basket (except for the fruit!) for when you need some quiet time, as this activity requires minimal involvement on your end!