Things to do to help your elderly loved one be "useful"

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I think there is a need for people to stay productive. I give my mom several carrots on a tray and she peels them. She is good at folding wash cloths and kitchen towels. I complimented her once on helping and she said..."Well, I was a farm girl." Last night I told her I was going to fix dinner and cook the carrots. She replied, "I think I peeled those." She has a knifty knitter and has made four scarf/shawls for relatives. I have to thread it for her but she can move the yarn up and over. She tells everyone that she made her own shawl.

My mom doesn't remember me or my name. She knows we're related in some way. Giving her some things to do to help out has been very rewarding for her and me. What things have you done to keep your loved one useful?


I would agree. Keeping your loved one busy, doing chores or activities they are capable of would make them feel they are useful, needed, and appreciated. In addition, their body and mind are at work, a good way to avert some senior-associated ailments.
My mother-in-law, now 90, keeps in good shape, is still active. Though nearly immobile, she does enjoy sitting close to us, observe what we do, hear what we say, take part in the discussion, mostly in the form of proverbs, old sayings, and contributions based on lived through experience(s). She welcomes having my wife, her daughter, pass on some chores for her to do, like folding clothes; peeling oranges, potatoes; etc.
Getting seniors to feel that they are still of worth may rank second to having them engage in things to do to activate their minds and bodies, thus helping them live longer, and be healthy.
You are so right. Being useful is important!

Both my mother and my husband liked using the paper shredder.

Folding wash clothes (which we use as single-use hand towels) was a favorite activity.

I recently had mother sort coins for me, at the NH. Also we sit and sort beads by color, for the beading crafts. Sorting is a good activity for Mom; it is a bonus when she can feel like it is to help someone.
Yes I too find that my mother is happy when she is doing something. Her favourite things are hanging out washing and folding it when its dry, sweeping (she loves sweeping), helping me cook by cutting up veges and she also enjoys making beds. All these things take a very long time to finish, and sometimes not finish, but I can see how happy she is to be an active member of the family.
The two contributions made by jeannegibbs and Doriana do indicate the passion our loved ones have for activities they enjoy much, to KEEP ACTIVE, assert self, show and prove how worthy and needed one is whatever age one may have. Keeping busy, even moderately, is an assertion of self, an indication that seniors are HAPPY TO CONTRIBUTE, mainly by doing things they delight in, ones they still cherish, and that still prove how useful they feel they are. It may be a way for them to say 'we are still around' when needed. They derive pleasure from doing so, and you can see that on their faces. We, the less aged , too, feel most pleased to note that because that is a good note, indicating that elderly-associated impairments are worked upon to be warded off. That would put less strain on us as caregivers. It is actually a welcome win-win solution.
My mom LOVES to iron. She takes great pride in ironing my husband's dress shirts. I told her he only likes when SHE does them. I can set up her ironing supplies and actually leave for a quick walk to clear my head.:-)
What do you do if your Mom doesn't want to do much of anything? I know it would be good for my Mom to be more active but she really doesn't seem interested. When my folks first moved in with me years ago (Dad has passed away) I put in a garden thinking the care of it would be something they would enjoy. Nope. They didn't participate in the care of it at all. A few years ago Mom asked what kind of things she could do around the house to help. So we sat down and came up with some chores that would be easy for her to do. I made up a box with the cleaning supplies so it would be easy for her. Nope. She didn't follow through. The only thing she does is do the dishes, and I appreciate that. She never was very interested in housekeeping, cooking or yard work. In her younger years she used to be very social (belonged to a lot of women's clubs) and I've tried to get her to go back to the senior center (I have to go with her), but it is no longer an enjoyable experience for her. She can't remember the people or really follow a conversation anymore. So she no longer wants to go and to be honest I understand. Right now all that my Mom seems to want to do is sit and have the TV on ( I don't think she can follow a story any more) and read junk mail (she'll spend hours reading the same piece of mail). She used to read the newspaper and books but doesn't do so anymore, again I think she can't follow a story and comprehension is poor. Both the doctor and I have talked to Mom about depression and she doesn't believe she is depressed and I agree with her. She just says she's lazy and I believe her. Mom is 90yo with ALZ disease. Any ideas on how I might get her more involved in life? Or is this where we're at now. If so , I can accept that, but just want to be sure I'm not missing something that might make her life better.
Nojoy3, I sympathize with you, and I suppose most other caregivers do. Thank you for doing your best to find a way out for your Mom, an indication that you do care. You reported that your Mom had no interest in housekeeping, cooking, or yard work. You also indicated your Mom's willingness and eagerness to help, something we all appreciate. To quote you: "A few years ago Mom asked what kind of things she could do around the house to help." This is an indication of her readiness to be ACTIVE. It is understandable that the older she grows, the less physically capable she becomes, to be compounded by the fact that she has ALZ. This may account for her becoming 'lazy'.
This should not put you off from reminding her how you would appreciate it if she were more active, for her own sake. The chores you suggest to her may not be the ones she likes to take up. Why not let her suggest herself what would interest her most? LET the INITIATIVE be HERS, not yours. You may offer a few suggestions for her to choose from, though. Should she fancy none of these, still remind her that you still stand by her side, and you mean to help by having her keep active. Hope this may help. With love.
How about ideas for dad? Dad is 84 with mild dementia. He was in the skilled trades and used to spend his spare time in his gardens and orchards. His favorite activity now is to ride around on his little garden tractor and he may not be able to do this much longer. He wants so much to stay busy and useful. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

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