I am worried about my dad's lack of activity and recreation. How can I get him more involved?

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Hi everyone,
I'm a newbie here but I thank you for your honesty in sharing your experience.
After my mom passed away three years ago (my parents were livings in Mexico) I had my dad move up here with me and my longtime boyfriend.
Conveniently, we owned two small houses next door to each other and instead of renting one we moved him in.
In the span of just these three years, Dad has done fewer and fewer things that he used to do. (He's 74 and in generally good health but has serious back problems that prevent him from standing for longer than a couple of minutes.)
I come over every morning before work for coffee with him and see him every afternoon. But now need to give him his pills or he doesn't take them. I nearly beg for him to change his clothes. He doesn't eat because he just isn't hungry. The basic conversations need to be had over and over because he forgets, although he can remember what he was wearing any day in 1968. He no longer drives but I'll take him anywhere he wants to go. But now he has trouble getting back into the house and hasn't gone anywhere in two weeks.
These are small tasks for me compared to what so many of you are dealing with but I don't have any experience with this.
Your stories and words make me laugh and cry. Thank you for your honesty and willingness to share.

Answers 1 to 10 of 10
Expert Answer
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Michelle, your dad could be suffering from depression (likely he is). It may be also dementia, but depression is often found with dementia. Has he been examined for this? His resistance makes it hard for you to get him to a doctor, but it seems he really needs an evaluation for his mental health and possible dementia. Maybe you can get him in for his back pain, and arrange with the medical people ahead of time to test him for the other stuff.

Good luck with this and keep coming back to read other's stories. It helps to share.
Hi Michelle,

God will certainly bless you for taking care of your Father. I have been taking care of elderly relatives for quite a number of years now and I totally agree with what Cat said.

By the way, it sounds like your Dad is just about like my Dad was for quite a number of years until he passed away in 2005 at age 88. I am still caring for my 86 year old mother and 94 year old Aunt that live together. I can't seem to get them to go out of the house hardly at all lately either with exception to go to the doctor but they say they just do not have the energy or desire to go out and about anymore so who am I to insist otherwise is the way I view it.

My observation is that elderly people are just not like young people for the most part. Although I am employed full time at home and am not all that old, I have found that I too do not enjoy things as I did as a young adult and actually sometimes just don't want to be bothered by anyone or anything. I just love the opportunity to vegetate in front of the TV too!

However, it really sounds like perhaps you need to have the house entry modified so he can get in and out easily and safely if that means a handrail or a ramp needs to be installed. He may not want to eat because he doesn’t like to cook or simply does not want to eat all alone. Lifting cookware may also cause him back pain as well as it is rather hard to cook if he can not stand but for a few minutes. A light weight high stool for him to rest on that can be moved around easily in the kitchen may be a remedy. He may not want change clothes because it either hurts his back or is just now difficult for him to do so you may want to gently offer assistance. If he hasn't already started not wanting to bathe, he may because it is probably also hard for him to get out of the tub so a walk in shower may also be of benefit.

If you try some things to address these issues and he still doesn't want to eat, change clothes, bathe, or leave the house every once in awhile, I'd recommend he be seen by a doctor to determine if perhaps there is a medical issue that needs attention. Please do beware of any doctor not first properly evaluating him physically but rather just trying to quickly hand him meds for dementia or other issue such as that though as I have observed some extremely terrible things happen to my other Aunt for which I was not caring for but rather someone else even though I had warned them. She was in such a mess and so unmanageable that my cousin brought her to stay with me for six weeks. I weaned her off all that junk like an overdose level of Aricept, Xanax, and a number of other drugs that were totally unnecessary for her while she was here and she was a completely different person within only a few weeks. I told my cousin that she had best not let them put her back on that mess after she left here either. After she took her home and saw for herself how well she was after being off all that junk, my cousin then later admitted that all those meds were indeed the cause of her problems! I don't recommend that people not with a medical or pharmacy background knowing exactly what they are doing ever do anything like this though without first consulting with a doctor as the results could be tragic.

Lastly, I'd recommend that you also be sure to check he feet now and then as I'd suspect he is not caring for them properly and probably has long toe nails which if not tended to can lead to some serious problems, especially so if he is also a diabetic. I mention this only because this is something that I never even thought of many years ago when I first started caring for the elderly until after an issue presented itself. I am a very educated person and I know that sounds really dumb but it is absolutely true! I can't count on them to tell me or even mention in passing what they might need or help with but rather I just have to stay on the lookout for them about every little thing and as Cat says, take the initiative and most times it works for me too. Sometimes they do try to fight with me though but then I just back off, wait for a better time, and perhaps also try a different approach.

I hope that I have imparted something that will help you if not now, perhaps later. Be sure to take good care of yourself too and God Bless you.

Possibly it is time for a good check-up with his Dr. He may be depressed having too much time to set and think. Does he have freinds or somewhere he can go during the day? There are community elder activities in most communities, maybe he is lonesome. Does he need in-home assistance for a few hours a day?
Welcome to this sight. And yes we do laugh and cry, vent and deep sigh, but we do it together! You will make some good friends, and get support without judgement. This has been a sanity saver for me, God Bless
I cared full time for my grandparents at home for 5 years. I saw them deteriorate rapidly during that time. I saw them through both of their deaths. Grams was 87 and Gramps 94. It was an extremely difficult task but i great take great pride in knowing that their last wish was granted in that they both remained at home and died comfortably and peacefully in surroundings that were familiar, with people who loved them. It also provided peace to the rest of my family. As i said the times were difficult and providing activities was a great relief. Reading the paper, doing puzzles, going thru old photo albums and talking of vacations and good family times are all activities. Exercise is also great! As we sit longer, muscles stiffen making it more difficult to move about. There is alot available today to help our loved ones stay at home. I wish you luck! -Amy
Hi Michelle,

How fortunate your dad is to have this living arrangement with you right next door. I would agree that he probably has depression and some dementia. In the span of three years he lost you rmother and he moved. Moving can be a very difficult adjustment for the elderly.

Would your bf be able to assist a bit with getting your dad to clean up? Men sometimes respond better to other men. With his back pain and depression, hygiene is probably way down on his list of things to do.

Is it possible to have a care person with for him for part of the day or a few times a week? Check into services for the elderly in your area. Adult day care where they do activities and sing songs that older people remember. I have seen Alzheimer's patients who don't say a thing, sing all the words to an old song. Find some CD's of music he enjoyed. Sometimes, older people just like hanging out with their peer group.

Get him in for a check-up. See if the clinic has a geriatric specialist. Pain management is also critical for enjoying life.

Btw, since he recalls 1968, talk to him about that year. Find out what happened and reach for the memories that he has of the "old days. Consider taping him or take some notes. It can be interesting to get a first person account of events past.

Best to you and your dad!

Julie Q
Hi Michelle,

When my husband developed demetia and had a minnie stroke the VA recommended getting him a Nitendo DS. We did. We bought brain tease games. He played it alot until he lost interest. It did help for months. We also bought models for him to put together. They also worked for awhile until he put a couple together backwards. He watches alot of TV. He will do some yard work as long as someone is out there working with him. We put bird feeders outside of the window he sits next to and he really enjoys that. Try getting him to play yahtzee. Does he ever hint to what he might miss or enjoyed. It is trying at times. Hang in there! God bless you.
Hi Michelle. I'm new too and just wrote my first posting a few minutes ago. I was curious about your problem and the "lack of activity". Both my parents are in their 70's, and my dad too is competely unmotivated to do much of anything but watch TV ans ask mom to get stuff. I don't get it! Is it the age?? Is your dad content with being inactive or is he inactive due to depression? My dad thinks it's perfectly ok to do nothing and there are days he doesn't even get dressed. I don't take care of my dad, my mom does, but he has many of the same issues as yours. I have found it is close to impossible to make your parents do anything they don't want to. I have begged them to do SOMETHING, join the YMCA, take routine walks, find a hobby or interest, but they just don't take the initiative. What does your dad do to pass the time? Have you had discussions with him as to why he doesn't want to do anything? I feel for you, as your dad is on his won, but you are lucky in that he is close and has you to look in on him. No great words of wisdom I'm afraid, but I can empathize with your situation.
I guess the best place to start is with how engaged and outgoing they were when they were younger. What are they watching on TV? It is now a world of 900 channels - maybe that is just how they like to relax although it sounds stiffling.
Can you get them to turn off the TV at dinner, or do they eat by themselves with the TV on? Here is what I do - - maybe it will give you some ideas. My criteria is that I cound SMILES not ACTIVITIES - (and takes guilt off my head)

I take my mom out with me as much as I can - day to day stuff like grocery store, or even driving around to see Christmas lights, or city council meetings. Local concerts and other community events. Most places where she is recognized and connected to others. My mom is gregarious and likes to feel connected to other people, so I don't focus on games or activities that require short-term memory - just activities that keep her in the loop. She too loves to watch tv, the news and Charlie Rose on PBS are favorites - she takes copious notes on each, as well as some shows But there are also books handy to browse through. I set up a birdfeeder with a separate feeder & platform for the squirrels - they now all have been named & she loves watching. We have a companion dog who is very social too - so she spends time up walking around withher walker, playing with our dog.

That said, my mom doesn't want to change clothes, or bathe or get her hair washed - she has lost initiative in some things. So I simply take charge as the initiator - - it works. I have learned that the fate of the world doesn't hinge on whether she has changed her favorite shirt on any given day...I have given up on what society 'says' and enjoy who she is as she is ....the longer I take care of my mom, the more I am recognizing that I am much more discriminating over what really matters versus the fear of what other people will say.
Only Child, you are awesome - great advice
My husband and I are dealing with my 89 year old Father who lives right next door. We tried taking him to the senior community center a while back, but "that place is for OLD people - not for me" was his response. He doesn't want to walk like he used to but will sit outside for periods of time. He is bored with television at this point, but refuses to do anything around his home or to even come to our home and join us - even for meals. We have found that even short trips out and about result in extreme confusion for him regarding where home is. He is upset that he can longer drive as his express desire is to return to the town where he grew up and where his "family" and his "kids" are waiting for him to "come home". He does suffer from both visual and hearing issues at this point and is not, of course, quite as spry as he used to be and through our research we are able to understand some of the reasons for his frustration, but are at a loss to find any activities for him to enjoy in which he might willingly participate. Any attempts, suggestions or encouragement meet with total resistance. All he wants to do is "get the h___ out of here and o home." My heart is breaking...

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