What are the experiences that bring true joy in life? Many homebound seniors spend their days alone, watching television and eating frozen dinners. Visits and outings are often focused around medical needs, errands, and tasks. While it is easy to prioritize a doctor’s appointment, how do we plan for and even schedule “Joy”? See the previous article, Bringing Joy Back, which discusses uniqueness of individuals, implementing care planning to include joy, and using favorite items and meals.
Ten Ideas for Bringing Joy Back
- Cue the Music: A woman with advanced dementia who barely speaks, may find her voice and sing clearly and joyfully when she hears her favorite song from the past.
- Dig in the dirt: A master gardener who now resides in a nursing home, might appreciate a friendly visitor who brings along some live plants to pot together and display for daily enjoyment.
- Take a scenic field trip: A nature lover who is homebound may enjoy an outing into nature, to sit by a shore or visit the woods. Transportation and a companion caregiver can readily be coordinated to accompany and support the journey if needed.
- Decorate with intention: Hang a lovely stained glass ornament, birdfeeder, mobile, twinkle lights, live plant, and windchimes in a room or nearby window to create a sense of movement, life and interest. Ask the individual to help decide where to place the items, engaging and empowering them with choice.
- Photographs: Load a digital frame or framed photos next to the bedside or favorite chair with photos of loved ones, pets, or images (landscapes, animals, sports, travel, etc.) that personally resonate or elicit a peaceful or joyful response!
- Enrichment visits: On a regular basis, arrange for a visiting therapy animal, musician, artist, Chaplain, someone to read and write letters, go for a walk, or share some porch-time together. This can be done by volunteers, neighbors, a hired companion caregiver, or a student or family member.
- Tradition and Ritual: Create new traditions that mimic ones from the past: afternoon tea, Sunday dinner, weekend drives, game nights, etc. This can be something that is done with a family member, or written into the care plan with a caregiver providing the regularly scheduled activity.
- Mail a thoughtful card: Write several postcards or letters at once, and mail one weekly. The cards and letters can be visibly displayed, and enjoyed over and over again at any time. If your loved one can no longer read, ask a care provider to read the letters often.
- Favorite foods: Order a favorite meal to be delivered to the door of your loved one. This can happen on a regular schedule and is a good way to supplement cooking and nutrition. A caregiver can also be hired to prepare preferred dishes, offering companionship and a wellness check at the same time.
- Reminiscence and artifacts: Fill a basket with colorful and tactile yarns, for your mother who once loved to knit but now lives in memory care. People often enjoy handling and engaging with the artifacts that relate their past hobbies and joys, which can inspire positive feelings and reminisce in the moment.
Higher Quality of Care and a More Joyful Life
These joyful items and activities may also act as a conduit for reminiscence and engagement between family, care providers, and seniors, leading to a deeper and more authentic connection in the moment. Just a few acts of intention, communication, and coordination by family and care providers can result in a higher quality of care and a more joyful life.