Fun times, me-time, glasses half full, and why I no longer have dreams

Here’s a post on stuff I enjoy, and what keeps me (though some may contest that) sane and cheerful and active most of the time. Seeing the glass half full and all that. And why I don’t dream about my future.

glass half full

Which reminds me, here’s a half-full glass at Café Coffee day after I’ve sucked out every drop of the Lemon Mojito–but not all glasses sparkle when half full. I even sat there for ten minutes waiting for the ice to melt–I’d paid for it, right?–then realized that ice-cold water wasn’t worth the wait. There’s such a thing as “sunk cost”. But this is quite unrelated to what I’m going to ramble about.

There’s fun and there’s fun, and on days when I can go out, I love long walks and cold coffee with ice-cream and puris and drooling over books in assorted bookshops. I don’t socialize (I’m an introvert who finds gatherings stressful) but I like going out alone or with hubby, walking, mall-walking, or sitting in a coffee shop, watching the hustle and bustle around me.

But I also build fun into my days at home.

Like jigsaws.

People rave about meditation and visualization for calming the mind, and I’m all for meditation so long as it is others who are doing it: great going, guys. Mindfully watch thoughts sneak in, and hopefully you find it enlightening rather than disheartening to recognize your “monkey mind” (and no, that’s not a mind thinking of monkey business). Visualization’s never relaxed me, either.

But a jigsaw engrosses me. Beats meditation, beats brain focus exercises. You can’t complete a 1000 or 1500 pc jigsaw if you are distracted.

Read the full post here

The unexpected quality of openness

One of the loveliest parts of starting “fun” time with my mother was the way I began looking forward to that time slot with her. I didn’t have to be competent all the time, or keep trying to improve things. My need to “preserve and protect” my boundaries dissolved, too.

Strange how, after decades of establishing a boundary with the parents to define oneself as an individual, it is only when those boundaries dissolve that one finds  the best of oneself….

Care is often not seen as related to fun. I definitely did not think of “fun” for years. Oh, I would try to talk to my mother sometimes, but it didn’t quite work out. For one, I lacked the skill to orient with and feel comfortable with her view of reality. And another, I always had a agenda, even though I wasn’t aware of it myself, and that agenda was to make her accept her situation and improve.
Read the full post

Enjoying fun time with my mother

Here’s my mother’s favorite story: There were four young Brahmins who had spent years studying in an ashram, and finally their guru told them they were ready to go out into the world and use what he’d taught them. Use with caution, of course. And as they walked across the forest they saw the bones of a lion scattered on the grass, and decided to try out their skills on it, taking turns. And then, stuff happens.

This is a story from the Panchatantra. It has a moral. It has a lot of great graphic pictures in the large-print version of the story I have.

Have you heard the story? How many times?

Ever so often, I ask my mother whether she wants to hear it. If she is sleepy, or unwell, she shrugs or ignores me. If she is awake and happy, she nods her head with the sort of eagerness one expects in kids hearing their bedtime story. And I begin talking…
Read the full post

If I could do it all over again

A natural part of retrospection is wondering how things would have been different if, some years ago, I had known what I know now about dementia and caregiving. This is not an exercise in regret or guilt, more a way to deepen my understanding of the past, and also, perhaps, to help me answer questions when neo-caregivers ask me about the journey ahead of them.

Some things are obvious. I should have learned more about dementia and caregiving as soon as it became obvious that my future was intertwined with these. I should have built up my toolkit, connected with the community, shared my experiences and heard others share theirs. I should have been more patient, more loving, more understanding….

But one thing does not come out in this list, which is to me, more important. I am not sure a neo-caregiver, dreading the role, would even bother to hear me talk about this – but here it is: given a chance t do it all over again, I would have more fun-times with my mother.
Read the full post

Joys of the crafts

One problem of my mother’s restlessness is that she starts scratching herself, and then continues to do so till her skin had livid patches of red. They hurt, so she scratches herself even more. The doctor had prescribed mild anti-histamines for it, and the course he suggested got over two days ago.
And sure enough, she was scratching herself again within a day of the medication stopping. We try to keep her from hurting herself by filing her nails smooth every day, but she manages to snag her nails and break them despite their being short and neat. We tried to distract her, but it didn’t work.

So yesterday, I thought about trying out mittens. That way, even if she scratches herself, it is unlikely to be severe, and she may even forget to scratch…who know? Worth a try…
Read the full post

tooth tales

Out of the blue yesterday, I had a few fun memories of caregiving. I must admit they weren’t that much fun when they happened, but when I remember them, I find myself grinning.

Like the day my mother told me her teeth were hurting, and I asked here where, and she touched her eyes.

Or another teeth-hurting day, when she could not say which tooth was hurting till I took out her dentures, and then she touched a tooth in one of the dentures and told me, this one.

Mom always had the great confusion about dentures. If I held out the denture and asked her to put it on, she would tap her (existing) teeth, and nod, as if to tell me she had already done so 🙂 On a few occasions, she tried to take out her teeth after already having taken out her dentures.
Read the full post

ups and downs as part of caregiving fun

At the toy shop, as I looked around for board games I could play with my mother, the shopkeeper was most helpful. Chess? Scrabble? Err…no. Ludo…hmmm… I couldn’t figure how I’d explain the rules to my mother…so, thank you, but no.

The game had to be simple enough in terms of its rules and visually, and it should work well with two players. Finally, I got us a Snake and Ladders.

My misgivings began soon after I left the shop. Snakes and Ladders is not exactly a high-skill game (a plus), and progress depends on luck (could that be a minus?). I could end up winning, or I would have to be very careful not to win. She may find the sinuous snakes alarming if her token had to slide down to a lower square.
Read Read the full post

An hour at a time: Fulfilling moments in dementia caregiving

A day at a time, an hour at a time, one task at a time–that sounds like a mantra for living in the present moment. It is also the mantra for handling caregiving. And even more, a mantra for remembering how caregiving can enrich by finding in the span of the day one hour, even one hour, of an activity that can be fun.

A few months ago, I thought ‘playing’ was for kids, but then I realized playing is also a way of improving (or at least retaining) cognitive skills, so I got my mother a few games. Simple ones, colorful ones.

My aim was to use games to instruct her and help her retain her cognitive abilities. Each time she fumbled over a wrong choice, or took “too much” time, I felt impatient. When, on a particular day, she was unable to finish a game she had managed earlier, I felt disheartened, and so did she. When a deterioration continued across days, I despaired.

But one day, instead of focusing on her progress, I watched her expression–the intense attempt at concentration, the fleeting smile of delight, the puzzlement–and that day, I changed my focus of this game-playing activity. I began seeing it as something that could help her feel cheerful and good about herself, and well, why not? She has enough dealt out to her by life that works the other way. A day for her is full of so many small failures–failures to remember words, phrases, failures to ‘tell’ in time and cause smelly accidents, failures to even remember her name. If she can smile because she can pieces together a simple jigsaw, that was great.

Over the last few months, I have slowly got her a set of games she likes. It amazes and delights me to see how she manages to enjoy the same game day after day, with that same sense of wide-eyed wonder.

Like today. We used a jar of play-doh and shape-cutters.We made stars, and flowers and butterflies and elephants, and I found myself enjoying them alongside her, not just watching her. I don’t think I have shared any fun activity with her for years now. Strange it needed her to get dementia for us to be together for one judgment-free relaxed hour a day.

Some activities can be fun, you know, if you don’t get too serious about winning and being correct and improving and learning. They can be full of laughter that bubbles inside the heart, and colors. Not every day, maybe. Not every activity. But some, sometimes.  And that is a great starting point.

If you like this post, please Share/ like this post using the buttons below.

You can also follow this blog by getting email notifications; click the “Follow me” option at the bottom of the right sidebar. Thank you!