After a parent or senior loved one moves into an assisted living community, they’re not the only ones who face a transition period. Everyone who loves them has to create a new routine around paying visits and spending time with them in a new environment.
One of the most important things you can do for a parent in assisted living is to commit to regular visits. Though if you want to go a step further to make these visits memorable for your senior loved one, coming equipped with activities can make your time there more special.
Here are eight unique assisted living activities for your next visit with your parent:
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Crafts are both a fun way to produce something beautiful and spend time together and the internet is packed with websites that share senior-friendly craft ideas:
Many crafting options are seasonally relevant or tie into specific holidays, which can make it a good activity for celebrating particular times of the year together. You can help your loved one decorate their room or create fun homemade gifts when the holiday season rolls around.
Board games can also inject a dose of fun into your time together. Some assisted living communities may already have a collection you can use to start. There are board games with all sorts of themes — from adventure games to card games, to word games and more. If you need ideas, head to your closest game shop and ask for recommendations based on what you and your parent like.
If your parent has Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia, then stick with games that have simpler rules. You can find a number of games designed for senior loved ones with Alzheimer’s, for when your loved one reaches the point where other board games are too difficult.
One way to keep conversations interesting and make sure you always have something new to talk about is to come into the visit with a theme to discuss, such as a book you’re both reading. Book groups don’t have to be made up of a large group. It can be just you and your loved one or the two of you and another family member.
Figure out some books you’re both interested in, then make a list and pick dates to talk about them together. Or if books aren’t your thing, do the same thing with movies. Every other week, plan on discussing a movie you’ve both been wanting to see.
Even if the meals at the assisted living community that your parent lives at are great, eating in the same cafeteria can become pretty humdrum. You can spice things up for your parent by buying or making some of their favorite foods and packing them into a picnic basket. Bring along a blanket and maybe a comfortable lawn chair or two and find a spot somewhere on the assisted living grounds or nearby to sit together and enjoy the meal outside.
This gives you all a chance to get outside for a little bit, gives them the opportunity to eat some of the foods they’ve missed and gives you something fun to do together. Keep this option in mind for any time that the weather forecast shows you can expect a beautiful day outside.
Is there a TV show you both love? Make viewing a show together a regular activity. Whether it’s on cable at a specific time each week or a Netflix show you’re both interested in, commit to watching each episode together so you can laugh or gasp together at the shocking twists.
The TV can be a communal activity if you make a point of treating it that way. Pick out your show, choose a set time each week and make a date of it.
Do you have children, siblings or other loved ones that live too far away to visit them regularly? Why not virtually meet with them together during your visits?
This is an especially good activity to do together if your parent has a hard time figuring out the technology on their own. It can be a handy way to make sure those calls happen — without specific scheduling, it can be too easy to go weeks without talking to a loved one that lives in another city.
Everybody loves music. Listening to music together can be a pleasant way to do something enjoyable for both of you. Creating a playlist together gives your loved one something they can enjoy in the hours when you’re away. If your parent isn’t great at figuring out programs like Google Music or iTunes, you’ll be giving them a useful way to enjoy the songs they love.
This is another activity that’s especially useful for anyone whose loved one has Alzheimer’s. Music has a special place in our brains and is something that loved ones with the disease can remember well, long after other memories start to slip away. Listening to music together and helping your parent rediscover the songs they’ve long known and loved can be a moving activity for those in assisted living or memory care.
With digital photography and social media, not as many people sit down to create scrapbooks. Not only do scrapbooks give you something physical you can flip through together to enjoy your memories, but putting a scrapbook together can be a fun and rewarding activity.
Pick out some scrapbooking supplies together. Scrounge up all the old photos you can find and get some of the newer digital ones printed out. Then turn your next few visits into a trip down memory lane as you pick out old photos and decide how to arrange them all in your scrapbook.
You can keep your trips to assisted living fun and interesting and add a little variety to your loved one’s days (and your own) with these assisted living activities. We hope you’ll use these tips to plan out some specific activities for your next visit.
Is your parent or senior loved one currently living in assisted living? What other assisted living activities does your loved one enjoy? We’d like to hear your stories and suggestions in the comments below.