Nursing Home Reflections

Therapeutic Recreation For Those Who Will Not Play

Image of Interlocked HandsMy dad is gradually recovering from his recent hospital stay, and the recreation department at his nursing home and I are once again frantically trying to figure out what we can do to keep him engaged both in social activities and in anything that will keep him using, in particular, his hands and his mind in ways he’s not used to.

We understand the therapeutic importance of stretching his abilities, but Dad doesn’t. Not one bit of it. When activities are suggested, said one person, he refuses almost arrogantly, as if they are beneath him. She wasn’t being disparaging; she was reporting an observation, not labeling my dad.

My dad has his moments, but that kind of arrogance isn’t really part of his personality. As a result, her comment made me think a lot more seriously about what might be going on with him.

“Seriously” turned out to be a clue.

Image of Hand-Tied Rose BouquetThere are many more women than men at my dad’s nursing home. Most of things they’re doing now are similar to what many of them did before they came to the nursing home. As part of the horticultural therapy program, the residents spend part of every Friday making the floral arrangements that are displayed during the week at the home.

There are regular baking activities, and decorative craft activities themed according to various holidays. There is an art therapy program that involves fabric, ceramics and painting. For the women who participate, these are familiar, and desirable, activities. They are enjoyable, even fun.

Image of a Sketch of a HandDad never did any of these things, nor anything like them. For him, it’s not that ‘fun’ isn’t the point — it’s not even part of the vernacular. His working life was driven by the need to make a living. His approach to his hobbies was driven by the same traits that made him successful at work — competition, study, goal-orientation. The casual pursuit of interesting and satisfying activities for their own sake wasn’t really a consideration, either when he worked or in retirement.

For my dad, life has been a serious business.

Photographic Image of a HandNow he’s reached the point when his capacities, both physical and mental, are diminishing. He’s arrived here without habits of practice and mind that would allow him to be receptive to expanding his world in ways he hasn’t considered before.

Image of Escher Hands SketchHe does not want to paint because he has never done it before, and because he doesn’t see any point to painting. He isn’t interested in cooking because it has always been a nuisance, something to get out of the way. He can’t use a darkroom, so, in his mind, there is no point to photography — and, in any case, he’s done that already. He sees no reason to do it anymore.

He does go to the music events at his home; he watches the Discovery Channel, the History Channel and Animal Planet. He listens to his extensive collection of CDs, and he reads. For the most part, though, he moves less and less, and he uses, less and less, his all-important hands — the part of his body least affected by his illnesses.

The less he uses his hands, the more rapidly he loses coordination and the less his mind is stimulated. As his mind is less stimulated, his hands work more poorly. And so it goes.

Image of Hands Clasped Behind a Back, WaitingThe challenge for those of us who care for my dad is huge. It’s a challenge that I suspect will assume increasing importance in the future for those who care for other men, and perhaps professional women, whose lives, like my dad’s, never encompassed the casual forms of recreation that help to keep bodies and minds in sync when the pressures of professional lives are no longer omnipresent.

It’s a daunting challenge, and one assisted living and nursing homes may find increasingly pressing over the next decade as their populations change.

Holding hands from wendydqm on flickr

Hand-Tied roses from imedagoze on flickr

Sketched hand from boxed13 on flickr

Hand photo from richard sweeney on flickr

Escher hands from Fondazione San Raffaele del Monte Tabor

Waiting hands from ivan on flickr

2 replies on “Therapeutic Recreation For Those Who Will Not Play”

Your dad reminds me of myself in some cases, and also of my dad.

I am sad to see no one else has offered a kind word, a suggestion… Anything to say hey I am wishing you, and also your dad the very best. So I will. 🙂

I have many issues and can decide to as your dad is doing now… Choose not to play. Not to partake in life.

Age 25 I was injured enough to use a wheelchair for over 2 years and be on workmans comp… Could still be today…

Started working at age of five. Dad while a awesome man, had also many issues. I was the oldest and had to insure we had food, clothes and rent was paid. Dad liked to gamble on the horses.

Age 19 my first mental breakdown… In the US Coast Guard. It was brought on because I could not imagine shooting someone on accident. And, I was an acemarksman. It was to much for me. So I was out in the last week or so of bootcamp.

Age 35 found to have adult ADHD an issue that haunts me to this day… It is a gift and nightmare all in one. I now know how to work witrh it.

I would spend 35 years in my shell… In fact just over 2 years ago… I also did not play… Not the way I do now. I would never have done anything like this… I could not spell, not speak well, and refused to accept I did not know what made me some odd freak. I knew I was from age 2 up.

I had a mendically induced mental break that I recall all of it… I lost my mind… Well, the ability to remain who I was. I would not go against any core values I had, and harm or hurt myself or anyone else… I also would not break my marriage voews. That still left much area to have lost control of…

I was given the title bi-polar as that last full manic issue was enough to earn that even though it would happen 15 years after my USCG break… And, has been over 2 years now that I had that issue. I have recovered to the amazement of my Dr’s and to this day they can not explain a thing about why I work the way I do… O,O

Now… I could sit back and allow any or all of these issues that yes do, and are, and able to change my life to the worse.

Or, I can do as I am now… Have done, and will do later…

The state of NY has offered ZERO help for any of this. I was on workmans comp, and we lost everything we owned except the house… Used a van loaned to us by my wifes boss so we had a way to get me to the many hundreds of Dr’s I would see…

I would ask for and het no job vocational help… I retrained myself. Took over two years at home on a old garage sale find Mac…

I would be given equipment like a tens machine yet not shown how to use it… Even when I asked… Workmans comp was a nighmare… Spend over 2 years on it…

No Dr would even allow me to get a cane… A wheelchair… Afraid I might become used to it.. O,O What used to being able to get outside… Live life…

I could have as your dad has and is doing… Refuse to play.

One thing I know your dad is not… He is not the type to up and just quit. He is not a slacker. He is not a bump on a log… He has fight in him.

As I did and do…

I have seen every possible Dr, person, had all the treatments now… And, well I am fine with this… The pain is the hardest to deal with.

It will have taken me at least 12 times to redo this to remove as many spelling errors and grammers issues as possible… And, as you see I still have a hard time…

Now, I am at home been on the wait forever SSD list now over 2 years… And will be on for over five by the time I find out if they will allow me to collect SDD… And, two years ago when I reinjured myself and was out of work…

I could still be in the loop… Nah… I got more treatments and something worked… Until this last time…
I was able to actually get a higher paying job… Take on ten million more things than just the one I could hardly handle before…

And, I was excelling at this new work… I was earning awards for excellence… I was able to be the person trapped inside… You see I have only been me for just over 2 years now… I have been to heck and back.. Because…

I refuse to give up… I want to play… I want to be apart of this thing called life and not watch it float by…

Well I sort of realize now that my pain may be the rest of my life. And, not working is what might have to be for me…

I might not be able to help the hundreds of people I used to sign into our large Orthopedics office and remind each and every person they are in fact… A Human Being, not just a number or insurance card.

Now that I have seen what life is like… I will adapt.

Here are some ideas that someone like your dad might just find interesting enough to give a try. I can not promise they will instantly work. But, might open up some new ways of getting him to play.

What life is really is nothing but play. When your dad did what he did to make a living he also with out ever knowing… Was playing. That us how inventions get made. And ideas are created. The names used are brainstorming, and Research and Developpement… And such. 🙂

He seems to like to not waste energydoing what he can have done for him. And, also what he has done before.

Ask him a few questions: Why do you keep kisting to music, if you have done it before?

Why keep reading, I mean he did it also before correct?

Asking these odd questions I hope will allow him to find out why the need for doing things even if we don’t want to… Helps us in more ways than we can imagine.

Also did you know that 99.9% of the world’s population has something in common that connects them all in ways that both require the hands and mind?

Kites. Yup. a simple kite to the ones I used to fly,

For some odd reason when people get to the point of not wanting to play any longer… It is time to go to the most simple of human desire… To fly.

Now, of course your dad is rather smart, as well as looking for something to challenge his mind.

He is bored to tears with the common day to day things he sees as chores, annoying things that need to be done anyway… So why should he do them well, or at all if others will pick up his slack. He is no slacker your dad… But, he sure acts like one. 😛

While on line please look up stunt kites. See some people flying on You tube, and also see the many levels from super easy yet hard enough for the first timer to learn and keep trying to the kite surfers who use kites to zip over the water and air…

Maybe he migh see something that can be tinkered on… Most of these kites cost under $200 for most that will ever be used by most. They are made to handle a crash and keep flying…

Stint kites are not let that far out like standard kites. They are about 100 feet from the flier. Two lines steer them or for the more adjile kite… A quad line is a great one to fly.

Yes, a childs toy they may be seen as… But, I have seen them also change peoples lives for the better. I am one of those.

OK, a standard kite more his speed… They also have come a long way from when he flew… And, they still sell the paper and stick ones he used to fly as well…

So, he is to big to play… You would be amazed at how something that might cost $75.00 and if flown for him to show what it can do… And, someone to show him how to get started… You watch as he chooses to play… And, love it.

Also making paper airplanes as silly as they sound, and cost near nothing… And, many online sites offer some great free designs to try and try…

Both ideas can be also enjoyed along with any music he likes… Stunt kites flown to music, and in teams for fun and compititions are amazing to see and try to learn…

I know I offer a bunch of ramble… Sorry for the errors, and my gross grammer…

I just hate to read of such a great man giving up on lifes one reason for being… We choose to play… Or we waste away… Play can be seen as nothing… Or as the means to not give up when so much more can be enjoyed.. Both for profit, or not… 🙂

I wish you both the best luck in this journey. I wish I could do more and offer more than only my words here… 🙁

Big Hugs to you. 🙂

The Expert Noob
Fighting my ignorance each day. Sometimes I win, mostly I do not… But, I will never give trying. 🙂

Thank you, Kite_Geek, for your thoughtful comments. I especially appreciate your suggestions for getting my dad over his objections to playing. I grinned when I read your suggestion to ask him why he still listens to music, when he has done it before! That particular argument had never occurred to me . . .

My dad is so ill now that he can do very little, but your suggestions about kites are good ones, and might work for many people, especially in geographic areas where the weather is good, and the wind is reliable. Who can help but be pleased when watching kites dance?

We did not try kites when my dad was better, but we did try paper planes, a simple remote control car, and various building activities, each with some, but very limited, success. Your suggestion about paper planes is especially good, I think, because they can be done indoors, and just about anywhere — with little expense, and little preparation. Above all, you are tuning in on the wonderful feelings that thinking about, and watching, flight can create.

I think what you are saying is that it is always important to engage the imagination, and that the more playfully it is engaged, the better. That’s good advice for all of us.

Thank you for your good wishes. I wish the best for you, too, in your own journey through the toughest parts of life.

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