If you're caring for parents, it may pay off to put a positive spin on your eldercare practices. I recently read an interesting article in The Washington Post about a possible link between personality, lifestyle, and risk for Alzheimer's disease. The study, conducted by the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, found that older adults who are more active, outgoing, social, and relaxed may be less likely to develop Alzheimer's and other kinds of dementia.
Granted, it's difficult to know whether a positive attitude reduces dementia risk or if Alzheimer's in its earliest stages negatively affects mood and attitude - kind of a "chicken or the egg" conundrum. But still, caregiving is hard work, so if you can approach caring for parents with a positive attitude, it could benefit both you and your parents.
These suggestions from the researchers may help you when planning your eldercare routine:
Have an Active Lifestyle
Planning active eldercare activities can be good for both of you. Try scheduling some kind of exercise with your parents, such as a walk or some gardening, to get some physical activity into your day. Caregiving can also include mental activity, such as playing cards or doing crossword puzzles with your parents, and social activity, such as taking your parents to lunch with a group of friends.
Try a Variety of Activities
While caring for parents, try new things instead of relying on the same itinerary every day. A visit to a museum or volunteer work at a local non-profit organization can make eldercare positive and fun for everyone.
Build Up a Rich Social Network
This includes your friends, your parents' friends, relatives, and others in your eldercare circle. Plan gatherings that can enhance caring for parents by providing fun and relaxation for everyone and that make caregiving more of a shared experience.
It's important to remember that being positive, calm, and outgoing is no guarantee against dementia. But having a positive attitude while caregiving can do wonders for your eldercare experience and can foster a positive attitude in your parents as well. I don't see any downsides to that! Do you put a positive spin on caregiving? Post a comment to this blog, and be sure to sign up for our email list to receive regular updates about new eldercare topics posted on EldercareABC.com.
--Carrie L. Hill, Ph.D