Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Care Partner Wednesday--The Plague of Boredom

Dull. Repetitious. Tedious. Boring.

Do you feel like yawning? I lay my head back and close my eyes when I hear the words. Or, I jump up and find something to do. Boredom, especially if it lasts for more than a few hours, causes me to slide into a dull stupor. My thinking goes on autopilot and my eyes

Boredom plagues many of elders, who are isolated by physical limitations. Many think the best situation for an elder is to live out their lives in their home, bringing in supports such as help with bathing, meals and housekeeping. This has its advantages, but isolation is a huge downside. These elders don't have the strength or ability to get out, so their only company is the television, the caregivers who visit them and occasional family. Those who choose to live in long-term-care aren't isolated, but can also face boredom if the activities offered are sparse or not geared to their interests.

The key to dealing with the plague of boredom is found in the first domain of well-being, identity.       If I know an elder well, I know what lights up her eyes, animates his speech and makes her face glow. If I can tap into that, no elder will ever be bored.

Dora's happiest memories center around her family's cottage. If you ask her about it, she will talk with animation for hours.  Melissa loves Gilbert and Sullivan music. Even though a stroke has stolen her right side and many of her abilities, the songs thrill her as she sings along. George reads train magazines, and his passion is locomotives. He loves to have someone talk trains with him. Jean likes to knit, and chats about various topics as she visits with the other ladies. None of these elders are bored, because they are known, and this knowledge leads to activities which feed their passions.

It's important to know what boredom is not.

  • Boredom is not necessarily being alone. Some people enjoy, and even need time alone to recharge.
  • Elders who frequently fall asleep aren't necessarily bored. Some elders have limited strength, and need several periods of rest each day.
  • Being busy isn't the cure for boredom. I can be busy cleaning toilets, but it certainly doesn't excite me.
One of the greatest challenges is the frail elder who has had many losses and is nearing the end of her journey. Josephine was one of these. She no longer talked, and her face had little expression. I would talk to her while I helped her to eat lunch, but she never indicated she understood. Was she bored?  I didn't know, but I continued to reach out to her.

For birthdays, the staff gathers around the resident, presents them with a gift bag and sings, "Happy Birthday." I expected no response from Josephine, as was normal for her, so I was delighted when her sagging head raised and her eyes opened wide. She stared at me through the whole song, and although she was no longer able to smile, I connected with those shining eyes. It was if she said to me, "I'm still in here. Thank you." It was her last birthday.

When we make the effort to truly know who our elders were and who they are today, and explore their dreams and passions, we can use this information to combat the plague of boredom.


Care Partner Wednesday--The Plague of Boredom

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