Tell Us: How Do Keep Your Caree Occupied?

Yesterday, during Table Talk on Your Caregiving Journey, Kristin spoke about her inability to do what she enjoys. She has books to read, words to write, websites to visit… And, yet she can’t. The stress of worrying about Mary and whether Mary is safe becomes her day’s only action. It’s all she can do—think about making sure Mary is okay. The dread of what could happen (Mary wanders off, makes a mess of her ostomy bag) means Kristin is constantly ready to act.

The stress has taken over her days. The stress has become her life.

I think you can all relate. It’s what makes stress so insidious—it will grip your mind and soul with such a tight hold that it leaves little room for anything else. And, in caregiving, the cures for the stress, like getting more help (sometimes, you can’t get enough) or having Mary attend a local adult day center (there isn’t one nearby) can be an impossibility. It would be great if Mary could take a walk to tire herself out so she sleeps better. But Kristin lives in a remote area, in the mountains, which makes it hard for her and Mary to go out for a walk together. And, it’s long drive into town; a shopping mall for safe walking during the winter isn’t an option.

So, how do you keep Mary occupied long enough so that Kristin can take a break? It’s a caregiver’s conundrum.

We’ve put together a few ideas to increase a caree’s activity (to help promote a better sleep) and/or keep a caree occupied (so you can take a break):

Buck and Buck: The company makes dressing easier. It also makes undressing difficult—which comes in handy if you’d like to keep your caree either clean or simply clothed (or both). For instances, back-zip jumpsuits ensure a caree can’t slip out of clothes or reach into what you don’t want them to reach. Shop here.

Collector’s Choice Music: Purchase your caree’s favorite music, including Big Band, classical/opera and soundtracks. Also available are old radio shows. Visit or call 800-993-6344.

Innovative Caregiving Resources: Researchers from the Gerontology Center at the University of Utah concluded that video respites work—and developed their own series as result. The videos are now available through an unrelated company, Innovative Caregiving Resources. Videos cater to a wide range of care recipients; in “Ladies…Let’s Chat” female carees will enjoy a visit with Diane and her  grandchildren and in “Lunchbreak with Tony” male carees take a lunch break and discuss first cars and stick ball.  Other videos are geared toward specific ethnicities (Hispanic, African Americans, Jewish) and toward holidays, such as Christmas. For more information, visit or call 1-800-249-5600 .

NASCO: Its online catalog, at, features products to captivate your caree. You’ll products for persons with Alzheimer’s, as well as puzzles, games, sing-a-long videos and arts and crafts. You’ll want to peruse this company’s catalog and/or web site; it offers great ideas on how to keep you caree occupied with meaningful activites. Call for catalog: 800-558-9595.

Alzheimer’s Store: You’ll find products that keep your caree. Products are categorized by stages (Early Stage, Middle Stage and Later Stage), wandering, safety, forgetfullness. Visit or call 800-752-3238.

Puzzles and Games: You can find puzzles specifically for persons with dementia. Check out Memory Jogging Puzzles, MGC Puzzles, DignifieDesigns and Springbook Puzzles. You also can find more game ideas at Marbles the Brain Store; if you’re unsure of which game would be appropriate for your caree, call (877) 527-2460 to speak with a Marbles’ “brain coach” who can offer suggestions.

Sit and Be Fit: Sit and Be Fit is a line of exercise videos developed and lead by Mary Ann Wilson, who you’ve probably seen on your local PBS station. Mary Ann has tapes for persons with chronic illnesses, such as arthritis and Parkinson’s, as well as tapes for persons new to an exercise program. “The Caregiver’s Guide To Exercise Video” is perfect for carees who are wheelchair and bed-bound. Call 509-448-9438 to learn about the right exercise video for you and your caree. Or visit the Sit and Be Fit web site at

Senior Yoga: In this DVD, yoga teacher Debbie Russo leads you through a series of chair poses to help you and your caree increase your strength, endurance and flexibility. You’ll enjoy improved balance and stress relief. Learn more here.

No-cost activity ideas include folding laundry, organizing recipes and looking through old photos. Your caree also may be able to complete simple household tasks, like water the plants or help with cooking or baking or help feed and groom the pets. You also can reminisce, asking questions about a caree’s past, and play a favorite DVD of a treasured event (like a family member’s wedding). You also can ask family and friends to regularly call and write letters or send cards.

I’d love to add your suggestions as well. In our comments section, please tell us: How do you keep your caree occupied?

Reminders: Our next talk show airs on Tuesday, January 10, at 7:30 p.m. ET. And, I have our question (inspired by our show with Kristin): How can our communities help prevent family caregiver burn-out? Call in and share your suggestions; first caller wins. You can listen here. And, we chat on Twitter tonight (January 8) at 8 p.m. ET (7 p.m. CT, 5 p.m. PT) about your best caregiving tips. To join us, just go to, sign in with your Twitter credentials and use our hashtag: carechat. Finally, be sure to sign up for one of our classes; you’ll be amazed at what you learn about yourself!

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About Denise Brown

I began working with family caregivers in 1990 and launched in 1996 to help and support them. Through my blog, I share words of comfort and offer coping strategies and tips. I also write opinion pieces about recent research, community programs and media coverage of caregiving issues. I've written several caregiving books, including "The Caregiving Years, Six Stages to a Meaningful Journey," "Take Comfort, Reflections of Hope for Caregivers" and "After Caregiving Ends, A Guide to Beginning Again." You can purchase my books and schedule a coaching call with me in our store.

6 thoughts on “Tell Us: How Do Keep Your Caree Occupied?

  1. Bette

    This has recently become such a struggle – my mother had a stroke: so along with dementia, she has limited use of her arms and mobility is very difficult for her.

    Lately, what I’ve found works for me is to give her little increments of time – for instance, “I’m going to unload the dishwasher mom and then I’ll be right back to check on you”. Generally she will watch TV for 20 min. or so before hollering to find me – so I’m able to do a couple of things.

    She loved to knit before her stroke. I always think it’s so nice when a caree had/has a hobby that they can still enjoy.

  2. Avatar of JaneJane

    I don’t really have this issue with Nicole but she always does seem to want something when I’m right in the middle of something. She has her laptop and her games and drawing so for the most part this doesn’t apply.

    Jane ~ mom to Nicole 17 yo, VSD, PAH, Eisenmengers, BHJS
    “If you don’t like something change it, if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.”

  3. Colleen

    Buck & Buck Clothing – What a delightful place to deal with!!!
    Velcro shirt buttons! Elastic waist pants for men (that looked like normal pants). All of my dad’s clothing from there survived the nursing home laundry for several years. The telephone sales help were always helpful and just so nice to deal with on the phone.

  4. Trish

    What a great list of resources, Denise! I hadn’t thought of checking out Buck & Buck because I thought they were just for women but Colleen’s describption of the velcro buttons certainly got my attention. I’ll check them out for sure.

  5. Trish

    I am thrilled to report that I checked out the Buck & Buck website and ordered Robert 2 long sleeve shirts (just the way he likes them — with the collar and the pocket). I am so excited for him to try them because they have VELCRO on the inside and buttons on the outside. He has lost the ability to use his right hand to button his left cuff and this will allow him the independence to continue to dress himself (and wear the dress shirts he likes). Thank you for this great resource! I can’t wait for the shirts to come in and for Robert to try them out. :-)

  6. Avatar of Roaring MouseRoaring Mouse

    Love the resource list, I will definitely come back to it.

    Fortunately my husband still has his mind so I just bring him whatever computer equipment he needs and then he’s okay…pending all of his medical needs that he can’t do or if he needs a meal. However, we also have a very bright 5 year old and I’m told that she’s reading at a 5th grade level so we had to start informal schooling. Keeping her busy is the challenge.


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