Tag Archives: family caregivers

Power of animals to offer brief respite for caregivers

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I visited a local cat cafe for my birthday, and it’s a nice way to spend an hour surrounded by cats with a good cup of coffee. It made me think about how spending time with animals offers the harried family caregiver a convenient, affordable respite from the drudgery and stress of daily duties.

I’m always on the lookout for ways caregivers can slip away for an hour or two and recharge, while their loved one is at adult day care or being cared for by someone else.

For those who love cats, watching them can be relaxing and entertaining. Just observing a cat sleeping is calming, and kittens offer plenty of entertaining hijinks during play time. Petting a purring cat has been shown to have a calming effect.

Dog lovers can visit animal shelters or rescue organizations. Many times, volunteers are needed to walk dogs or just socialize with dogs waiting for a forever home.

Owning a pet may be overwhelming if you are a caregiver, so these options allow you to still connect with the joy animals offer without adding to your workload.

Another thing I love to do is visit butterfly habitats. I found that to be such a soothing, surreal experience, walking through an area filled with fluttering butterflies.

Some may have zoos or other wildlife retreats near them that they enjoy visiting.

Anything that gets you outside of your head for a brief period of time, and focused on something delightful is a worthwhile respite. (It would be nice if caregivers could enjoy a week-long getaway of their choice, but we know that’s difficult to do in many cases.)

We also know that animals can have a positive impact on those with dementia and other diseases. I remember visiting a cat cafe in Montreal, and the daughter had brought her mother, who appeared to have dementia. They both enjoyed their visit.

For more respite care resources, visit Respite Care Share.

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A sweet and simple connection

I watched a video that has been making the rounds on Facebook lately, and I thought it illustrated how we can still reach those in the latter stages of Alzheimer’s, we just have to be flexible in our approach.

Musician Joe Fraley’s mother has Alzheimer’s, and back in October, before she was moved to assisted living, Fraley recorded a video of him and his Mom sitting on the porch while he strummed a guitar and sang.

Clearly, the woman is confused and asks poignant questions like “Who are we?” Fraley’s approach is refreshing because he keeps things light and conversational, while still addressing her concerns and not being dismissive. The woman responds to the music, and you can see how it lights up her face, even if it is just temporarily.

Not only is it important for those with Alzheimer’s to still connect with their family members in small but meaningful ways like this, I believe it is equally important for the family caregivers. While the recorded moment is still tinged with sadness, Fraley was able to reach his mother through the cloud of dementia by their mutual love of music, and that is a memory to cherish.

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