Among the many hats we wear as an unpaid carer, “entertainment provider” is one that perhaps doesn’t get much air time. But indeed, we are often responsible for keeping the person we care for entertained, mentally stimulated, fulfilled and hopefully happy.
It’s important to acknowledge that while this may sound fluffy and possibly even fun - it can also be draining and difficult. Especially if we’ve been doing it for a long time. Or we’re caring for someone whose disability or illness makes engagement with activities more challenging.
So how are we keeping the person we care for entertained? We opened this question up in the Mobilise Community, and below are the top tips shared by carers.
1. Puzzle books and magazines
If they’re able to do so, then puzzle books and magazines are a great way to keep the person we care for entertained. They engage minds in ‘problem solving’ rather than passive viewing (such as with the TV). There are many benefits of puzzles for our brain. Meaning that having fun can also bring other benefits too, such as exercising our brain and improving our memories.
Puzzles may offer a nice distraction from social media scrolling, where we can find ourselves doomscrolling and making ourselves feel worse.
2. A stretch or a fun physical exercise
As well as keeping our minds entertained, we can do the same with our bodies.
Of course, this doesn’t have to mean intense physical activity. It can be a relaxing guided stretching tutorial on YouTube that we do together with the person we care for. Or it can be going for a short stroll in our neighbourhood, taking in the fresh breeze and the beauties of nature.
It’s also a great opportunity for us to get our steps in for the day. 😉
For some people, maybe physical activity looks like a massage or a kitchen disco to favourite tunes.
“We struggle to entertain our daughter, but she does love music and movement. So sometimes after dinner we crank up Nirvana for her and have a little kitchen disco. It makes us feel good too.”
Lots of condition-specific charities run online exercise classes, tailored specifically to the condition the person we care for has. For example, Age UK has a directory, where we can find out what exercise classes they are running in our own area or online.
3. Getting lost in arts and crafts
From scrapbooking with any old magazines or catalogues we may have laying around the house, to following a painting tutorial, or taking on a DIY project with the person we care for. There are many ways to get lost in creativity.
If art and being creative feels like a lot of work, then there are many ways we can make art more accessible and inspire ourselves to give it a go.
Here’s six ways we can make ‘getting arty’ easier for ourselves.
4. Baking, cooking or designing an awesome snack!
Cooking together can be a great way to entertain the person we care for. If they’re unable to take part with the practical parts, then we can still fill some time in a positive way. How about being chief taster or in charge of the kitchen soundtrack on spotify. Or what about sitting down together to plan meals or create recipes?
Food can unlock lots of memories, and be a great thing to bond over. Questions which can help us to kick start the activity might include:
Is there anything you’ve been craving/seen that we could attempt to make together?
Is there a favourite meal from your childhood we could cook?
What ingredients might we need to include in our shopping list?
How can we add our own twist to it?
When should we make this? Picking a day means we have something to look forward to!
It may also be helpful to be accepting of the mess that cooking creates - before we start! Taking in the moment and enjoying the time, rather than feeling resentful because ‘we could be doing something else’.
For those of us looking for cooking inspiration, we’ve got you covered with five quick and easy recipes we can try making with the person we care for.
5. Have a movie (or show) night
This is an easy wind-down option which we can do with the person we care for. With lots and lots of our favourite snacks - from buttered popcorn and M&Ms, to more healthier options such as fruit salads, or smoothies.
And a cosy blanket to top it off.
Reading is such a great escape. However, if holding a book is tricky, or eyesight is poor, then audiobooks or podcasts may be the answer.
Borrowbox, is an app that allows us to join our local library and listen to audio books for free.
7. Condition-specific activities
If the person we care for has a disability or illness that makes typical activities more challenging (or impossible), it’s good to get support directly from charities and organisations that understand. Here’s what we’ve found through simple google searches.
If your condition isn’t listed, simply try your own search on Google, Bing or whichever search engine you use.
Dementia - activity ideas for people with dementia (by Alzheimer’s Society)
Elderly - Age UK activities directory
Youtube channel full of different types of physical activities for people and families living with Parkinson's.
Parkinson's Voice Project have lively and fun free speech therapy sessions on Facebook and a series of informative webinars
And don’t forget - let’s look after ourselves too
On days when we’re feeling exhausted or our to-do lists are overwhelming us, then choosing not to entertain the person we care for is also an option. We can choose ‘easier’ entertainment like watching a film, or perhaps we can get a friend, befriender or family member to step in for a while.
It’s important that we prioritise things carefully. And this includes ourselves - our mental and physical health. It’s completely normal if we feel ‘carer’s guilt’. But, by putting ourselves first and re-charging, we’re able to be the best version of ourselves for us and the person we care for.
Even if we don’t have much or any spare time, there are small ways we can be nourishing ourselves.