Part of taking care of ourselves is recognizing our mental health concerns. When it comes to mental health issues, we are still only scratching the surface. After so many years of researching Dementia, science responds with an outrageously expensive pharmaceutical treatment. Do we know what causes mental disorders? No. We are still guessing. And yet, we do know how to profit off of the disorders. Although perspectives related to genetic factors are becoming less of the go-to explanation, lifestyle is finally beginning to gain more respect.
Trying to pinpoint symptoms for mental health disorders is extremely difficult. When you look at a list of symptoms for Fibromyalgia and compare them to dementia-related disorders, they are on the same spectrum. Differences in how our brain functions lead to a wide range of cognitive, emotional, motivational, and social functions. Recreational Therapy is the holistic response to preventing and managing mental disorders before reaching chronic or debilitating levels.
Although Recreational Therapy is still a new concept, it is becoming a better intervention than pharmaceuticals. Of Course, there is a potential for sore muscles or injury, but the benefits outweigh the risks with proper guidance. Recreational therapy addresses the whole person through creative expression by focusing on their intellectual, spiritual, emotional, social, and physical needs.
Sushanthy Tharmavarathan, the founder of the non-profit Dementia Rec-create, understands this well. As a Recreation programmer, she knows the individual will be in the present moment having fun and benefiting from far more than social interaction. Because the ultimate goal is to improve the client’s quality of life, these activities can be shared between the caregiver and their loved ones.
When I first started to look for Mom's memory care community I found many which claimed to help their residents find meaningful purpose again. Even though each resident had individual choices between fulfilling a purpose or simply existing, their options were still very limited. This is because when it comes to budget, and activities director has very little room to help their residents. We can be doing more for our seniors to help them manage behavioral responses that are still misunderstood.
Let's break down what these activities are and what they provide us, regardless of age.
Domestic Life such as baking, preparing morning tea, setting tables, clearing and wiping tables, washing dishes, or folding clothes all provide small tasks that create moments for the body to boost blood circulation. Our loved ones can build or maintain muscle memory through routine and provide them with a feeling of significance through contribution.
Outdoor life such as walking, raking leaves, sweeping, gardening, feeding pets, woodworking, or tinkering all provide moments for fresh air, blood circulation, release endorphins for energy, gain a new perspective, sensory adaptation, and body flow to avoid muscle atrophy.
Social life such as shopping, visiting a park, going to the beach, seeing a film, attending a concert all provide moments to engage with others to maintain communication skills, seek meaningful connections, and even learn new skills. Dementia does not mean they have become old dogs unable to learn new tricks. They may need assistance but the brain can keep learning when given an opportunity.
Personal Life such as facials, manicures, looking through photos or having pets to engage with all provide moments of physical connection and security of the human touch. The healing power of hugs is still present in delicate touches to express and feel love in return. This is extremely important to avoid loneliness or self-isolation which leads to depression.
Individual Life relates to the personal selection of projects, reading, writing, working, computer usage, strength training, or seated exercise. All allow our loved one's opportunities to maintain a sense of individuality to find meaning or enjoyment in each day.
Each of these lifestyles contributes to our mental health in one shape or form. Even though we do not know what causes the deterioration from person to person, we do know that lifestyle is a proactive approach to avoiding or slowing decline.
Mental health symptoms are rising among children, adolescents, and seniors. We clearly do not understand how to identify or manage symptoms without medication. When we take the time to get to know our loved ones and express our needs then surely we can find a better solution so we do not feel alone.
Here are a few ways you can begin some Recreational therapy at home for starters:
Ø Choose activities with skills familiar to people (baking for texture and smell, building like woodworking for dexterity to hammer or sand wood.)
Ø Draw on your loved ones positive past experiences (what did they enjoy the most, encourage old skills)
Ø Focus on existing strengths (create invitations for swimming or walking to encourage circulation)
Ø Create areas that invite activity (musical instruments, raised garden beds, desk with chairs for writing or crafting.)
Thank you for joining in and listening with us today. You can find more about this topic on the blog at www.jessicalizelcannon.com. I hope this gave you more food for thought and until next time, BE PROACTIVE. Take care, everybody.
Intro: Vacation Time by Khris Paradise
Outro: Misty by Khris Paradise