Often times, individuals with chronic illness must also cope with the isolation of being homebound. Issues with mobility, vulnerability to infection or cognitive impairment may prevent participation in activities that were once held dear. The resulting loneliness can be almost as painful as the chronic illness itself, affecting both the patient and the family members or friends who serve as caregivers.
Finding joy in the everyday can mean the difference between heartache and happiness. While your loved one may not be able to take a run in the park or go to church every week like they used to, there’s still fun to be had and new things to experience. These activities have been proven to help lift the spirits and improve overall wellness:
- Get your hearts pumping. Just a few minutes of daily exercise strengthens muscle tone, improves balance, and increases blood flow to the brain. Try stretching with an exercise band or doing arm curls with light hand weights. If mobility is an issue, YouTube offers a variety of yoga sessions that can be done from the comfort of a chair. Of course, it’s critical to get a doctor’s clearance before beginning a new exercise regimen.
- Crank up the tunes. Did you know that Elvis, Sinatra, and Beyoncé all have healing powers? According to studies, our favorite tunes release naturally-produced opioids in the brain that minimize discomfort. Researchers found that when chronically ill patients listened to music twice a day, their physical pain, anxiety, and depression were all reduced. For Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, hearing a song from the past can temporarily reawaken memories and increase engagement in the environment.
- Arrange a visit from Fido and Fluffy. According to a study from the University of Virginia, when we pet a dog or cat, our brain focuses on the touch, not on pain in another area of our body. What’s more amazing is that even stuffed animals can reduce anxiety or agitation in patients with dementia!
- Keep learning. The Louis County Public Library Homebound Service delivers books, magazines and CDs at no cost. What a wonderful opportunity to promote a healthy brain for free.
- Pick up a paintbrush. Painting, drawing and sculpting all improve motor skills. What’s more, art provides a venue for expressing a wide range of emotions and gives a sense of control.
- Get social. For those with minimal social support, reducing loneliness may require a bit more effort. There are, however, resources available to help with this. The VA Volunteer Caregiver Support Program in St. Louis, for instance, connects homebound veterans to volunteers who can visit once a week. The Louis County Older Resident Program Care Calls has volunteers available to talk by phone or in person.
- Lend a helping hand. Many chronically ill or elderly patients feel they can no longer contribute, but every skill, talent or hobby should be considered as a way to give back. Consider knitting booties for patients in hospital oncology wards, packing care boxes for service members, creating fleece blankets for children in foster care, or even playing with kids across the world with The Granny Cloud!
If you or a loved one has a condition that requires you to stay home much of the time, don’t allow isolation to exacerbate your condition. Consider these small steps that may improve your daily life, health, and well-being!