Creative Caregiving: Simple Pleasures

 Something as simple as putting his chair or the couch, in direct sunlight was a great start. The sun’s warmth and light on his face and body was a life affirming experience.

Andy’s Parkinson’s symptoms were severe and relentless. We discovered small wins with simple pleasures.

He could not even walk to the bathroom by himself much less get out into the wilderness anymore by running, biking or hiking so we brought nature to Andy. Something as simple as putting his chair or the couch, in direct sunlight was a great start. The sun’s warmth and light on his face and body was a life affirming experience.

My father, who was housebound in the winter months, reclined in a chair we had moved near the window. It faced south and had the sunlight streaming in.

During Andy’s hard years we moved his chair right next to a door with a window in it. The sunshine was great. He could open or close the door allowing fresh air and sometimes wind, rain or snowflakes to bathe his upturned face in a rejuvenating still moment with nature.

Many people who live with disability also live with decreased blood circulation due to being more sedentary than they were before. A cozy quilt, soft blanket and warm slippers are all simple pleasures that can, by promoting comfort in body temperature, also promote feelings of being worthy enough to matter.

My grandparents converted their wood burning fireplace into a gas burning fire that was easy for them to turn on and off. They spent their older, less able years enjoying a fireplace that worked for their condition instead of losing that enjoyment because they were no longer able to carry logs.

Food is an obvious source of simple pleasure and often people living with disability have adapted what they eat out of consideration for ease of preparation. Giving the patient the gift of making a more complicated recipe for them can awaken dormant life affirming feelings.

When I made chicken soup with matzo balls for my elderly friend, who lives alone and mostly eats eggs, toast and yogurt, she said, “Honey, those onions smell heavenly, my mouth is watering!” When my parents’ caregiver agrees to cook up Nana’s ham and bean soup recipe, they also respond viscerally and are warmed by deep positive memories, as well as the soup.

The most powerful simple pleasure is human interaction which can also be one of the hardest things to provide for a disabled person. The most natural way for this to occur is through increasing family ties and learning to be open to unexpected friendships.

Whether or not you are disabled, what simple pleasures enhance your life?

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