Aging Parents: Living Gifts–Great and Therapeutic for Elders

Philodrendron

Philodendron

Are aging parents and elders we care about bored?
Feeling unneeded? Lacking purpose?

At holiday time or any time easy-care plants are excellent and inexpensive gifts for combatting boredom, and/or feeling useless and unneeded. Caring for plants enhances lives. No kidding! If in doubt, see the 809,000 results of googling college horticulture therapy major.  Or read, from Oregon State U’s catalog:

Horticultural therapy is recognized as a practical and effective treatment with wide-ranging benefits for people in therapeutic, vocational, and wellness programs…now taught and practiced….in… mental health, physical rehabilitation..long-term care and hospice.

Here’s the update and the lowdown that may inspire giving easy-care, living plants–in some form–to aging parents and elders who live at home or in care facilities.

IMG_2902While most of us wouldn’t hire a horticultural therapist for our parents, gifting a plant provides some of the benefits. There’s a responsibility factor, the feeling of being needed, and satisfaction from watching a plant grow, produce new leaves, and possibly flower.

Example: Sr. Advisor R’s responsibility to her plants ran deep. She figured out how to continue to care for her plants as she aged. She used her walker. It carried the plants on its tray to her kitchen sink or carried a pitcher of water, in its recessed hole, to water the plants until the day she died at 101.

R was aware of every new leaf and kept each plant looking perfect. She also had philodendrons happily growing in containers of water or potted in soIMG_0254il. They were like her babies.

Easy-care plant options for elders

1. The snake plant adds decor–you can’t miss it. It survives neglect–just needs watering now and then…when soil dries out. My brother was given one, by friends who know him well, as a house-warming gift. It filled an empty corner. He loves it. It’s the only plant he has–waters it “once a month–maybe.” OK–it’s a succulent…and a tough plant to kill.

2. I planted a dish garden of succulents* in Arizona–kept outside on a paDish Garden with Succulentstio with an overhang so it doesn’t get drenched when it rains. Because the bottom has no drainage holes (not a good idea for novices), it’s checked and given a bit of water every 2-3 weeks…when the succulent “leaves” show signs of shriveling.

All my other succulents are in pots and dish gardens–inside and outdoors–and have drainage holes.  All they need is light and, when the soil is completely dry, a good watering that drains out. Succulents take the same care/abuse as the snake plant.

Watching dish gardens of succulents or leafy plants  grow–and change, adds interest to life, especially when they flower. IMG_1056This rock garden was exhibited at the Philadelphia Flower Show.

3.  Terrariums: The open-terrarium below in the footed glass container was on the counter by thIMG_2709e sinks in the ladies’ room at a restaurant near the Philadelphia Flower Show. Horticulture seems contagious in Philadelphia–whether in the Convention Center or in surrounding venues. Being careful not to overwater is paramount as there’s no drainage.

Closed terrariums, on the other hand, are truly easy care. Plants grow in any nonporous container as long as it’s covered so as to be airtight. (Closed terrarium plants thrive in humidity and NO direct sun.)

This IMG_4800flowering prismatacarpa begonia in a brandy snifter, is from a cutting taken 5 months ago. A round piece of glass scotch-taped on top (cut at a store that replaces window panes) prevents drying out.  Plastic wrap works also, but doesn’t look as nice.

Click here for details and pictures of the following:
4. Christmas Cactus
5.  Golden Pothos
6.  Philodendron
7.  Syngonium
8.  Wandering Jew

Click here for details and pictures of:
9. Oxalis
10. Bromeliad
11. Spathiphyllum

As Thanksgiving, Christmas and Chanukah approach and we think gifts for older people, especially those living alone, aren’t “living plants” an appealing choice?
***

Note: Prismatacarpa begonia: a flowering favorite and described as a “small plant [that] proves mighty in its propensity for being nearly always in bloom” requires humidity. It grows in sphagnum moss–the soft kind (not the scratchy,”prickery” kind) in closed terrariums and seldom gets dry–but when it does (leaves begin to wilt), add a teaspoon of water.

Related:  Easy-Care Plants for Aging Parents

Information for making or purchasing dish gardens and/or terrariums below:
                 Live Plants in Little Landscapes –Terrariums
                 Aging Parents: Little-care, Live Plants, Gifts–Flowering or Not 

*Dish garden succulents–inexpensive, from Home Depot
***
Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely tips, information and research from top universities. respected professionals and selected publications–to help parents age well.

Sense of Purpose: A Gift for Aging Parents–at Thanksgiving, Chanukah and Beyond

Thanksgivng 2013

I think everyone would agree: having a sense of purpose is essential to feeling good about life. The big question: How do we instill a sense of purpose in aging parents who no longer have it?

Do remember, those who never had it will no doubt never get it–
People Change, Not Much.

I recently read a short blurb about the importance of having sense of purpose. While there’s a chapter in my book about it, I haven’t addressed it directly in my posts. They have focused more on the positive feelings that come from being needed. So here goes–

First, when older people are married, there is someone in their life, whether healthy or sick…there’s purpose. So we’re talking about elders living alone. And it may take more than superficial thinking to instill a sense of purpose in aging parents who have lost it.

Next: Think about parents’ strengths/talents– objective and touchy-feely: eg. dexterity (talent fixing things), cooking, knitting, gardening, musical ability as well as patience, empathy, caring about certain things…. We may need to go back in time, remembering what they enjoyed/cared about when younger.

Then decide: can we renew and/or support sense of purpose?–or does it need to come from somewhere else?

Now: Think creatively and in a macro, big-picture way–for example:

The most universal sense of purpose (the macro) for many will be wanting to maintain independence. What can they do towards that goal?

Example: For Sr. Advisor, R, it has been to keep herself healthy enough to be able to remain in her home. There’s purpose in exercising daily and shopping for her own groceries. The shopping cart provides stability and confidence when walking. Although her shopping takes forever, the entire experience is win-win for her and for us. R gets exercise, uses her brain, makes decisions about needed/wanted food and its cost, and has connections with others…the cashiers know her (told her she was so amazing yesterday, reinforcing self-esteem and good feelings.

Best for us, we can support this–driving R to the grocery store and waiting for her to get what’s on her list–and do our own marketing at the same time. We use our cell phone to take care of other stuff if there’s extra time. If your parent feels, like R, that being on a cell phone is rude, once you know how long a parent’s shopping takes, you needn’t hang around as if they’re not independent enough to be on their own. Ask if they need help, do what’s needed, then wait in the car and go back when you think (s)he’s about finished.

R’s shopping is followed by her putting the groceries away (if they’re heavy, we help) and ultimately cooking for herself and eating healthy.

Additional ways that instill feelings of purpose:
1. Doing for others–volunteering–but it must be meaningful. Old people being with young children in a daycare or school setting can be wonderful. That said, children spread many germs so this won’t work for elders with “ify” immune systems.

2.  Having a pet to care for; but this is can be tricky for older people. A veterinarian offers good information in a past post.

3. Having plants to care for offers an easier alternative to #2 (check out Easy Care Plants)

Thanksgiving is tomorrow as is the first day of Chanukah. Give aging parents a sense of purpose by giving them a task and/or asking for help. I’ve written about the oldest guest stringing the cranberry necklace for the turkey at our Thanksgiving dinners. I’ve written about bringing those in rehab or care facilities home for the holiday meal, including some specific ways aging parents can help.

Lastly, after Thanksgiving brainstorm with friends who have living-alone aging parents for new ideas.

Restoring a sense of purpose is an intangible gift. It helps aging parents feel better, and that makes us feel better.

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Chanukah

Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities and respected professionals, plus practical information–to help parents age well.