If your Mom’s moved to an Assisted Living Facility (ALF), you likely feel relief that she has the support she needs. Most families are also pleased with the idea that Mom will be less isolated and have access to numerous activities. For some seniors, living in their own home becomes an isolating experience.
However, moving to an ALF is a major transition that can also be difficult. Sometimes families are surprised to find their parent isn’t having the positive, social experience they’d hoped. Managing the transition period can help your parent adjust. Make sure to help them get oriented to the facility and new routine. Think about their perspective moving from their longtime home to a completely new environment with a different schedule and new people all around them. Engaging Mom in fun activities and showing her your continued love and support goes a long way.
Even when Mom has been living at her ALF for some time, your visits still mean a lot to her. They’re also vitally important for ensuring quality care. Just your presence (or that of family, friends or a care manager) can make a significant difference. But, visits are about more than checking up on things. They keep you connected and give you quality time together. You may have been so busy handling Mom’s care at home that there wasn’t much time for fun or conversation. The ALF can offer the gift of getting that time back.
Fun Assisted Living Activities to Do with Mom (Plus Practical Tips)
1. Enjoy the assisted living activities together. Help Mom discover everything the ALF has to offer.
Your visits can be an opportunity to explore what the ALF already offers together, especially when Mom is still adjusting. Check the assisted living activities calendar. Look for some events you think Mom would enjoy and plan your visits around them. This can be particularly worthwhile if Mom seems hesitant to attend assisted living activities.
As both professional and family caregivers, we’ve seen how much elders in ALFs and nursing homes enjoy having a companion attend activities with them. It’s fun to introduce the companion to staff and other residents. You may feel like a kid again as your proud Mom “shows you off”. What a wonderful experience for both her and you.
2. Treat Mom to some pampering.
What Mom doesn’t like to look and feel good? You could give Mom a manicure, or hire someone to come in and give you manicures together. EasyLiving caregivers can be hired to file and paint nails. Or, take it a step further with a facial or massage. The facility may be able to arrange someone, or you can find local professionals who offer mobile spa services. As an alternative, you could make an outing of it (see more on outings below).
Many facilities have beauty salons on-site, so you could make Mom an appointment and keep her company. Pampering can also be something simple, like bringing Mom her favorite lotion and massaging it into her arms and hands. Another option is to do Mom’s hair and makeup for dinner or a facility event.
3. Help Mom stay connected.
One of the assisted living activities that can be most beneficial to Mom is helping her stay in touch. When you visit, you can bring your phone or iPad and Skype/Facetime with the grandkids and other relatives. You could even set this up and demonstrate so Mom can do it anytime. You can also bring the grandkids or other friends and family for a visit and do something fun together.
You can go through Mom's mail with her and read cards and letters from friends and relatives. Or, take the initiative to make cards with the grandkids to bring with you. Maybe her church members would like to do the same thing. Buy Mom stationery and cards and fill them out together. Similarly, when Mom makes the initial move, be sure to send out change of address cards. Make it a fun, exciting announcement to create a positive atmosphere about the move.
4. The way to a woman’s heart is through her stomach.
While the old saying uses “man’s heart”, we all know this isn’t gender-exclusive. Food can bring pleasure and evoke memories. Therefore, one of the most popular assisted living activities for families is bringing in special food to enjoy together.
This might mean bringing Mom lunch from her favorite restaurant. Or, perhaps you cook one of Mom’s familiar recipes or bake her Christmas cookies. (You can modify recipes to accommodate any special diet Mom requires.) One nice idea is to bake some of Mom’s popular treats and bring them in to share with staff and/or residents. However, check rules on food, and be aware of residents’ dietary restrictions.
Another way to expand upon this is by cooking together or having Mom help you. However, this will typically be difficult in an ALF. But, you may be able to arrange something with the assisted living activities or dietary staff or bring Mom to your house for a fun cooking session.
5. Bring Mom’s old favorites to her.
What did Mom always enjoy doing that she doesn’t do much anymore? Think about the kinds of activities you did together in the past or Mom’s old hobbies. Help bring them back into Mom’s life.
Was Mom a big reader? Maybe she has trouble with her eyes now, but you could set her up with audiobooks. While that may not usually be a shared activity, getting it set up for her can be something fun and rewarding. Or perhaps Mom always played bridge but the ALF doesn’t have a bridge group. Could you arrange some of her old friends or other residents to put together a game? Does Mom love animals? You could bring the family pet for a visit (many facilities arrange "pet therapy" too). Personalize the activities to the things Mom loves (or loved) the most.
6. Reclaim the time together and have a relaxing visit and conversation.
What does Mom want most out of assisted living activities with you? Your Mom probably doesn’t care much about the activity itself, but more about the time with you. Plan enough time to handle any tasks you need to, but still visit with Mom in a relaxed way. Or, you can do these things on separate visits so you don’t feel rushed. Additionally, you can hire a care manager or caregiver to handle oversight or tasks so your time can be spent visiting.
In addition to just sitting and chatting, you can incorporate some physical activity. For example, take a walk around the ALF grounds (or the hallways in less fair weather). Help orient and show Mom around when she’s first getting acquainted and then let her show you around. Alternatively, take Mom to a nearby park or the mall to stroll a bit and have a chat. Most likely, the ALF grounds have plenty of spots to stop and rest. You can scout out the mall or park ahead of time for the accessibility and rest spots.
7. Set up a special event or private party at the facility.
Make Mom’s birthday and other occasions special. Most ALFs have a private dining room or can otherwise help you set up an on-site event. You can bring family members or invite Mom’s friends for birthday cake or a holiday dinner.
Consider setting up a celebratory lunch shortly after Mom moves to the ALF. Once again, this is another way to create a positive feeling about the move. As an added benefit, this can help get family and friends comfortable with visiting. Unfortunately, many families find that fewer people visit than they expected. Older friends may be intimidated going to an unfamiliar place. Often, they have some discomfort with the idea of visiting their friend in what they might perceive as a “nursing home”. They may avoid it because of subconscious fears. Once they visit and have a positive experience, they’ll be more likely to stop by.
8. Plan an outing to enjoy an event.
Did Mom often go to the theater or symphony? Perhaps she loves art? Or, maybe your Mom is more of a baseball fan? All of these make for great activities to do together. Most ALF residents will tell you one of their favorite “assisted living activities” is actually getting out of the facility. The assisted living activities department likely plans outings like this. But, it can also be a wonderful thing to do together and you can personalize it to Mom’s tastes.
Fortunately, many places have accessibility provisions and are quite senior-friendly. For example, most performing arts venues are now equipped with hearing loop or other technologies for the hearing-impaired. Contact the venue to get information on accessibility, disabled parking, senior discounts, etc. Here are a few of our favorite (mostly weatherproof) activities for all ages in Tampa Bay.
It may be wise to hire a professional caregiver to accompany you and Mom on such outings, particularly if Mom needs physical help. This article shares more about EasyLiving’s Senior Concierge Program and how caregivers can ensure a successful outing.
9. Have a day out shopping or getting things done together.
Rather than just bringing Mom items she needs, take a short outing for some shopping. This can easily be done with a little forethought about logistics (or help, as mentioned above). Everyone likes a change of scenery and it can make Mom feel like her old self to go to a favorite store.
Consider making a regular outing of it, and perhaps doing shorter trips. You can make boring tasks like banking or doctor’s appointments more fun with a shopping stop, lunch or visit to a favorite location. Take a little “road trip” by driving the scenic route or stopping to look at the water or scenery.
For more ideas, you can also check out our Caregiver Corner: Fun Activities and Personal Touch: Senior-Friendly Activities. Many of these ideas for home-based activities work just as well as assisted living activities.