I often think of my Grandma Lois. By the time of my earliest memories of her she had already retired as a teacher and had lost my grandfather, Frank, in an automobile accident. She never learned to drive a car and, since she lived in a small town, there was no public transportation available to her. She rode the Older Adults Transportation Services – OATS Bus occasionally to get to doctors appointments, but had to register a week in advance in order to use the service. Our little town did not have a good sidewalk system back in the ’70s and ’80s for pedestrians and, besides that, she had trouble with her legs which prevented her from walking more than a few minutes at a time. We would swing by to pick her up to go to church on Sunday mornings and evenings as well as Wednesday nights and my Dad always took her to the grocery store on Saturday mornings with us, but other than that she was basically home-bound.
I spent a lot of time with grandma growing up and was always excited to stay with her because she knew how to keep my sisters and I busy with things we didn’t really do at our house. She had a small house but it was filled with wonder. There were birds to watch at her many feeders and a field guide by which to recognize them; there were flowers to plant and water; she had a marvelous collection of children’s books that I loved reading through again and again; she always had something cooking and she took the opportunity to teach us how to work in the kitchen using cool things like a meat grinder or cookie-press; she sewed and quilted and let us watch as she made beautiful things; she had pegboards with houses, trees, cars, and lamp posts to make into a city as well as my Dad’s old Lincoln Log set from the ’50s and a round, tall cylinder of Tinker Toys with which to build. She let us play “beauty shop” with her hair and ate who knows how many Red Hots as “medicine” when we played doctor with her.
But I also knew she had many more days when we were not there to keep her entertained or, probably and more likely, her to entertain us. It’s from these days I have reflected and learned so much over the past few years. She had nothing but time on her hands yet she was never bored or angry about being stuck at home. I was there often enough that I was able to see her living her daily routine and have been able to piece together how she was able to use her time at home instead of killing it or resenting it. Now that I am semi – home bound with my MS, I have an ever growing gratitude and love for her example of how to live a full life at home within a small, daily confinement.
Here are the essential elements I saw her use and have employed myself in order to keep motivated, growing, learning, and busy at home.
- Set a relatively consistent schedule of the six essential activities of the day: waking up, breakfast, lunch, dinner, bathing, and going to bed. Fixing these six activities to set times allows you to build a skeleton time frame for adding other things to your day. It also keeps you oriented to time, an important anchor for cognitive awareness.
- Keep yourself connected to the outside world. I do this each morning after breakfast by scrolling through various news sites, checking the weather, checking in on the social media platforms I use, and writing cards, sending texts, or calling friends who have been ill or could use some encouragement. Doing this helps foster a sense that you are still engaged with people and emotionally a part with others.
- Make time for God. This is one of my favorite times of the day. Begin with a prayer asking God to give you insight and understanding, move on to an in depth Bible study, allow for time to reflect and write down what you’ve learned, and end with a good long prayer full of thanksgiving, praise, a summary of what you learned, petitions on behalf of others and then yourself, forgiveness, and help to do something good for His kingdom today. Doing this will keep you emotionally, mentally, and spiritually grounded for whatever you are facing in your life. It’s a wonderful feeling to be in communion with God through Jesus Christ!
- Get involved in a hobby or interest. There’s only so much TV you can watch without feeling like the world is seriously trying to dumb you down. I’ve set my heart on learning German and try to devote some time to chipping away at it each day. I also read, listen to books on tape, crochet, cook, work puzzles, and obviously, I’ve recently started writing this blog. Having a variety of interests to choose from has helped to keep my days from feeling stale and boring. These activities have also given me something to look forward to each day, an event.
- Plan time to rest. Yeah, I know it sounds silly, but it’s an essential part of living life with MS and I bet you could benefit from a little down time, too.
- Have a regular routine and/or cycle of chores to accomplish each day. This is important to help you feel like you are contributing to the running of your home and gives you a sense that you are needed and useful. Laundry, dishes, feeding pets, making the bed, cleaning house a little each day, taking out the trash, getting the mail…you don’t have to do all of these every day but set an achievable goal for yourself.
Perhaps you have other ideas on this topic that would be useful for others. I would love for you to share them in the comments.