When you work, the bulk of your waking hours are devoted to that job. A career — your vocation — is so closely tied to identity and your sense of self, whether you enjoy the work or not. Men and women who have worked hard for decades may look forward to retirement to have more time for the things they enjoy, but when they lose the structure and security of a job, they also often find themselves bored, restless, and possibly depressed. The loss of purpose and the feeling of not being useful can be crippling.
For years, the mainstream thoughts on retirement have been focused on relaxation, taking it easy, recreation. This is changing: more people are aspiring to an active retirement, hoping to stay busy for as long as possible. Retirement communities and independent living homes are designed to support this active and autonomous lifestyle (many residents of these venues still have jobs or volunteer regularly outside the walls of the community), but assisted living is a very different environment.
A recent discussion thread at our #ElderCareChat LinkedIn group spoke to this issue; one member shared her positive experience with putting an assisted living resident to work. She writes, “We found ways he could contribute to the facility, get outside, and work in ways that were in line with his physical capabilities. He helped with gardening, taking out garbage, picking up sticks – and he LOVED it. His mood and energy improved.” (Weigh in on the discussion and read more about it here.)
If you are a home-base caregiver or a care professional in assisted living, don’t assume your caree — or the residents — just want to relax. Find out if there is a job they can do, and prepare to be surprised by the results.