Being housebound a large portion of each day means finding ways to keep minds sharp, attentions attuned, and moods elevated. That’s hard when a person has limited mobility and high levels of fatigue. When Mom first moved in, she could still do a little exercising—mainly working with rubber bands for her arms and some leg lifts while sitting in her wheelchair. As the months slip by, we’ve resorted more and more to television for amusement. For me, it’s been a learning experience as I’ve never watched that much television. Even as a child, I’d rather lounge with book in hand, preferring to spend hours in the wanton luxury of the written word over watching a crime show or sitcom.
Caregiving for my mother means long days rotating through various types of television entertainment. We may begin the morning with back-to-back episodes of a true classic like I Love Lucy. From there we may dally with the local and national news, or spend half-an-hour bemoaning the drought as we watch the Weather Channel. Mom loves detective and law shows, so the entire Law and Order franchise fills many hours. These shows, added to the news, leave us with plenty to talk about as the day unwinds. Throw in favorite shows we access through Netflix, and we manage to keep a wide of variety to our daily viewing.
If we’ve managed to leave the house earlier in the week, Mom’s exhaustion by the end of the week extends beyond physical symptoms and into mental fatigue on her usual shows (except for her passion for Everybody Loves Raymond). By Thursday or Friday, nothing appeals to Mom except viewing Lifetime movies. Imagine my surprise to see many of my favorite actors in these movies! Also, I suspect many of the young actors refining their skills in these movies will make the leap to the “big screen” within a few years. We enjoy paying attention to script structure, soundtrack music, and the details behind the directing on these television movies. Sometimes we discuss the basic plot that unfolds before us, predicting possible outcomes and endings. Sometimes we compare an actor’s performance in this movie to the more familiar television character we’d viewed him or her in week after week. Sometimes we comment on the locations of the productions. Always, we find something to talk about by viewing these films.
As Mom’s Huntington’s Disease progresses, she’s finding speech more and more difficult. Our discussions slip into her initiating with shorter comments and responding in phrases instead of full conversations. Although she eventually may not talk at all, her mind will still be as sharp as ever. My commentary may become more and more one-sided, but her interests will still be the same. At that time, I know that Lifetime movies will become our lifeline movies.
Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman