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3 Steps to Find Meaningful Work for Dad


Caregiver Question

"I hear about people’s parents who are doing amazing things well into their eighties and nineties. Some of them are even working part-time. Meanwhile, my father sits around and complains about everything. I believe he's bored, but I have no idea what to do. Do you have any ideas to help me?"

Mary's Answer

While most people desire a purposeful retirement, many struggle to achieve it. Keeping an elderly person engaged in meaningful work when they have not chosen it themselves is even more difficult. Let’s dive into this challenge, anyway!

3 Steps to Find Meaningful Work for Dad.

  1. Assess what skills your father has retained - a physical inventory if you will - that will determine any limitations. Is he cognitively sound? Can he drive? How well does he walk? Does he have any issues with hand or arm motion?
  2. Identify his likes and dislikes. For instance, does he like children, fishing, card games, golf, landscaping, or cutting grass?  Create a thorough list.
  3. Fill a need. Remember, doing something just to be busy does not feel nearly as good as accomplishing something that matters to the individual or someone else. 
    • Almost every community center has a listing of volunteer needs that you can find online. Volunteering at a hospital or reading to sick children has real value to those you serve. Cutting grass for a son or daughter is a kind gesture that is greatly appreciated by busy folks with too much to do. Frankly, there is an abundance of volunteer opportunities in this world.

The real challenge here is that your dad may not know how to get started.

If your father is a chronic complainer, I recommend doing a bit of research for him and setting him up, with his permission, of course. He may squawk a bit, but feel free to persist. He may have been used to your mother being his social director, so perhaps he needs a little help.
Sure, there are people who keep themselves very busy without assistance. You mentioned them briefly in your question. Then there are individuals who lack the initiative to begin or follow through with activities. You have described your father to be in the latter category. It may not be easy, but there are ways to engage him if he will accept the help. It will take some planning and gentle persuasion on your part, but it will be worth it if your father finds something to do that fulfills him.

I wish you the best.

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