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How to pass the time when temporarily homebound

By: Maria Allard | C&G Newspapers | Published July 31, 2019

METRO DETROIT — People recovering from surgery, an injury or illness at home know they have to take it easy, rest and follow their doctor’s orders in order to heal.

However, being homebound can become lonely and isolating, especially when you aren’t mobile, but there are ways to fill the time to not get bored or feel alone.

Denise Nitta, an occupational therapist from the Detroit Medical Center’s Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan, has some suggestions for when cabin fever strikes.

“I’m a big proponent of keeping the mind and hands busy,” she said.

Doing jigsaw puzzles is one activity that can keep someone occupied while recuperating. Crocheting and knitting also are great ways to pass the time. If you’re looking for a friendly face, some churches have groups that will visit you at home, and inviting friends and family over to play board games can be a pick-me-up.

“If they take you on an outing, that’s something to look forward to,” Nitta said. And if you’re tech-savvy, the internet “can keep you busy as much as you want to be.”

If you are scheduled for surgery, it’s advised to grocery shop in advance, prepare meals ahead of time and freeze them. If you’re recovering from joint surgery, such as procedures on the hips or knees, make sure you don’t overdo it during your recovery.

“Listen to what your therapists are telling you to do,” Nitta said. “Make sure you’re doing your exercises.”

Safety also is an issue.

“We don’t want anyone falling. We tell people to pick up the throw rugs and clear passways,” Nitta said. “The bathroom is a very easy place to fall. Get some temporary (gadgets) to make it safer.”

Anyone using a walker is advised to get walker bags to attach to the walker to help carry items so that both hands are free. A tool belt also can be useful to carry necessities.

Shawn Bennis, a family caregiver coordinator for Henry Ford Health System, reminds patients who will be homebound for a while to make plans for their recovery before leaving the hospital.

“Talk to your case manager, social worker, nurse or navigator on a discharge plan from the hospital,” said Bennis, who also is a registered nurse. “They’ll ask you several questions about what type of house you live in, if you’re by yourself or if you have a caregiver. If there is a family, make sure they are involved in the discharge planning. They might think of things that are different from the person who is sick. That’s another set of eyes that’s able to take notes and ask questions. That’s super helpful to the medical professionals.”

Bennis also recommends that family, friends and neighbors check on the homebound individual through phone calls, text messages and visits.

“Bring over the grandchildren, and nieces and nephews,” she said. “Make a point to do an outing.”

One task that Bennis has for dementia or Alzheimer’s patients is to clean out a drawer with old pictures and organize them.

“That always stimulates the memory. It can also boost their mood,” she said. “They’ll tell you about their childhood, when they were first married or about their trip to China.”

If they are physically able to, homebound patients recovering from surgery, an injury or illness should get up once a hour and walk about the house.

“Some people are motivated by keeping an exercise log or walking log,” Bennis said. “Exercise helps increase endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Sunshine makes people happy. Open up your blinds, sit by a window or, if you can, sit on the porch. Even the indirect sunlight is helpful.”

Journaling or recording events of the day on a cellphone can be helpful too.

“They can see they are making progress,” Bennis said.

If you are going to be homebound for a while, check with your city to inquire about any programs for residents while they are recuperating. For instance, the Grosse Pointe Public Library has an outreach program for those who are homebound, have a short- or long-term illness, have physical limitations or aren’t able to drive.

There is no fee to use the service, but the GPPL outreach program is only for residents of the Grosse Pointe school district. Outreach Librarian Kathleen Gallagher oversees the program.

“I arrange home delivery of materials and pick them up when (people) are finished using them,” Gallagher said. “All they have to do is contact me.”

Books are available, as well as CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs.

“A lot of people enjoy magazines while they are recovering, and best-sellers are always popular,” Gallagher said. “We have some of the large print available.”

Gallagher also encourages GPPL patrons to take advantage of download services, including Hoopla Digital and Kanopy. Users need to set up accounts to use them.

Kanopy is an on-demand streaming video platform for public libraries and universities that offers viewers a large collection of award-winning films and documentaries. Kanopy includes children’s programming with its subdivision, Kanopy Kids.

Hoopla Digital is a web and mobile library media streaming platform for audiobooks, comics, e-books, movies, music and TV. Hoopla Digital allows library patrons to download or stream media content.

Last year,  Gallagher visited 600 library patrons at home.

“They’ve very happy with the visits,” she said. “We’ll sit and talk. It’s helpful to me to help them select reading materials.”