Caring for the elderly. Birdwatching from a lazy boy recliner!
Creating a window to the world for an elderly loved one
As we age into our senior years, most of us may find that our mobility decreases. We just may find ourselves rooted to a favorite chair more than we expected, and we may spend more time watching TV. My 94 year old Mother spends a LOT of time watching the "who's the baby daddy shows' - yes, that's really what she calls Judge Judy et al. So, life may slow up and your favorite senior citizen may become more chair bound, but that doesn't mean you can't give them something to look at besides the TV.
As the full time caregiver to my Mom, Gertie, I've found many creative ways to keep her mind engaged and give us something to talk about at the same time. I accomplished part of this task by creating a window to the world for her to enjoy. The below article will, hopefully, give you an idea about how to enrich the life of your favorite senior citizen and be kind to the wild birds in your yard at the same time.
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Might as well give the birds a place to lay their little birdy heads
Having bird houses around the yard will entice birds to stick around.
Step 1: Find the window!
Caring for the elderly can be a very daunting task. One of the hardest things I have to do when caring for my elderly mom is to be fascinating - hard as it might be to imagine, I ain't all that interesting....So, I decided to come up with some way to entertain her and give myself a break at the same time - Enter the idea of decorating the outdoors for interest.
Since Mom mostly sits in the living room, I started looking at the various windows and considering the view. Fairly drab. I didn't blame her for being bored. So, I set about to create an interesting view to at least give her something to look at.
So, the first part of creating some interesting views outside an elderly person's window is to, well, find a window. Locate a window that is in the room where your elderly friend spends most of the time. It's preferable if the window has some natural sunlight coming in at sometime during the day. Sunlight is just naturally cheery.
Ok, so now you have a window. Now what? You need to rearrange the furniture in the room so that your elderly loved one's favorite chair or sofa is in a prime viewing spot. Be sensitive to any limitations such as a blind eye or a deaf ear. Try to place your senior citizen's chair in a position so they can view the outdoor scene without craning their neck or twisting their back. A straight view out of the window is always the best choice so that your senior citizen can easily see the comings and goings on outside.
Remember in when Jimmy Stewart played a man whose view from the window was so compelling? Hopefully, your senior citizen will be more interested in viewing the flowers and birds which you coax into place for convenient viewing.... Rear Window
This picture is the view I created from my Mom's bedroom window. When my Dad died in 2007, Mom came to live with me, and I was an instant caregiver for the elderly. In a memorial for my Dad, I created this garden which has appropriately named plants such as "Forget Me Nots," and "Poker Plants" (Dad was a gambler). My Mom loves to look at the garden every day and tell me what's new out there. It brings her much joy.
A professionals view of how to attract birds to a window
This book is a wonderful resource to help you attract just the right birds to your senior citizen's window.
Step 2: Make goals and plan your window view.
Your next step is to make a list of goals for what you hope to accomplish in the window view for your elderly friend. My Mom loves cardinals and birds so her window viewed from her living room chair has two bird feeders and a hummingbird feeder. She loves to even watch the squirrel which are not the least bit baffled by my squirrel-proof bird feeders (ha!). She also loves flowers so I have a few pots of plants on the deck which she can easily view. For this coming summer, I have a lush background planned with potted palm trees which are seasonal here in Maryland. But, the $50 for a plant will be a small price to pay to keep my Mom entertained watching her window.
Ask your senior citizen if there are any special birds they'd like to see. My Mom just loves cardinals so I put out birdseed specific to attracting cardinals and other song birds.
Once you've got a clear idea of what the view from the window will be, now is the time to start picking up supplies. For the best, most professional advice on how to attract birds, visit your local wildbird store. Another good strategy is to talk with friends who live nearby and find out what birds they see or what plants thrive in their yards as plants mean shelter to birds so you should have plenty planted in the background. If you've got great friends, organize a plant swap to cut the costs of decorating your own garden. After all, one only needs so many hostas!
Hummingbirds are the most fascinating birds of all, imho. I can sit and watch them for hours and hours, as can be evidenced by the photos below. This particular feeder attracts hummingbirds by the thousands, it seems. They buzz all around and fight to get to the flower petals.
The best way, by far to attract hummingbirds is to plant flowers that they can feed from during the summer hours. Fill your outdoor space with trumpet flowers, bee balm, red columbine, fushia, rose of sharon, or butterfly bushes (you'll have a double whammy by planting this beautiful flowering plant as butterflies love this too.
To augment your flowering garden in attracting hummingbirds, hang a few hummingbird feeder outside the window for your senior friend to enjoy. The below are decorative hummingbird feeders on Amazon.
Hummingbirds abound!Click thumbnail to view full-size
Step 3: Gather the supplies needed - Invest in some decent materials and your senior citizen will be delighted with the view for a long time.
The window view you're creating for your senior citizen friend will be prettier if you collect and use the right items. The below items are all in own backyard and keep the birds, and 94 year old Gertie happy.
This seed blend always has cardinals buzzing around. I've seen as many as 7 male cardinals at the feeder when its freshly filled.
Step 4: Build the window view for your senior citizen - Here comes the fun!
Building the view for your elderly friend is going to take two people. You can do it alone but you'll be running back and forth a lot. Have one person check the view from the senior citizen's chair so that the items you're placing in the window view are clearly within viewable by your senior citizen loved one. Don't forget to account for sitting position and height of your elderly friend while in their chair. No sense building a view for a 6"2" man when your mother can't see over the windowsill (we tend to shrink as we age).
Or, use a large potted plant as an anchor for a shepherd's hook on which to hang your senior citizen's new bird feeder. Just dig the shepherd's hook right into the soil, down about 6" or so. It's best to still weight down the bottom of the hook with bricks or some other heavy item just in case of wind gusts.
You don't have to just hang bird feeders to attract birds. In fact, the best way to attract birds year round is to let nature do it. Plant flowers and shrubs that attract birds and butterflies. For example, the red flower in the picture has hummingbirds racing to feed morning and night. Plants with berries, such as blueberries, will attract all types of birds but, be mindful of where you place these plants. There's nothing quite like coming out to the driveway one morning and finding your previously green car coated in blue "goo."
A butterfly bush with its lovely purple blooms will keep butterflies hovering around your window view all summer. It's a total bonus that a butterfly bush will only multiply and grow year after year - perennials are nice that way.
Senior Citizen Gert tells a fishy story
No, it doesn't really fit into this lens but I just love this video of my mom telling a story on my dearly departed dad. Still cracks me up.
Make sure there's a flower or two around
Clinical studies have shown that senior citizens are generally more cheerful and alert when flowers are around. Why not keep a few pots of flowering plants so there's always fresh blooms to brighten a senior's day?
This gorgeous orchid was given to us 4 years ago, right after my Dad died. Little did I believe that I could not only keep it alive but keep it thriving. The blooms which occur every November stay fresh on this plant until March - It's just amazing. This past year, I didn't cut back the stalk which flowered, just to see what would happen. Lookie, lookie! More blooms in April! Albeit, these blooms are much smaller than the November blooms but Mom and I both consider this a bonus.
How about bringing the outside in with a parakeet?
I just took the plunge and bought my mom a yellow parakeet. I was intent upon naming him "Lemonchello" to go along with the theme names of my dogs (Barley, Hops, Killian, Margarita, Matee and Gizmo). I walked in, Mom asked me what the bird's name was. I replied "Lemonchello." Mom shook her head and said "Tweety." So, enter Tweety the bird. He chirps for mom every morning and stops chirping when she sits in her chair. She loves watching him play in his cage.
Make sure though, before you get a bird, you know what you're getting into. The little suckers live 10 years or so and make a mess. I do like having the little chirper around though.
Here's an article I wrote about Tricking out a parakeet cage. Tweety is stylin'...
A happy 94 year old with a basket full of garden flowers
Your senior citizen friend will love these binoculars!
Binoculars of old used to be very heavy and bulky but not so in today's world. These Olympus Tracker binoculars weigh in at just 9.9 ounces. They are so lightweight that even the most fragile senior citizen should be able to hold them. And, the 8x magnification will bring those birds right inside the room! Invest in a part today. You'll make your elderly friend very happy.
Some things to consider when attracting birds... - ...and some warnings to heed!
Through a lot of trials and tribulations, I've finally figured out a thing or two about how to attract birds. Did I mention tribulations? Here are a few....
- VERY IMPORTANT! Never ever buy a bird house with a tin or metal roof. The roof will heat up in the sun, effectively cooking any baby birds. You might well be serving crow (babies) for dinner - pardon me; couldn't help the pun....
- Be mindful of the mess that a bird feeder creates. Not only will stray seed be strewn on the ground but bird poop will be evident also. So, if you're putting your bird feeder on a shepherd's crook on a deck railing, face the shepherd's crook OUT so that the seed and feces end up in the yard.
- Bird feeders may attract more than the pretty birds your senior citizen is craving. Bird feeders also attract mice and rats so make sure to place them at a decent distance from the house. This creates a problem with the feeders meant to stick right to the window. In this case, fashion a catch tray underneath the bird feeder to catch the seed which may drop and empty it once a day.
- Hummingbirds are particularly susceptible to spoiled food and, since they drink sugar water from a bird feeder, you need to thoroughly clean and refill the bird feeder every other day. No sense killing off the birds your elderly Mom wanted to watch!
- If you decide to hang bird feeders, it's only fair to keep them filled. This is not quite as important during the summer when birds have plenty of food on which to forage. But, during the winter, if you've fed the birds, you could possibly have kept them from migrating so your bird feeder so they become dependent on your bird feeder as their primary food source. Keep it full!
- More is not necessarily better. I couldn't figure out why the birds stopped going to the bird feeder outside my Mom's feeder until I sat outside and watched the action one morning. I had gotten carried away and put out 3 other feeders that, evidently, were in prime spots. I stopped filling those feeders and, sure enough, birdies are again feeding where I want them to!
My other articles about senior citizens - Some offer helpful tips; others are just plain old musings!
- Good movies for senior citizens
I finally caved and got Netflix which Mom and I now LOVE. I review all the movies we watch, and Mom rates them on the number of arthritic fingers on a scale of 1-10 (10 is the best).
- Tales of travels with a 94 year old Mother
Mom came to live with me the day Dad died. I started this blog to document our time together. Little did I know that it would lead me to the world of online writing and one really NICE consulting job.
Please come read these blogs
These are excellent blogs and resources for anyone considering caregiving or actually caregiving now. They'll help keep you sane.