How Caregivers Can Find Time for New Experiences

By Faith Unger, Program Director for CaregiverU

national_caregivers_month_2016_logoThe fall months are traditionally thought of as back to school time. Just saying that phrase, “back to school,” evokes a ton of special memories—new clothes, new school supplies, and new things to learn.

What if caregivers could begin a new school year? Learn something new totally unrelated to caregiving? What a concept! What a soul feeder! The thought intrigues many a caregiver, but that thought is usually followed by another: no time for that luxury.

But wait a minute! There are numerous ways to meet that quest for new learning. Let’s explore a few that could be done during a few hours of regular respite care, during a longer time of carefully planned respite care, or during those special moments in the schedule when the care recipient is otherwise occupied as in sleep time.ut_library_pic

Museums: Many Central Texas museums have free days, so that cuts the cost—and if there is no cost, one feels freer to have a short stay!

Libraries: Is there a topic from the museum or the news that you wish to learn more about? The library is a treasure trove of information with books on a variety of topics. Checking out the books and bringing them home allows for reading during the short snippets of free time.

Lectures: Local colleges and universities offer a plethora of learning events. Some of those events are one-time lectures on a specific topic. Watch for announcements of these in the local media, research on the college web site under “events”, or just call the college.

Online Courses: Free online courses from several universities can be found online at Since these courses are online, the course work can be done at whatever time works best for the caregiver—like while a care recipient is attending a respite program.

Television: Public broadcasting and cable channels both have wonderful shows on a variety of topics. Consulting the schedule ahead of time will allow you to either plan for respite at that particular time, or—if you have the equipment—to record a show and watch it when the opportunity presents itself. TED-talks_pic.jpg

TED Talks: TED is a nonpartisan non-profit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short and powerful talks. TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) converged,and today the talks cover almost all topics—from science to business to global issues—in more than 110 languages. These pre-recorded, 10-minute talks can be accessed on a computer, tablet, or smart phone.

Road Scholar: Road scholar trips are group trips planned and organized to provide learning about places, people, history, events, and things. The planning is provided with older adults in mind, and the activity level is always clearly stated. Trips are available year-round and include destinations throughout the world—including those close to home. The costs vary, and there are scholarships for caregivers.

Remember that learning can be enriched by sharing with another person. It may not be possible to physically do the activity with another person, but perhaps two or more can do the same learning activity and talk about it through telephone calls, text messages, or email messages. That can open up even more learning!

Faith Unger, M. Ed., is a former school teacher and the Program Director for the AGE of Central Texas CaregiverU program.

(Photos courtesy the University of Texas-Austin and TED Talks)

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