Things to do at home when incapacitated.
March 18, 2013 8:49 AM   Subscribe

I need recommendations for activities for someone with medical conditions that preclude reading, writing, watching much video, or walking for any significant amount of time.

My girlfriend has a series of health issues - tendonitis (wrists and soles of feet), severe headaches induced through reading (paper or screen) or watching video, and stomach problems which prevent the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories.

She is working her way through the medical diagnostic/treatment process, but progress is painfully slow. Consequently, she suffers tremendously from boredom and frustration. We need suggestions for activities that can be done around the home which don't rely on reading, writing or much movement.

To be clear, I'm not looking for diagnostic advice, merely suggestions for activities. Have you been in (or know someone in) a similar situation? What did you/they do to keep their mind active and mental health in a good state?

Bonus points for ideas beyond audiobooks and podcasts, although recommendations on that front are still welcome.
posted by knapah to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (37 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Does playing non-intensive games on an iPad or laptop fall under the same vision issues as watching video?

Hanging out with a pet might be nice- cats are fairly self-sufficient and pets in general can be a great comfort, emotionally and mentally.

Perhaps solo card games?
posted by rachaelfaith at 8:55 AM on March 18, 2013

I guess this depends on how much pain there is in her wrists, but what about knitting or other yarn working, or other craft type things like scrapbooking/photo album organizing?
posted by dpx.mfx at 8:55 AM on March 18, 2013

I personally would enjoy favorite music, as well as podcasts and audiobooks.
posted by JimN2TAW at 8:56 AM on March 18, 2013 [5 favorites]

Would crosswords be a possibility? There is reading and writing involved, but it's occasional--most of the time is spent thinking.
posted by snorkmaiden at 8:58 AM on March 18, 2013

audiobooks? Doh...just saw the last bit.

For podcasts I recommend This American Life (it's generally uplifting), Econlog (it's amusing if you like political economics stuff with an extreme free market host but guests who are not)
posted by srboisvert at 8:59 AM on March 18, 2013

Bird watching via a collection of different kinds of bird feeders.

Learning a new language through audio lessons, podcasts, music, etc. Now might be a good time to devise her own total immersion program, since it sounds like she's stuck at home anyway.

Clicker/verbal marker training any kind of pet--dog, cat, bird, fish.

Could she sign up to do video chat conversation sessions with foreign English learners? Or would that be too much like watching a video?
posted by HotToddy at 9:03 AM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

Does she like baseball? You can get a year-long subscription to MLB TV for about $110 a year and listen to radio broadcasts of all the games, even local games that have TV blackout restrictions.
posted by jabes at 9:03 AM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

How about phone-based volunteer work that she can do from home? Something like Telephone Reassurance, where volunteers give a daily call to seniors who live alone, to make sure the're OK and see if they need any assistance or just comfort.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 9:09 AM on March 18, 2013 [5 favorites]

'Telephone Reassurance' is intriguing. Thanks for that idea.

Sadly a pet is not an option, although it did just occur to me to look into 'pet-share' type schemes in our area, if they exist.

Unfortunately looking at any computer or tablet screen for longer than a few minutes gives her headaches, but she has been managing to watch feature length documentaries on our TV - perhaps because it is at a sufficient distance?

Language learning is also a good idea, especially if we can organise one that doesn't require any/much reading - relevant to my last Ask question too.
posted by knapah at 9:17 AM on March 18, 2013

For audio and podcasts see the internet radio tag here at AskMe and related tags. I really like The History of the World in 100 Objects from BBC Radio 4 and the British Museum. For language learning there's good stuff from Radio France International if she'd be interested in French.

It also occurs to me that learning to read Braille might be a nifty skill if she'd be interested in that... there are also a few audio-based games out there targeted towards the vision-impaired that wouldn't require looking at a screen, The Dark Meadow and Papa Sangre for iOS for example.
posted by XMLicious at 9:19 AM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Jigsaw puzzles.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:22 AM on March 18, 2013

Language learning is also a good idea, especially if we can organise one that doesn't require any/much reading

Michel Thomas's language programs (lauded on MeFi, even) are strictly audio, no reading or writing. She'd just have to be able to push the pause and play buttons throughout to practice speaking. They're available on his website, through amazon, and at Audible.
posted by vytae at 9:29 AM on March 18, 2013

Learn to play the theramin. She could do it sitting down and she wouldn't have to use her wrists other than to support the weight of her hands (but I acknowledge that that can be a lot). I used to have a beginner's model that cost $100, and plugged into a guitar amp.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:37 AM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

What kind of social network do you have access to? Could you make arrangements for members of a church or scout troop to come one or two at a time to visit, chat, tell stories, act out dramas, read to her? Is there an improv group that could practice in your living room? My mom would invite the Rosary Group from her church to come say a rosary at her house

Even just an hour a day once a week could make a difference.
posted by CathyG at 9:39 AM on March 18, 2013

Conversation group with English-language learners.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:43 AM on March 18, 2013

Just some ideas that came to mind.

Cooking? I know someone that could not stand for long that would cook using a barstool to lean on at the counter, there is some hand movement obviously but it's not too repetitive. If you have a stand mixer baking is fun and mostly just pouring things into a bowl.

Go to a coffee shop and sit and people watch.

Container gardening, or starting some seedlings? You can keep them on a table so she doesn't have to stand too long. You need some wrist strength to lift pots but if you use potting mix there is not a lot of digging.

I get ocular migraines and like to have NPR on when I can't see straight.

Foster a senior dog, if you can't have one for forever. It'll be nice and quiet and probably just be happy to sit and snuggle. Some rescues keep dogs in kennels and are happy for them just to have some people time in a real house, specially over holidays like spring break etc and you don't even have to foster them until they are adopted. It would keep her company, assuming she has an interest in dogs.

El Sabors idea is great, I used to spend hours on the phone for something to do when my eyes where bad.
posted by wwax at 9:57 AM on March 18, 2013

Meditation. Talk about keeping your mind active and mental health in a good state!
posted by rada at 10:01 AM on March 18, 2013

If she can watch the TV screen but not a laptop, why don't you get Apple TV or similar? That would open up worlds of entertainment.
posted by HotToddy at 10:02 AM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh and I love the idea of fostering a senior dog. I bet that would improve her outlook like nothing else. Or maybe providing day care to a working person's mellow dog.
posted by HotToddy at 10:04 AM on March 18, 2013

If this is going to be a long term thing, I'd suggest starting to learn assistive technology used by folks with vision problems combined with vocal computing commands. It would let her browse, say, Metafilter (which based on its simplicity would likely work very well with assistive tech) without using her hands or viewing a laptop screen. I know somebody who, while not blind or incapable of typing, has vision and wrist issues and have seen them use those to good effect in web browsing and programming. I don't know the specifics, unfortunately, so you'd have to research what could work for your situation, but I think effort there will pay off valuable dividends.

Another thing I could think of is singing--you can get a teacher to come to the house to give lessons, and she could spend time practicing between lessons.
posted by foxfirefey at 10:30 AM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Pen and paper role-playing games? The pen and paper bit can be handled by others and isn't really completely necessary anyway.
posted by ODiV at 10:49 AM on March 18, 2013

Even if she's not that interested in learning a new language, there's a skype community forum devoted to language learners; she might be interested spending some time helping English language learners practice their speaking skills on voice chat. (There are lots of other venues to find foreign language conversation partners as well, that's just one that I stumbled across....)
posted by drlith at 11:24 AM on March 18, 2013

I'm visually impaired, so I've used both of these:

Because this is due to physical limitations, she may qualify for the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. A doctor would have to sign off on it, though, but ut sounds like that won't be a problem.

The alternative is to get a Kindle that has text-to-speech. It's a computerized voice, but I use it to have it 'read' to me on the bus. With text-to-speech turned on for the entire Kindle, it's possible to navigate through the entire reader sightless, esp. if you have the one with the keyboard. You have to memorize where a couple of keys are, but that's easy to do (for me, at least.) This is the one I'm using: Kindle Keyboard 3g, with Special Offers. It'll even read websites to you, in the clunky computer voice - which should be perfect for text-heavy sites like MetaFilter. (Also, it doesn't read the ads!) I heart my Kindle.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:28 AM on March 18, 2013

Train a pet rat.
posted by Sophont at 11:29 AM on March 18, 2013

Also - the Kindle is now compatible with library books, so if she has a library card with a library that supports Kindle, she should have no lack of reading material completely free of charge. You only need a USB or wifi connection to send the book to the Kindle. And Amazon has plenty of free classics (like Sherlock Holmes, etc.) that can be recieved right over the 3G.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:31 AM on March 18, 2013

Over the years I've bought plenty of audio classes from The Great Courses, formerly known as The Teaching Company. (They have video, too, if you can hook a computer up to your TV so she can get far enough away from the screen, but the vast majority is available in audio.)

Don't freak out too much at the cost--every course goes on sale at least once during the year. and often more than that, at a steeply discounted price.
posted by telophase at 11:50 AM on March 18, 2013

Audio-based games intended for blind people? I know nothing about them, but a quick google took me to Worth poking around.

I would think watching TV at distance would be less of a strain on her than playing on a tablet or laptop. Maybe she can just catch up on some good TV shows that have like 50+ episodes. That will pass the time easily.
posted by AppleTurnover at 1:11 PM on March 18, 2013

Has she tried looking at art books (from the library), on the chance that looking at art won't bother her in the same way that reading does?

Also, not to get too much into diagnostics, but for me putting a piece of translucent colored plastic film over my reading material made a huge difference in my reading tolerance. There's no real skill or science to it -- my vision therapist just tried every color with me, two at a time, and asked which was better, until we found the best color through process of elimination (it's different for everybody -- blue is commonly preferred but for me orange was best). Before getting a rainbow of colored filters you could probably do the same test on a computer screen, changing the background color.
posted by nevers at 1:37 PM on March 18, 2013

Some kind of macrame work?

I did it long time ago, when I was in the bed for 2 weeks. I made very simple and beautiful belt.

Never in my life I would have patience for such work again!

You can get some very nice to the touch yarn or silk cords of beautiful colours.

I liked that it was very simple. I did not feel like thinking too much while ill. All the design come from using silk cords of two contrasting colours, it somehow made interesting pattern by itself.
posted by Oli D. at 3:01 PM on March 18, 2013

In addition to the previously mentioned audiobooks and podcasts, there are a whole lot of interesting old time radio shows out there. It was basically TV before TV came along, and there a million comedies, dramas, mysteries, horror shows... The Orson Welles production of War of the Worlds could be a fun place to start.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:19 PM on March 18, 2013

Not just podcasts or audio books, but (add "theatah" accent here) audio drama. Old time radio, the precursor to modern audio drama, is a perennial favorite also - has many items to listen to for free. Many more OTR sites are OK to use if you're visually impaired and using assistive technology (on preview, I second the suggestion to consider that if this will last for a long time). The Gassman brothers, who hosted a show for many years and helped run SPERDVAC, a national organization for OTR collectors, are both blind.

Audiobooks, audiodrama, OTR, and podcasts also have one thing in common: they're usually static. Find a good local (or international) call in show that's non political and not voice tracked that you can enjoy daily or weekly. Clark Howard is still airing live out of Atlanta and nationwide; it's nonpolitical radio, about consumer issues, and really interesting. I would also recommend Dr. Joy Browne's relationship show. Weekends are often better on AM radio for the interesting, non-political shows. Many NPR fanatics have no idea how good radio is away from the 'pub, or that their station could be carrying even more live or syndicated shows.

Definitely, definitely consider getting her an XM-Sirius receiver; some channels do voicetrack, but she'll never be bored.

Also consider using Dragon Dictation so that she can dictate - she can write that way.
posted by mitschlag at 3:21 PM on March 18, 2013

I have spent months at a time home bound (ms attacks) and had to develop ways of coping. TV gets boring quick. I had pets and that helped, but the thing that helped me most was a small group of girlfriends came over and would visit with me. I would lay on the couch and listen to them talk about whatever. Sometimes it was about a book, sometimes gossip. Sometimes I would participate, sometimes I would sleep. It was a comfort and a distraction from my problems. It takes the right people. The kind of people that are 100% fine with the person doing whatever they need to do to take care of themselves. I consider myself very lucky to have these kinds of friends.
posted by cairnoflore at 5:21 PM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

Thanks for these. I won't mark any as best answer for now, but they're all helpful suggestions. I'll drop a note back in if/when she finds any she particularly appreciates!
posted by knapah at 8:17 AM on March 19, 2013

If you want to try the colored filters for reading, try Colored Transparency Film for Overhead Projectors as your search term.
posted by CathyG at 1:07 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Practice karaoke?
posted by aimedwander at 2:17 PM on March 19, 2013

I'd like to second telophase's recommendation of The Great Courses, along with her reassurance that there are steep discounts. I recently purchased several based on her comment (we're in a discount time), and they are excellent. At first, I was worried that the audio-only ones would miss important things shown in the video, but that's not the case. Also, each comes with a .pdf of lecture notes along with recommended readings, etc.

I hope I'm putting this here for future people, and that your girlfriend is much better by now.

Thanks, telophase, for the fantastic recommendation!
posted by Houstonian at 12:19 PM on December 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

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