(38) 50 Fun Things To Do With Your Disabled Veteran (Part I–the first 25)

Molly, the service dog

Golly, Miss Molly

A blog about a service dog and her veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the veteran and the family caregiver)

Finding the Fun in Life

I am always looking for fun things to do with my husband. I often coax him into doing different activities and he usually enjoys them but it does not seem to be in his nature to seek fun things. As with most of our veterans, they enjoyed active lives before their military service but can no longer engage in those activities. The difficulty for us as family caregivers is to find something fun that rivals their thrill-seeking lives before their disabilities.

The list of 50 is presented in two blogs one week apart due to the length. The second half of the list will appear on Friday, November 14 in the Golly, Miss Molly blog.

The items I have listed below are for a more sedate play day for the less mobile veteran. Not all of these activities will appeal to your veteran at first but once he/she engages, you may find your loved one opening up to you and sharing important memories about the past. Possibly you may see a renewed focus on the future.

I  am not a medical doctor nor a doctor of psychiatry so these ideas have not been checked with an expert. The list is my own. I stumbled on to many of the items as a writer wanting to engage my husband and write about his experiences to help others. I also missed our earlier years where we hiked, rode bikes, and played board games as a family so I tried to recreate some of those moments with his disabilities in mind. I hope you find useful ideas or create your own as a result of reading this list.

The First 25

  1. Not a Cross Word Competition. Crossword puzzle competition with each person taking the same puzzle and working against the clock; could also do the same with Seek and Find puzzles or Sudoku
  2. Jigsaw Jeopardy. Put together a jigsaw puzzle of an ideal place you or your veteran would like to visit; If space is limited, there are felt holders that let you to roll up your puzzle and set it out again
  3. Historic Car Collector. Ask your veteran to name all the cars he/she has had; record them and add to the list later as your veteran remembers more of them; ask your veteran to watch one of the car auction shows such as Mecum Auto Auction on television and point out cars he/she owned in the past
  4. Name the Habitat. Ask your veteran to name all the addresses where he/she lived; look up some of the locations on Google to see how the area changed; schedule a visit to an old neighborhood with your veteran
  5. Game Night. Play a game such as Chinese checkers, Parcheesi, Yahtzee, or Dominoes; for the more social veteran, invite neighbors or friends for a game of Texas Hold’Em or poker with poker chips or crackers in place of money
  6. In-Home Movie Night. Find a DVD movie that both of you enjoy, making sure not to watch a war movie; serve diabetic friendly or low-calorie snacks
  7. Oldies Trivia. Purchase a trivia game that covers information from when your veteran grew up and take turns answering the questions; make your own set of trivia facts specific to your veteran’s family, childhood neighborhood, or former occupation
  8. Weapons Mania. Ask your veteran to name all the weapons he/she handled or trained with in the military; look up pictures of the weapons on the internet or visit a store such as Cabellas that features a gun and rifle museum [Please check with your veteran’s doctor before considering this exercise.]
  9. Fun Memories. Ask your veteran to name his/her top three fond or at least positive memories from the war; this might include recreation time, leave, friends, cultural experiences in another country; consider taking a video of your veteran while reminiscing [Please check with your veteran’s doctor before considering this exercise.]
  10. Stitch in Time. Help your spouse take up knitting, crocheting, needlepoint, or other hand craft; if your spouse is male, remind him that many men, including Rosie Greer enjoyed this; model-making and paint-by-numbers works if your veteran is steady-handed
  11. Dicey Delight. Play a game of chance with dice, using pretzels, crackers, or carrots for winnings; dice games can be purchased—here’s a link: http://boardgames.about.com/od/dicegames/tp/dice-games.htm; Wikipedia offers a website for free instructions for games to play with dice so you do not have to buy a game: http://www.dice-play.com/GamesDice.htm
  12. Name the Spice. Blindfold the veteran or ask him/her to keep eyes closed just long enough to name three to five spices placed on either a napkin or poured into a small bowl; make a meal, using the spice your veteran liked the best
  13. Pick a Yummy. Give your veteran several URLs or websites from which to select a recipe for a special treat; serve the yummy in a unique way such as wrapping cookies in a decorated tin; save the recipe and make it again at another time for a surprise
  14. Decipher the Pic. Take four or five pictures of items up close and see if your veteran can identify them; use the “portrait” setting to help focus the object; consider cropping pictures to isolate a part of the photo so the clues are limited
  15. Leave an I Love You. Leave note cards around the house for the veteran to find; when the veteran finds all that you have hidden, give him/her something nice like a small American flag, scented candle, or a package of nuts or crackers
  16. Random Blessings. On a random day, give your veteran a small present that you have wrapped in a box, in a box, in a box for fun in opening
  17. Adopt a Child. Sponsor a child together in a foreign country and ask your veteran to dictate a letter or choose pictures to send to your child; if you and your veteran travel, some organizations such as Compassion International will allow you to go with them on a trip to meet your sponsored child
  18. Musical Round Robin. You and your veteran take turns singing a new song each time and continue going back and forth until one cannot come up with a song that has not been sung; the winner gets to pick out a music CD for purchase
  19. Lobby for a Hobby. Find out what your spouse liked to do in younger days and see if you can replicate it on a smaller scale. For example, if he/she did woodworking, try a wood-burning set or whittling for your veteran; my veteran used to shoot weapons and received training by the Army as a marksmen and expert so I got him hooked on archery, which is compatible with his disability and reminds him of the weapons he used in the past
  20. Make a Place. Disabled veterans need a safe room or safe place; design and create a safe room or safe place with your veteran; if he/she already has one, add something to the place such as a book stand, magazine holder, water fountain, or scented candles
  21. Chalk up a Chore. Do a chore with your veteran that is challenging but not overwhelming; my spouse vacuums while I follow behind with a mop
  22. What Ifs. Create a series of “What if” cards and sit with your veteran to answer each card; examples are: “What if you could live anywhere, where would it be?” “What if you won the lottery?” “What if you could do any profession or job, what would it be?
  23. Reading Time. Read aloud a book of your veteran’s choice to your veteran
  24. Author, Author. Write a short story together of how you met and send it to your children or close family friend; if you disagree on the facts, write two stories and marvel at the inconsistencies or write both versions into your story; illustrate with old photos or magazine pictures; you might want to use a free clip art program on-line for pictures to enhance the story
  25. Coffee Shop Hop. Accompany your veteran to coffee shops within a five-mile radius of your home and expand outward, if desired; do a coffee shop only once until you have visited all shops within your desired radius

Stay tuned for 25 more FUN THINGS TO DO WITH YOUR VETERAN,

coming in one week on Friday, November 14

Post your Comments:

What do you and your veteran enjoy doing together for fun? Please comment below. 

About the blogger

Dr. Penelope “Penny” Culbreth-Graft is a retired city manager and graduate professor. She lives with her disabled Vietnam Veteran husband, William, and his service dog, Molly, on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. She writes, paints, cares for her husband, and spends time with her grandchildren.