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My loved one has dementia and I need ideas for activities.

Posted: January 13, 2017, 11:43AM

This is challenging for caregivers and it's important to remember a few things when exploring activities for a loved one with dementia. 

First - remember that activities can be anything.  Activities are things that we do and can involve routine tasks like getting dressed or doing chores, as well as things such as playing cards or reminiscing.  Activities can be done alone or with family or friends.  We can "make" anything an activity for our loved one.

Another thing to remember is that the activity is FOR OUR LOVED ONE.  We don't have to be entertained.  Our loved one needs to be the focus.  We want to bring meaning, purpose and joy to the person.  We want to use their skills and abilities.  We want to promote a sense of normalcy.  We want to provide activities that are dignified and appropriate, enjoyable and focus on the process not the end result!

Activities structure time for our loved one.  Activities can facilitate relaxation, provide a sense of engagement, and can help reduce behaviors like wandering or agitation.  Activities can enhance a sense of security and togetherness.

Some activities to consider:

Chores such as dusting, sweeping, folding clothing, helping to prepare food, doing dishes, vacuuming or other cleaning tasks.  Gardening or wood working may be enjoyable.  Keep your loved one's "life long loves" in mind when exploring ideas for activities.

You may also want to paint, do puzzles, take a walk, play cards or read together.

Music has proven to be not only an effective activity but also a very calming force.  Music and memory work closely together and you may be able to sing old songs with your loved one (songs of their era, hymns, camp songs) long after many abilities are lost.  Many nursing facilities have integrated music into their activity programs which has reduced behavior problems and agitation. 

Music is processed in a different part of our brain.  Many studies have been done to explore the impact of music, memory and learning.  You can play CDs or perhaps a DVD of an old movie musical.

When exploring acitivies:

Remember - the activity is for your loved one not you.  Focus on strengths and skills.  Encourage self-expression.  Don't criticize or correct.  (You are encouraging enjoyment, not achievement!)  Adjust activities to disease stages so modify activites as needed.  Be flexible. Consider the time of day and keep the structure of your loved one's day in mind. 

And - remember - anything can be an activity!



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