Dementia Activities- Fun Things You Can Do
Most dementia patients know something isn’t quite right –especially in the early stages. And like you and I, when something isn’t right that cannot be changed, they, too, become sad, despondent, and even depressed. Depression in dementia patients can easily be masked by the symptoms of cognitive impairment they suffer.
This is why it is so important to find ways to keep your ailing loved one socially engaged, so he or she doesn’t feel so isolated within the disease.
There are a lot of different dementia activities you can easily do with your loved one.
Like any task, activities for those with dementia likely won’t run as expected and may be quite challenging. Experts say the key to successful activities with the elderly is just to keep it fun.
The project probably won’t be completed and will likely take some twists and turns, but that’s to be expected. As long as your loved one finds it enjoyable and participates safely, the activity is successful. The key to a great activity? Engage the senses.
Tune In to Great Times
Dan Cohen set out to prove music beneficial for dementia patients this year, and the Sundance Film Festival thought he was right. Cohen was the winner of Sundance’s U.S. Documentary Audience Award for 2014 for the moving film, Alive Inside: The Story of Music & Memory. Using iPods, headphones and knowledge about favorite music gleaned from friends and family members of the participants.
Music & Memory has used the connection with familiar sounds to help dementia patients become more responsive, talkative, cheerful, and yes, to awaken pleasant memories. While Cohen demonstrated the power of favorite melodies for individuals, you yourself may be able to gain similar results in a social environment by:
- playing favorite songs aloud;
- taking early walks where birds are greeting the new day;
- viewing familiar musicals, operas, and artists together; and
- visiting waterfronts to hear the sound of the waves or lapping water.
Fragrances to Relax and Reminisce
Depending on the pleasant association, fragrance can actually be more powerful than sound. Although the sense of smell is one of the first to go in elders, even in such cases the olfactory sense remains alive in an odd way.
Fragrances and smells take a direct path from the nose right into the brain. For this reason, a senior without a sense of smell can still greatly benefit from aromatherapy that uses pure essential oils. The molecules of the essential oil, with its healing properties, still travel directly to the brain.
Similar possibilities remain when the brain absorbs molecules from the smell of a favorite cookie or pie, smells associated with the holiday season, a new accessory and many other pleasant associations. These dementia activities can be fun for both of you. So whether or not your loved one still experiences fragrances in the traditional manner, try experimenting with:
- flower arranging,
- baking and bread making,
- folding fresh laundry,
- coffee breaks,
- cooking family favorites together,
- throwing a barbecue,
- trips to the chocolatier, the local cafe, and bakery.
Share Feelings and Thoughts Visually
Art, in its various forms, is an excellent way to share memories and express feelings and desires. Here are a few simple dementia activities to inspire:
- Magazine dreaming: Clipping photographs of nice things from magazines and pasting them into collage form on plain paper.
- Armchair travel: Slowly reviewing professional photography books of beautiful scenery in foreign places and discussing them.
- Jewelry making: Stringing together simple necklaces or friendship bracelets.
- Papier mache: Making festive keepsakes and ornaments freehand or with molds normally used for cupcakes, candy or soap. These can be painted once dried.
- Beauty makeovers: Give Mom’s self-esteem a boost by having her makeup done professionally –for free. Major department stores normally have makeup counters for some of the best brands that perform this service to showcase the quality of their products.
Give a Taste of the World.
Make it a routine activity to scan the newspapers for cultural events that entertain, educate, and most importantly feed. Sampling different flavors is a creative way to spend the afternoon (and to take a day off from cooking dinner). Street festivals typically have food vendors that match the style of the event. The Houston Chronicle might have the most complete area listings to pick and choose from. Enjoy!
Difficult Day? Try Holding Hands
Even if you’re not a touchy-feely person yourself, physical touch for the elderly is often as comforting as it is for a child. If you pray, you might be able to make it something for the two of you, as you hold hands. Combing and styling Mom’s hair can draw the two of you closer, as can a delicate massage if she suffers from arthritis or muscle pain. Reserving a special touch for the end of a trying day can make it more treasured, but this depends on the needs of your parent or loved one.
Go ahead and implement these dementia activities one at a time. Later on, as Mom or Dad gets used to the different activities. And doesn’t feel fearful or hesitant with them, consider blending more than one together. Try art with music, walking while holding hands and tasting something out of the ordinary at the chocolatier. Combined experiences can lift the mood even more and help caregiver and patient to look forward to quality time in the midst of many challenging days.
Originally published at findhoustonseniorcare.com.