If you have a loved one with dementia, you know how bumpy their journey can be. There are ups and downs, good days and worse days, and a variety of emotions that come with a dementia diagnosis.
Dementia is a group of conditions that affect the brain, resulting in the decline of different cognitive abilities such as memory, social skills, and critical thinking. Although dementia affects everyone differently, it can – and often does – affect the ability of a person to live independently.
Dementia patients may need a tremendous amount of support so that they can perform daily activities properly and safely, and this task often falls on a family member or a carer. While dementia is a serious diagnosis, the good news is that there are many different support options and things that you can do to help the individual. Dementia can be tough on the individual and their carers.
Keeping up with familiar activities and staying as active as possible can bring major benefits to dementia patients, including retaining some independence, reducing anxiety and frustration, and feeling happier. Here are six great activities for people with dementia.
Small chores around the house
While it is usually difficult or unsafe for a person with dementia to prepare a full meal or mow an entire lawn, doing a small portion of household chores can be satisfying for your loved one.
Performing familiar activities such as folding laundry, washing the dishes, watering plants, or making simple snacks can help the person’s mind stay active. It also helps them feel useful and gives them a sense of independence without being too mentally or physically straining.
A sensory box is a great tool for mental stimulation and focus. They are also a perfect way to engage multiple senses, and this can help stabilise someone who may be confused or disoriented due to their dementia.
To create a sensory box, fill a large box with items of different shapes, colours, and textures. Once you have your box ready, allow your loved one to explore at their own pace. Don’t forget to include items that stimulate the senses of smell and hearing too.
Here are some ideas for items:
- different fabrics
- stress balls
- colouring pages
Puzzles and games
Even though your loved one may no longer be able to play some of their favourite games, such as playing cards or chess, there are games available that they can still enjoy. Try out a simpler game such as ‘go fish’, ring toss, or any game suited for a younger audience.
Other options include jigsaw puzzles, word searches, or fill in the blanks. You might find that both you and your loved one discover a new favourite game to play together.
Many people with dementia can feel detached or lonely, and this can have a negative impact on their mood and ability to function. Do some research on local events and get-togethers for people with memory loss in your area and see what is available.
Many community centres have regular events for people to play games, watch performances, or just sit and chat. Alternatively, if your loved one lives in a retirement community, there are likely weekly events that they can attend with other residents in their community.
Many older people did not have technology growing up, but that doesn’t mean they can’t take advantage of it now. There are plenty of games, apps, and resources online geared towards individuals with memory loss, including those with dementia.
You can also use technology to find old videos, films, pictures, and songs that may be nostalgic for your loved ones, or even download an audiobook or podcast if they are having trouble reading print.
Another great way to use technology is to set up a video messaging service such as Skype or Zoom so that your loved one can chat with family and friends from the comfort of their home.
While exercise is a healthy activity at any age, it is especially vital for anyone with dementia. Your loved one may not be hitting the gym, but any gentle exercise such as walking, some gentle stretching, doing tai chi or yoga, or even just tossing a ball back and forth can be a beneficial form of physical activity.
Getting some fresh air and exercise can be amazing for the brain and body, but always be mindful of any other conditions that your loved one has. If you aren’t sure which type of exercise is safest for your loved one’s specific case, consult a professional.
If you think someone in your life may benefit from the above activities, consider trying one or more out with them. If these activities aren’t available at home, there are many groups, clubs, gatherings, and senior retirement homes that offer activities that could benefit many people affected by dementia. Senior communities are a great place to start, as they offer a variety of outings, events, games, and exercise for their residents.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg. He interviews people within psychology, mental health, and well-being on his YouTube channel, The DRH Show.
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