When a loved one has dementia, you may feel that your special time together has been taken from you. But you can still enjoy many special times with memory care patients, and partaking in engaging activities can not only make you feel closer again, but can benefit the patient in many unexpected ways.
By keeping their bodies moving, giving them some fresh air, and putting them in social situations, you will improve your loved one’s quality of life. They will have more mobility, sleep better at night, feel increased self esteem, and even experience less depression and fear. There are many simple yet effective ways to spend time with an Alzheimer’s or dementia patient. Here are a few of our favorites.
Engaging Activities for Body & Mind
It is important to take a dementia patient’s current condition into account when planning activities. You may wish to share any plans for a new activity with the professionals at the memory care facility (or the patient’s doctor if they live with you) before trying something new. Remember that if you notice them getting frustrated with any activity, it is ok to stop. You don’t want to induce stress or anxiety.
- If they love to be outdoors, a simple walk can become an adventure. Point out interesting items, ask them to identify animals you may see, and discuss the beauty of the bright red flowers, or blue sky. If they get confused by a question or observation, be sure to reassure them by saying “That’s ok, sometimes I forget the name of that animal too. It is a squirrel.” If they are physically capable, you may wish to rake some leaves, plant a flower seed in a pot, or sweep their patio clean. Often these repetitive chores which they have done many times will inspire memories and a sense of comfort in familiarity.
- Ask them to help you sort colorful poker chips or glass marbles, or engage them in stringing beads on a string for you. These activities are repetitive and can be mastered fairly easily, giving them a boost of confidence and accomplishment. Stress creative expression by helping them take photos and put them in an album, or help them to make greeting cards for people they love.
- Work on a large-piece jigsaw puzzle together, asking them to help you find certain pieces – one with a lot of blue, for instance; or one with tree branches. Give them something to identify easily. Play thinking games, such as asking them to finish well-known quotes, or to name state capitals, or objects which begin with a certain letter. Read them poetry or chapters from their favorite books. Singing some of their favorite songs is a great way to create a connection, as song lyrics tend to remain in someone’s brain even if their memory is failing.
- If the memory care facility allows it, ask to bring in a dog or cat to visit with your patient. Animals are known to lower stress and fear levels, and to generate a basic sense of well-being. Many facilities do bring in therapy animals for their residents.
- If they used to love to dance, dance with them. Manny times even if they forget their name or many memories, their feet will automatically move to the waltz the enjoyed for most of their life.
The possibilities are limited only to your imagination when it comes to engaging activities to share with dementia patients. Anything which provides stimulation to the body mind or creativity is a great choice. If something does not seem to be working, try another activity. You should soon find an activity that you both love, and which will return you to that special connection.
At A Banyan Residence in Venice, we are committed to the total health and happiness of all of our residents. Stop by today to learn more.