As a dementia caregiver you may get so busy “caring” that you don’t take the time to have fun. Participating in activities, whether they are practical or frivolous can boost your spirits and also boost the spirits of your care recipient. But how do you choose these activities?
Dementia patients are sometimes brushed aside with the thinking that they no longer have the ability to actively pursue any of their former interests or to learn new skills. This is often not the case.
A dementia patient may not have the ability to initiate an activity, a hobby, or a game, but if they are given the proper materials and patient step-by-step instructions they may be not only able to participate, but also to thoroughly enjoy themselves.
The behavior problems that are common with dementia patients may be lessened if the patient is given the chance to express themselves through art, music, or some other medium. Activities also have the added benefit of burning up energy which may help the dementia patient to sleep better.
Here are some tips for choosing activities to do with a dementia patient:
What did your loved one enjoy before they developed dementia symptoms? They will most likely continue to enjoy the same activities. Some hobbies, especially sports or potentially dangerous activities, may need to be modified for the dementia patient to be able to participate, but although they may not be able to safely climb a mountain they may be able to continue to go on short hikes.
Be creative. Creativity will help you to find ways to modify activities. Consider all the aspects of a particular interest. For example, if your loved one loved to play Sunday afternoon football with his buddies, perhaps he would enjoy watching football on TV with his friends.
Some dementia patients become a little childlike in their actions. Participating in activities that are usually reserved for childhood may be enjoyable for them. Finger painting, playing marbles or jacks, or swinging on a swing set at the park are all great ideas. If possible, do these kinds of activities with a child. My then 2 ½ year old son was my Mom’s favorite companion!
Dementia patients often remember events and experiences from years ago, but can’t recall what they had for breakfast an hour ago. Reminiscing about their childhood or their wedding day or their time in the military can be enjoyable for them. Working on scrapbooks or interviewing them about these events are great ideas for activities.
Keep it simple. The more steps it takes to complete a project the more likely it will be for a dementia patient to become confused. Choose activities with only a few steps and be sure to break down each step as simply as possible when giving instructions.
We all want to feel needed. This is no different for a dementia patient. Every activity they participate in doesn’t have to be fun and games. The opportunity to be helpful can be very valuable. Simple chores like folding laundry, pairing socks, tearing lettuce for a salad, scooping cookie dough, and many others can all be done successfully by a dementia patient.
When choosing activities for a dementia patient there are many possibilities. See your loved one as a vibrant, productive member of your family and of society and you will be able to find many things for them to do. Provide a little instruction and watch them enjoy participating in life!