As a caregiver, engaging and participating in activities with the person you care for has a variety of benefits – for both of you! It provides structure and routine to the day, can improve self-esteem, improve sleep, minimize the person with dementia’s behavioural changes, create a bonding experience for families and caregivers, maintain and strengthen motor skills, and reduce stress levels for both parties.
Tips for Success:
- Start where you can and set reasonable goals. For physical activity, for example, start with a small amount of an activity that you can both enjoy.
- Choose the activities that best fit your loved one’s personality, needs, and situation.
- Keep the activity calm. Let them know that there is no need to rush.
- Plan activities during a time of day when the person with dementia is most alert and not anxious or restless.
- Be sure to explain the activity to your loved one before you begin.
- If your loved one becomes frustrated, stop the activity and try again another time.
- Remember that the process is more important than the result.
Types of activities:
- Physical activities such as walking, swimming, or dancing. Physical activity can help both of you to feel better, reduce stress, and maintain health. Swimming is not only great physically, but is also often associated with happy childhood memories.
- Art and handwork activities give a chance for self-expression. Putting together a memory box can be a great way to draw out memories, and can be used later to calm the person with dementia. It makes for great quiet moments! Floral arranging can provide cognitive and sensory stimulation and can help to preserve motor skills and instill a sense of accomplishment, as can stringing beads for jewelry. Craft activities such as collages with magazine pictures or working with modeling clay or PlayDoh can be simple and fun for people in most stages of dementia.
- Cooking can be a great way to spend time together, as well as helping your loved one to eat better. Depending on their stage, it is important to let the person with dementia do as much as is safe and possible. Think of it as doing something practical whilst having a tasty treat for a reward!
- Music activities, including listening to music from earlier years, are ways to meaningfully interact with people with dementia. Music playing and singing routines can be designed that are repetitive, easy to follow, and very engaging, and simple instruments can be made with plastic containers and dried beans or pasta. Tapping a beat or singing lyrics to a song from childhood can be powerful for people with any stage of dementia.
- Gardening – planting seeds, transplanting, watering and weeding, as well as reminiscing about favourite things to grow and pick, can be very pleasurable activities for caregivers and loved ones.
- Games and trivia can help to stave off mental decline by promoting activity changes in the brain. Choosing games appropriate to your loved one’s stage and situation can boost their confidence and be fun for everyone. These could include Ludo, Snakes & Ladders, or card matching games.
- Jigsaw puzzles can be great for people with dementia and their caregivers, and can also improve scores on memory tests.
- Reading. Reading the newspaper canoften be an enjoyable activity, even with the person with dementia does not completely understand the content. A caregiver reading a book out loud is a way for the person with dementia to hear their voice.
- Hand massages can be gladly accepted by people living with dementia. Even short hand massages have been shown to elicit physiological relaxation responses.
- Visiting museums can be a great activity for both the person with dementia and their caregiver, as a break for the normal daily routine. Many museums have special programs to provide unique opportunities for these groups.
- Joke telling is great for people who dementia, who often retain their sense of humour. A laugh does everyone good!
Fun and enriching activities as part of a daily routine can help both the person living with dementia and their caregivers to be engaged and stimulated. Caregiving is challenging, and is important to know what resources are available to you. Proactive Seniors providing planning and support to caregivers and families – don’t hesitate to reach out!
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Silknitter, Scott. Dementia Activities and Their Benefits (alzheimers.net)