Just because your loved one is less responsive and struggles to communicate, does not mean that they no longer enjoy meaningful activities. Focus on activities that they once loved, thinking of ways in which you can modify each activity to adjust to their current needs and ability.
Believe it or not, meaningful activities will not only enhance one’s quality of life, but they can also reduce problematic behaviors. Wandering, for instance, often occurs due to underlying factors, such as stress or fear. As you interact with your loved one and make them feel safe and at ease, agitation and wandering may be reduced.
How to Choose Activities
Since dementia can be caused by a number of conditions, each scenario will be unique. When first diagnosed, it’s common that individuals withdraw based on their emotions. They may not want to participate in activities they love which is why you should encourage them. As their condition progresses, it’s important to make adjustments.
Although it’s great to encourage activities that your loved one once loved, you should also pay attention to what lifts their spirits now. Being aware of their emotions within various situations can help you pinpoint what makes them anxious, happy, or scared. Whenever you notice they’re enjoying themselves, make a note of the situation. Also, be conscious of the time of day. All of these details can be written down in a book so that you can go back and see which factors may have affected their mood or behavior.
This is very important, as you’ll want to encourage activities that make them happy, not necessary activities that reflect skills. It’s not about playing a song they once knew on the piano perfectly, it’s about bringing enjoyment to their day. If they feel comforted when playing the piano, for instance, implement this into their daily routine. It may help them relieve stress and calm their mind.
If they’re not responsive at first, encourage them but don’t force it. It could simply be the wrong time of the day. Either change your approach regarding the activity itself or try again later. Even if they’re not interested in a set activity, include them in whatever you’re doing. If you’re cooking dinner, speak to them about what you’re doing. They may not respond, but they will likely benefit from the open communication.
I Don’t Know What Activities to Suggest, What Are Some Ideas?
In the beginning stages, the possibilities are fairly limitless. Once again, focus on activities they enjoy and continually encourage them to take part. Each individual is unique, so it’s important to accommodate to their interests and abilities.
If you notice that they enjoy a certain activity, then suggest other similar activities. For example, if they enjoyed baking cookies with you, try other recipes as well. As their ability to cook decreases, adjust your kitchen activities to meet their specific needs. Here are some quick ideas to get you started:
- Listening to music, singing, or playing an instrument
- Reading books together
- Coloring pictures, painting, making jewelry, or any other creative activity
- Gardening or raking leaves
- Going for walks
- Flipping through old photographs
- Spend time with pets
- House duties, such as folding laundry or sweeping
- Feed ducks in the park
If you have run out of ideas, there are plenty of online support groups. Caregivers from around the globe share their experiences and ideas. Don’t be afraid to reach out and increase your level of support.
Caregiver Center. (2015). Activities. Alzheimer’s Association. Retrieved from https://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-activities.asp