Finding New Activities For Seniors With Dementia
As an adult child caring for your aging loved one — most likely a parent — who suffers from dementia in San Francisco, you already know how challenging daily activities can be. Because routine is a big part of a dementia patient’s life, it seems like all you do all day is take everything step by step. Any disruption in routine can lead to restlessness and anger. It’s easy to get into a rut where you don’t even attempt new activities because your loved one isn’t always receptive to “new.” The challenges of dementia can be compounded in end of life care, but that doesn’t mean you can’t venture into uncharted territory now and again.
The key is to introduce a new activity slowly and see how it goes. Who knows? This new activity may become one of their old favorites. Just don’t take offense if your suggestion is met with resistance. Just remember that in the early stages of dementia, your loved one may withdraw from activities he or she previously enjoyed, points out the Alzheimer’s Association. It’s critical to keep your loved one engaged, having an open discussion around any concerns and making adjustments according to their changing abilities.
Those suffering from dementia don’t have to give up the activities that they used to love. Sometimes, all it takes is a modification to a particular activity to make it more enjoyable again. By modifying activities to their ability, you are enhancing the quality of life and reducing behaviors like wandering or agitation. Here are some tips to making those important changes:
- Stick with activities your loved one has always enjoyed and adjust them to match their current abilities. Perhaps you can re-teach your loved one how to play a simple song on the piano that they used to love.
- Note when your loved one seems happy, anxious, distracted or irritable. For example, some seniors enjoy watching a football game on TV but others may get scared of the loud noises or violence happening on the field.
- Be aware of physical cues that your loved one is getting tired or having trouble performing simple movements.
- Always focus on the enjoyment, not the achievement. Choose activities that build on their existing skills and talents.
- Encourage daily routines as activities, such as setting the table for dinner, to give them a sense of accomplishment and a feeling that they are adding value to the family. Organizing household or office items is helpful, especially if your loved one used to take pleasure in organizational tasks, says Alzheimers.net.
- Relate activities to their former work life. Someone who was an administrative assistant may enjoy putting checks in envelopes, sorting paperwork or writing up a to-do list. Someone who used to work in a garden nursery may enjoy light gardening out in the yard. These activities may spark memories and recall.
- Consider favorites. If your loved one enjoyed reading the newspaper every morning over a cup of tea when they were well, encourage that behavior now. They may not understand what they are reading but the behavior brings comfort.
- Keep the time of day in mind. You may find your loved one is more receptive to activities in the earlier part of the day as opposed to the afternoon when sundowning can occur in dementia patients. This is a time of day where they can be agitated and restless as the sun sets.
- Introduce more repetitive tasks as the disease progresses.
Ideas for Activities
Check out these activities you can incorporate into your loved one’s day.
- Sing songs and play their favorite music.
- Do some arts and crafts but keep instructions simple.
- Involve them in cleaning around the home, such as sweeping the patio, wiping the table or folding towels.
- Visit a botanical garden.
- Read picture books. Get out all ingredients, pour and measure together, and talk your way through it step by step.
- Bake simple recipes together.
- Work on puzzles, a little bit at a time.
- Watch old family videos.
- Take short walks or use a stationary bike. Throw a soft ball back and forth or lift household items like soup cans to keep up their strength, suggests the National Institute on Aging.
- Attend a concert or musical program. Be prepared to leave if your loved one gets agitated by the loud noises.
- Walk the dog together.
- Water indoor and outdoor plants. Take note of how the plants are growing with such good care.
- Visit with grandchildren or great-grandchildren. Play simple board games, read books or go to the park.
- Clip coupons, sort socks, fold laundry — all of which takes fine motor skills.