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How to choose activities for seniors living with dementia

Written by Adrienne Garnam, Activity Centre Operations Manager with integratedliving

Finding suitable activities for a loved one who is developing or living with dementia can be a challenging task. Here are some tips to help you decide.
 

It is not unusual for seniors living with dementia to avoid interaction out of embarrassment or they may get frustrated easily when certain activities are not as simple to participate in as they once were.

However, this does not mean your loved one is not keen or able to make connections. They probably need just a little more encouragement and understanding to remain engaged. As a carer, it is important to know what activities to do with someone with dementia to stimulate positive engagement so that they continue to live with their best quality of life.

 
Here are some guidelines and tips to help you decide:

Tip 1: Tailor activities based on a senior’s talents and interests

Reflect on your loved one’s previous hobbies – is there something they really enjoyed doing? Is it possible to make this activity less complex for them and include it in their daily routine?

By personalising the activity, you create a sense of familiarity which can be comforting for your loved one. This also encourages further engagement and less distraction from the task. Connection to a task can spark interest and increase engagement!

Tip 2: Reminisce together – a tip and activity in one!

Reminiscence therapy is all about just that! Talk about where they were born, where they grew up, or where they went to school. Ask them about their first job, or what they remember about their grandparents growing up? Enquire about their first love or their favourite holidays.

All of the simple things we take for granted as memories can become so powerful and moving for a person living with dementia. Our memories and experiences create so much of who we are and by reminiscing you can help those memories come to life, if only for a moment.

Tip 3: Invite them into a day in your life as an activity to do together – not a task.

Simply invite them to join you in one of your everyday activities.

It can be as simple as making breakfast or going for a walk to your favourite café. Or you can invite them to a karaoke singing session. This will help to keep them active both physically and mentally.

This is a good activity for someone with dementia and highly recommended to do this as early on after diagnosis as possible.

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Tip 4: Learn, learn, learn!

Learn something new together! Depending on your loved one’s current health condition, you can take a cooking class together and then cook that same meal at home.

Buy a new plant, learn what it needs to grow and plant it in their home. Watching this plant grow can also give the person living with dementia a sense of achievement, happiness and connection with things around them.

Tip 5: Let them teach you

Ask your loved one to show you how to do something (even if you already know). Let them feel useful and feel like they are contributing to your life and improving your skills.

Again, this will help them to feel a sense of achievement and that they are able to help you just as you can help them!

Tip 6: Be mindful

Avoid drawing attention to the things they cannot do or can no longer do well. This can create frustration for them and your loved one may experience shame upon realising they are unable to do the tasks they used to do with ease.

Aim to create a supportive environment and try to surround your loved one with familiar people to give them extra comfort. This can make a big difference in their quality of life.

Purpose is very important and a diagnosis of dementia does not mean we have to lose our purpose in life. As carers, there are many ways you can continue to connect your loved one with those things that give them purpose. It is important to encourage social interaction with your loved one or family member living with dementia.

Also, don’t forget to look after yourself as a carer. Caring for someone you love can be, without a doubt, one of the most challenging times of your life. Ensure you are filling up your cup just as often as you do theirs.
 

Learn more about our Activity Classes.