As our older loved ones advance through the stages of Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, their ability to remain interested in everyday activities decreases, despite their need to stay busy and to feel productive. As a result, finding engaging and fun activities to help someone with dementia can be extremely challenging.
If you’re experiencing this now with someone you love, you know that every stage of Alzheimer’s presents its own distinctive challenges. The first hurdle to overcome may be helping your loved one remain interested in an activity – even one that used to be a favorite hobby at one time. Another problem may be choosing an activity that is in line with his/her physical ability. Reading, for example, may have been enjoyable when your loved one was younger. But if eyesight is failing and comprehension is now more limited, reading might have become too difficult. This can be particularly frustrating if the senior remembers enjoying this activity in the past. Yet remaining active is still important, to help reduce disruptive behaviors and feelings.
How Can You Help Someone With Dementia Participate in Enjoyable Activities?
Below are several helpful tips to increase the chances of finding effective recreational activities for older adults with dementia:
- Keep the older adult’s current abilities and limitations in mind while choosing an activity.
- Be mindful of the time of day you want to introduce the activity to the senior. Many individuals with dementia react differently to directions at night, as compared to earlier in the day.
- Focus on simply the enjoyment of the activity itself, rather than the end result.
- Provide simple instructions, one step at a time, and offer support as needed – but never take over.
- Maintain a sense of purpose in the activity. For example, explain that you’d like to send a thank-you card to someone and then ask the senior to help you.
- Replace a behavior with an activity. If your loved one is rubbing her hand on the table, for instance, give her a cloth and ask her to wipe off the table. Or, if the senior is moving his or her feet on the floor, put on some music so the senior can tap them to the beat.
- If a particular activity isn’t working, it could just be the wrong time of day, or it may be too challenging. Try again later, or adjust the activity.
- Keep an eye on the time, with a limited time allotted for an activity if the senior’s attention span seems to be limited.
What Are Some Good Activities for Elderly With Dementia?
Consider the individual’s specific ability level along with their interests, both past and present, when determining appropriate activities. The best activities for someone with dementia are both enjoyable and meaningful. Some ideas to get you started include:
- Music, in whatever form the person enjoys, is incredibly meaningful for someone with dementia. Create a playlist of favorite songs and listen together, dancing if the person would like, or simply clapping or tapping your feet. Songs from the past may prompt reminiscing and allow for wonderful conversations.
- Invite the person to join you in tasks with a purpose around the home, again, according to their ability level and interest. Someone who always enjoyed cooking and baking can still engage in these activities, even if modifications are needed. It may be as simple as tearing lettuce for a salad, stirring ingredients in a bowl, or sorting silverware to set the table, but each of these small tasks is meaningful.
- Create a memory book with photos and other mementos from the person’s past. Look through the book together and see what memories are sparked and what stories they may want to share. If you can, include pictures from their childhood and young adulthood – people as well as pets, homes, places of employment, etc.
Providing activities for the elderly with dementia, even for short periods of time, is helpful for both of you, but at Stay Home Care, the leader in home care in Nashville, TN and the surrounding areas, we know that it isn’t always easy, and we’re here to help. Our skilled and compassionate caregivers provide home care services that are customized to each individual, and each member of our care team is specially trained in dementia care, to offer a wealth of resources for families navigating the Alzheimer’s journey.