As we have read, the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia is on the rise. For many, family caregiving becomes the most practical and cost-effective solution, at least for a time.

Keeping dementia individuals actively engaged in everyday activities and cognitively challenging tasks is beneficial for both body and mind and, in some cases, it can even slow the progression of the disease, Staying active and engaged can also help to reduce dementia sleep problems, as well.

I would like to share with you some tips and ideas for keeping dementia individuals active and engaged through everyday activities, outings, and social and emotional activities, many of which can be used throughout most of the stages of dementia.

1. Relate activities to the individuals work life or interests. For example, a former office worker might enjoy putting coins in a holder or help to do a mailing of letters. A former farmer may take pleasure in working in the yard, taking care of plants, by watering them and repotting them.

2. Avoid overstimulation. Try not to overstimulate the person with dementia. Be selective with outings. Avoid crowds, constant movement and noise, which many people with dementia find overwhelming.

3. Remember, activities include more than just 
planned activities. Activities can include life skills which means participating in their daily living skills. They can be encouraged to hold their toothbrush or washcloths, or to choose and item of clothing. This can also include meal time. They can be encourages to fold napkins, set the table, clear the table and wash dishes. Allowing them to water plants, dusting, allowing them to fold clothing are also good. These activities are just as good as a game of bingo.

4. Choose activities that aren’t too easy or too hard. If an activity is too simple or childlike (ex: coloring books for kids) the person may feel insulted or bored. If it requires remembering sequences or is above their cognition level, “it will frustrate and turn them off.”

5. For many people with dementia, listening to music, dancing or contact with babies, children and animals provide positive feelings. People with dementia, can generally have good memories of the past, so looking through photo books can help recall earlier times.

6. Continue to go on outings as long as you and the individual are comfortable with these outings (Of, course during COVID-19 times, this would need to be altered). They may still like to go and eat at their favorite restaurant; spend time in the park, shopping mall, and museum or movie theatre.

7. A tablet or smartphone can be a useful tool for social connection as well as access to puzzles, games and other activities.  From online game and puzzles to Skype and Zoom, They provide a way to stay engaged with others.

Keep in mind it’s about engagement, not about outcome or achievements. Don’t worry about how the activity should be done or what the end product might be, as individuals in the middle and late stages of dementia are not capable of understanding the goal of an activity.

Just enjoy the process and the current moment of doing things with your loved ones!

Pam Meyer is Wellness Director at BLC of Wahpeton

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