Dementia is very common amoung the elderly and currently effects 52% of all residents in aged care communities. Individuals with dementia can have certain triggers that can cause excess stress and anxiety and these are important to manage.
These triggers can include:
- Loud noises
- Constant movement
- Overly lit surroundings
- Disruptions to their usual schedule
It is so important to have a good repertoire of activities that can help people living with dementia manage their condition. As such, we have put together a summary of suggested activities that can help your loved one’s establish a good routine and create a safe and calm environment to avoid any unnecessary stress triggers.
Exercising fine motor skills
Activities to support those with co-ordination issues include artistic options such as painting, finger painting, working with clay and painting ceramics. While encouraging the use and exercise of our fine motor skills, creating art also provides the opportunity for self-expression and creative thinking, stimulating the brain. Puzzles are a great activity to improve hand-eye coordination and can be an opportunity for caregivers and family members to collaborate on a task.
We also recommend taking walks and doing appropriate exercises to get the blood and oxygen flowing, improving both physical and mental wellbeing. Lastly, something simple like throwing a ball or playing a round of magnetic darts is a fun option that encourages the use of our motor skills.
Mood stimulators and social skills
Using the above suggestion of taking a walk together, why not go somewhere that has a calming and peaceful influence such as a botanical garden, a walking trail around a lake or stroll to a picnic spot where you can enjoy a packed lunch? If you don’t think this will relax your loved one, how about arranging a massage or pamper them with some nail polish? Give them a manicure, an excellent opportunity to bond. Listening to music can also be a great chance to encourage an emotional connection in a safe and relaxing environment.
Lastly, contact with babies can tend to have a calming effect on a number of people with dementia. A calm infant can reduce anxiety and agitation. This provides a chance for those living with dementia to develop interpersonal connections with family.
Triggering the memory and cognitive processing
Generally, age-related cognitive decline affects most older adults, but lifetime memories often remain strong. To encourage stimulation of the neurons in the brains of people with dementia, one idea is to go through family photos. This can offer a chance to trigger memories and create an emotional response. It will also provide the opportunity to work on interpersonal skills and bond. Consider starting a family tree, scrapbook or create a collage from familiar photos and pictures in magazines. Reminiscing over nostalgic family home videos can also trigger memories; we recommend short family clips so as to not overwhelm your loved one.
For something a little simpler that can fit into a daily routine, reading the newspaper together can allow you to bond (maybe over a crossword) and encourage cognitive processing of world issues. Reading the newspaper can also stimulate memories, so try and select articles to read that have positive connotations.
Motivational tools for the daily routine
If you are searching for a motivational activity for someone living with dementia, we have a few that we suggest working into the daily routine. Having a pet to care for can be an enjoyable way to motivate people with dementia. Depending on your loved one’s individual circumstances, certain pets can be more low maintenance than others. A budgie or a fish might be more appropriate than a dog or a cat for example. If that would still be too large of a commitment, consider arranging interaction with other Freedom members’ pets or ask one of our Freedom staff members about organizing an emotional support pet to visit the community.
If your loved one you are caring for doesn’t like animals, why not spend time doing daily chores together. Ask for their help planning recipes and cooking for their meals or you could even make something as simple and familiar as jam. Another option is gardening for those who prefer the outdoors. You could pick some flowers together and then spend some time arranging them to brighten and decorate their room.
The activities we have recommended above can have various benefits for people living with dementia and can help contribute to managing this condition. Here at Freedom Aged Care we strive to support and empower all of our community members; as well as their family and friends who may be adapting to the influence of dementia on their everyday life and relationships.