Well Spring has sprung or at least it’s trying and the warm weather and the opportunity to get back outside is just around the corner. You don’t need me to tell you that this past year has been one for the ages. At the risk of using an overused phrase, hopefully all of this will soon be in our rear view mirror
Pandemic or no pandemic there are always wonderful and fun ways to engage your loved ones with dementia. And now that the warmer weather is on the horizon, there are activities you can involve them in outside as well as inside.
Spending time with your loved one with dementia can be meaningful and fun but you must always remember that you need to take your cues from them. For example, what do they like to do? What are they capable of doing? Asking them to perform a task that they aren’t able to do can lead to confusion and frustration. What are they in the mood for today?
The Alzheimer’s Association (ALZ.ORG) has broken activities you can do with your loved one into five categories. Outdoor, Indoor, Personal, Kitchen and Family Traditions. Rather than try to provide you an in depth list of activities, I thought I’d touch on just a few under each category. I know you could come up with even more.
Outdoor: Plant flowers, go for a walk, feed the birds, water plants or go to the park.
Indoor: Listen to their favorite music, look at family photos, watch a favorite TV show, identify States on a map or have them talk about life when they were younger.
Personal: Give them a hand massage, brush their hair, make a family tree poster board, give them a manicure or have them talk about their first job or their first boss.
Kitchen: The opportunities here are endless. Make and bake cookies and/or bread, have them set the table, make their favorite snack, have them dry the dishes or ask them to put things away. If they were “super moms” in their life, they’ll love this and yes, drying dishes or clearing a table is meaningful to them.
Family Traditions: This is one of my favorites because these memories go way back. You can color Easter Eggs, bake holiday cookies, carve a pumpkin and of course roast the seeds. You can watch appropriate Holiday movies, sing holiday songs, make cards, decorate the tree and go to Church or Synagogue.
I can hear some of you saying, “what is he thinking, I could never get him or her to do that!” In some cases you are probably correct but that goes back to knowing them and knowing what their strengths and weaknesses are. If they are not sociable then going to Church or out to a loud busy restaurant would be a bad choice. The good news is that you get to experiment and try new things with them without overwhelming them. Remember you don’t want to talk to them in lists and you want to gently “tell” not ask. e.g. Lets’ grab our coats and go to the park and visit the ducks. Not, “do you want to go to the park?” Again, this will be driven by where they are in the disease. Those in the early stages will be capable of doing more, understanding more and being able to communicate better. As this is a progressive disease they will become less capable as time moves on. In fact, sadly, they may get to the point where simply being near an activity is an activity for them.
Finally, one of the most valuable pieces of information I can share with you is to always remember that it doesn’t matter how well they perform the activity. For them the joy is in the doing so don’t worry how well they draw, sing, dig, stir or understand. Join the Journey and be patient. You’ll figure it out.
Questions? Email me at email@example.com.