June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, so to honor those families affected by the diseases, I plan to share caregiving tips for those caring for someone with dementia more frequently this month.
With Alzheimer’s disease, once a skill is lost, it can’t be regained, so it is critical to keep your parent engaged as long as he/she is physical and cognitively able to. I have created a list of activities to engage those living with the condition.
- Listen to music from their past: Studies have shown the positive effects of music on people with dementia, from improving their mood, managing agitation to improving cognitive function.
- Sorting Activities: Provide activities that give your loved one the opportunity to sort items. It keeps their mind and hands busy. They can sort things by color or category, depending on their ability and the list of things to sort is endless – playing cards, Legos, colored cotton balls, laundry, etc.
- Creative activities: Anyone can do art projects, whether they are 2 years old or 90 years old. Coloring is a fantastic soothing activity, but you can also have your caree string necklaces with beads, create picture collages, write a poem or short story or make models with pay dough.
- Do chores: There are many chores that someone with dementia can assist with, depending on their physical ability. This is great for their sense of self and can help you out as well. Some possibilities are: fold laundry, dust furniture, sweep floors, wash windows, load or unload dishwasher or water houseplants.
- Cook together: Just because your parent isn’t able to prepare an entire meal, doesn’t mean they can’t act as your sous chef. Enlist them to help prepare a salad or cook their favorite dish together. My aunt has dementia but still prepares her famous tamales with the help of her son.
- Get physical together: Take a walk or work in the garden together. It is great for both of you to squeeze physical activity into your day. You can even have a dance party together, preferably with your parent’s favorite music.
- Play together or set them up to play alone. My grandmother used to love playing Solitaire. She would sit for hours playing on her TV tray. There may be a card game engrained in your parent’s memory that they can still enjoy. If not, you can try new games that aren’t difficult, such as jacks, dominoes, horseshoes, bocce ball or do a puzzle together.
- Depending on the stage of dementia, most people with dementia have recall of their past. I had a client with dementia who could vividly remember being in the Japanese camps during the war, but had no recollection of her grandchildren. Share memories with your parent. Just be sure to not push them to remember or make them feel guilty for not remembering.
- Primp together. I used to visit an adult day care facility that had beauty day once a month. They would have volunteers comb the seniors’ hair, file and polish their nails and massage hand cream into their arms and hands. The seniors loved it. Sadly, one thing the elderly lack, once their spouse passes away, is touch. They may get hugs from family, but that usually is the extent of it. Personal touch provides comfort, so don’t be afraid to rub their shoulders, hold their hand or do their nails. They’ll love it.
- Set them up for socialization. This will benefit both of you. You can either take your parent to an adult daycare a few days a week to participate in social activities or encourage family or friends to visit.
Engaging someone with dementia can help them maintain their abilities and skills for as long as possible, as well as reduce confusion and anxiety. Have you found surefire ways to engage your parent living with dementia?