The physical and cognitive changes brought about by dementia, such as Alzheimer's disease, can make older people withdraw from socialization with their loved ones and friends. It also makes them forego worthwhile and fun activities. Keeping dementia patients stimulated is vital to slow down the worsening of memory problems and help them have a better quality of life.
If you are a caregiver, be resourceful in looking for activities that provide stimulation, and creative in making tasks enjoyable. Here are a few ideas for starters:
Give patients with dementia things to do to spend some energy, and improve their circulation and muscle tone. Increased physical activity pumps up happy hormones and battles stress. It also helps to promote restful sleep, improve appetite, and provide a general sense of wellbeing.
Walking is good exercise, whether it's just a 10-minute walk along the sidewalk or a leisurely stroll in the park. This exercise becomes even more enjoyable when caregivers open an interesting topic of conversation on the way. Tip of the day: Ask questions that help your patient reminisce about the good times of the past.
You may also introduce them to community centers that organize activities, such as tai chi, for older people.
As an alternative, have the patient help around the house, such as allowing them to wash dishes (non-breakables), even if you might have to follow after to help finish the task properly.
Another entertaining form of physical activity is dance. Organize a group for more fun!
Because memory and mental abilities become poorer over time with dementia, patients need appropriate mind games and mental exercises to help prevent losing their abilities completely. Puzzles are a good way to encourage them to use problem-solving skills and coordination. If a puzzle seems too hard to complete, give the patient fewer pieces to solve, do it together, or do a few yourself to motivate them to finish.
Make use of their organizational skills by having them sort things, such as putting photographs in an album or doing mix-and-match stuff. If a patient is into repairing broken things, bring them simple items to fix. Or, ask about a patient’s favorite recipe and take note of what they say. This way, you stimulate their memory, too.
Provide art materials and supplies. Giving them simple crafts to do can bring out their creativity and help practice their fine hand movements. To ensure safety, provide pre-cut materials so there is no need for scissors, especially if the patient has poor coordination.
Dementia makes patients lose recent memories, so help them cherish what distant memories are left. Consider bringing in dolls dressed in real baby clothes to cuddle. Holding dolls can bring back memories of being a parent, aunt, or uncle. Or, provide stuffed animals, or real pets if allowed.
You may also start a storytelling session where you initiate the topic and let them do most of the talking. Older people with dementia enjoy conversation, especially if the story is about them and their younger self. You may also play family videos compiled over the years. Family videos help them reminisce and feel good about themselves.
Music sets the stage for any happy moment, and playing your patient's favorite songs or those popular during their younger years can give them a sense of wellbeing. Let them sing along when possible. You may also initiate a food-tasting game where the patient tastes different kinds of food with their eyes closed and identify what they are tasting. Try it yourself!
Dementia is a disease that slowly takes the identity of a person by way of memory loss and mental decline. When caregivers do their best to provide stimulation, patients benefit and live a healthier, higher-quality life.
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