It’s hard to know what to do when mom doesn’t seem like mom anymore. As dementia and memory loss take hold, it affects the personality, interests, and abilities of loved ones. More often than not, family members often find it difficult to find ways to interact with someone with dementia.
Sometimes we aren’t sure what to say (what not to say), what topics to talk about (and what to avoid). Keeping them engaged is one of the best treatments. But it can be challenging to find Dementia activities that you and your loved one can enjoy. The good news is, all they need is love and patience (but sometimes even that can be a challenge).
To help you make the most of the time you have, we have created a list of activities that will provide meaningful, quality time with your loved one.
List of activities
1. Create and use a memory box.
When you start to notice their memory failing, begin to gather memories in a box. This may include ticket stubs, pictures, invitations that were saved, etc. Use items that stretch back into their youth so it will enable them to pull from long-term memory and participate better as their short term memory begins to struggle. Go for wedding pictures of them and their friends, your baby pictures, vacations, etc. Going through the box can give you a full afternoon of stories! This can also give them a sense of belonging and you’ll cherish these moments (no matter how many times you hear the same stories).
2. Look back at old magazines
When dementia takes hold, the short-term memory is the first to go, that’s why reaching into their long-term memory for dementia activities can be comforting. Search online to see if you can find old magazines from their younger years and discuss topics that were relevant back then! Life Magazine and Time are great for this type of activity. Some of these may also be available at the local library.
3. Listen to music
Music really does tame the savage beast! For times when you need to calm your loved one, music is the key. Music from their younger years takes them back to a safe place in their mind. It’s also a great pastime that they will enjoy. This is one of the best dementia activities because it can provide soothing relief to an otherwise difficult time.
4. Watch an old movie
Screen time is actually beneficial for aging adults, specifically if you can find recordings of old movie or TV show from the 50’s and 60’s. Newer shows tend to move too fast and are overwhelming. The older shows are easier to follow and bring back happy memories.
Enjoy a cooking activity together. You can direct as much or as little as needed. Just make sure they help, whether it’s pouring ingredients you’ve already measured or just stirring, this gives them a sense of purpose and you’ll both enjoy indulging when it’s done!
Children’s games may seem simple to you, but they actually might be a little challenging for your loved one. Simple games or puzzles can be fun and therapeutic. Choose simple games like “Trouble” or card games like “Uno”. You want to pick something that would not be too easy, but also won’t frustrate. At the end of his journey, my father who had Alzheimer’s enjoyed a puzzle that had 15 pieces. He also enjoyed easier adult coloring pages. As you choose them, just don’t make it too complicated. They may say they don’t want to do it, because it looks daunting.
7. Local Attractions
There are some attractions that are just perfect for bonding with your loved one. Taking them to the zoo, a botanical garden, aquarium, or a museum can stimulate and engage them. You can enjoy these activities at a comfortable pace as to not wear out you or your loved one. If needed, you can bring or rent a wheelchair to make enjoying these activities a little easier. Just keep the venue calming and not overly stimulating or too crowded.
8. Talk with them.
Dementia activities are great ways to engage and enjoy time with your loved one. But knowing how to have a meaningful conversation with them can make or break the fun. One common result of dementia is the loss of memory, specifically in the language center in the left side of the brain.
It is very common for the person suffering from dementia to have difficulty “finding the right word”. This is because nouns and names are commonly one of the first pieces of information lost. This often causes confusion, frustration, or anger. Knowing how to help them along can greatly improve the situation.
For example, Mary, has dementia and tells her daughter, Carol, that she needs to find the thing that opens the portal. Carol doesn’t know what she’s referring to and so instead of asking, “What are you taking about?” (Which requires another noun), she could say something like, “Can you describe the shape and what it does?” This allows Carol to ask for more information in a way that allows Mary to help her decipher the message.
Both dementia and Alzheimer’s are progressive, which means they will get worse as time goes on. When this happens, frustration increases as well as awareness. They tend to tell the same story, repeat themselves, ask the same questions over and over. The best thing you can do is go with the flow and show them the love and respect they deserve. You cannot help with the disease itself necessarily, but you can help the sufferer by being understanding, loving, patient, and forgiving.
Bring the Fun
Finding ways to spend time with a parent who is experiencing memory loss can be similar to spending time with a child. This is often a challenge for adult children to see their parents in a child-like state. It is often hard for grandchildren too, especially when grandma forgets who they are. Coming prepared with a few dementia activities, understanding how the dementia brain works and what you can do to communicate with them clearly is the best way to make the most of your time together.
Every patient is different so what works for some might not with everyone. That’s why Senior Home Transitions is here to help. Whether your loved one is living with you or in a memory care facility, we can provide some advice on how to communicate and interact with your loved one. Give us a call, we would love to chat.