This article is based on information provided by Home Instead Senior Care.
It can be challenging for caregivers to find activities that keep someone with dementia engaged, but some activities can also be very helpful. They can capture a loved one’s attention and reacquaint them with their lifelong passions. It may not always be easy to arrive at activities that connect, especially as the person’s skills and abilities wane, but meeting the challenge can have tremendous benefits. For one thing, keeping the person mentally and physically stimulated throughout the day helps to cut down on napping and on sleep problems at night. But the major plus is that a dementia patient who is active and engaged has a better quality of life.
The following tips from people who have cared for loved ones with dementia offer insights into how you can approach and engage with someone who has dementia.
Try birdwatching, from inside the house
We recently put birdseed in my dad’s yard so that he can watch the blue jays and mourning doves while he eats his breakfast. He is so taken with them and calls that spot “feathered friend haven.”
Music is a Key to Happiness
I am an Alzheimer’s unit director, and I have discovered that music opens a new world to my residents! The most important activity I arrange for them is singing.
Help Your Loved One to Keep Track of Days with a Calendar
My dad enjoys using an oversized desk calendar I bought him. I mark down the time I come over each day (even though it’s always the same!) and note things on his schedule such as family day, movie night. He likes keeping track this way. When the day is over, we cross it off with a black marker, and start all over again the next day!
A Conversation Starter
I keep running lists of friends’ and family members’ names that my dad has given me. Then we revisit them. Most of the time, he remembers stories about the people, and even about their spouses!
A Pet Can Be a Great Friend to Someone with Dementia
I found an older rescue dog for my 93-year-old Dad, and it was love at first sight for both of them. The best part was that I found out the rescued dog’s older owner had passed away and my dad filled the spot!! Older dogs are tough to find homes for, but they can be perfect matches for older parents! It is incredible to see a loved one light up when they snuggle with a pet. If you can provide a pet, by all means do so, or borrow a friend’s for a visit.
Spend Quality Time with Your Loved One
It’s easy to get caught up in all the things that need to be done during the few hours I visit my dad every day. While he just wants to talk and watch the squirrels climb the trees outside, I find myself cramming in cooking, cleaning, mowing the lawn and making doctor’s appointments. But I’ve realized that it’s much more important to slow down and just sit and talk or breathe in the fresh air with him. The high grass and laundry will be there tomorrow, but your precious loved one may not! So I make sure to do the things that will create special memories with Dad that I will have long after he is gone.
Senior Activity Calendar and Booklet
Track senior activity progress with the printable calendar and activities booklet.
Use the activity calendar (PDF) to track progress day by day and help your senior loved one exercise mind, body and soul. The companion activity booklet (PDF) is a resource for seniors and their family caregivers. It is full of fun activities that will encourage your senior loved one to stay active.