Has your loved one’s dementia caused their get-up-and-go to, well, get up and go?
“It’s quite common for people with memory loss to withdraw from activities they once enjoyed because they are depressed, worried about embarrassing themselves, or are afraid of failure,” says Michelle Straughn, Executive Director at YourLife™ of Tallahassee, a Memory Care community in Tallahassee, Florida.
But the very act of staying involved in their hobbies – or new ones – is shown to relieve dementia’s symptoms, exercise cognitive and motor skills, and may even slow the disease’s progression.
That’s why it’s important for family and friends to encourage their loved ones to stay active. In this post, we’ll discuss how to inspire your loved one to participate in activities that bring them joy and relieve their symptoms through all stages of dementia.
But first, why is staying active so important?
Benefits of Meaningful Activity for People with Dementia
Helping your loved one exercise and stay engaged with the world around them has many important benefits. It can:
• Create more joyful moments and days
• Exercise cognitive and physical skills needed to maintain independence
• Encourage and facilitate self-expression
• Lessen anxiety, frustration, stress and symptoms of depression
• Redirect focus to reduce challenging behaviors such as wandering or repeating questions
• Increase feelings of self-worth
• Promote a sense of belonging, enhance social interaction and connections
Making Engagement Enjoyable
Memory loss may diminish your loved one’s desire or motivation to engage in conversation or activities, but you can inspire them with gentle encouragement, reassurance of nonjudgment, and activities with guaranteed success.
Maximize your loved one’s enjoyment and other benefits with stage-appropriate activities that match their ability levels, hold their interests, and incorporate their likes, life accomplishments, career skills, travels, and hobbies.
Depression can follow an initial dementia diagnosis and hinder your loved one from making the most of this time – including improving or maintaining brain-healthy exercise and social engagement that may delay disease progression.
Helping your loved one deal with their diagnosis, find support, and make informed care, legal and financial plans they are comfortable with can give them hope and encourage them to reconnect with the hobbies, interests, and people they love.
Having an early diagnosis gives people the precious opportunity to accomplish life-fulling goals. This is the time to help your loved one plan their dream vacation and tackle their bucket list. It’s also your family’s chance to record your spouse or parent’s life story. In addition to preserving family history, these records will help you choose and modify appropriate activities for your loved one as their disease progresses.
The point of meaningful engagement as dementia progresses is to increase your loved one’s enjoyment, sense of accomplishment and purpose, not whether they are following the rules of a game or missed a few spots when helping with household chores. You want to make sure they are enjoying themselves and never feel like they are disappointing you.
One AgingCare.com reader shared this story: “Mom cooked her whole life, so the actions were deeply ingrained in her mind. (She) would help me put casseroles together and set the table … She felt part of the process, ate much, much more, (and) was happier overall … I would also let her ‘wash’ the dishes, and when she was done, I would pop them in the dishwasher to make sure they were clean.”
Your loved one can live several years with mid-stage memory loss. To ensure safety and success, it may be necessary to adapt exercises and activities several times as cognitive and motor skills change. Appropriate activities for mid-stage memory loss may include:
• Puzzles and word games to help maintain memory
• Low-impact recreation like golf, darts, bowling, or dancing
• Tasks that are familiar, keep the mind busy and add a sense of purpose, like sorting and folding laundry
• Dementia-friendly fitness classes, life-enrichment programs, and social events at the local Y or senior center
In the very advanced stages, the person may not appear to be connected to their environment, but they still maintain some degrees of awareness. Engagement will now focus on making the person feel as loved and comfortable as possible. Even people who can no longer communicate can still find enjoyment in:
• Hearing familiar stories
• Listening to favorite music
• Having their hair brushed or nails painted
• Aromatherapy, petting a friendly animal, receiving a shoulder or hand massage
Toys That Can Promote Confidence and Joy Through Various Stages of Dementia
Far from being demeaning, some toys that are designed and marketed specifically for children may present a fun way for your loved one to exercise their minds and fine motor skills. This is because the toys hold different meaning and benefits for your parent than for your grandkids
For example, it can give your builder dad a sense of purpose to design structures with Lincoln Logs or build birdhouses from kits. Finger painting or coloring can help your mom express herself and stay in touch with her inner artist.
Just as you’d consider a child’s age, consider the person’s stage of dementia, personality, and interests. Be sure the toy or game is not too easy or too challenging, irrelevant or boring.
• Puzzles with large, brightly colored, easy-to-grasp pieces
• Board books with large photos and thick, easy-to-turn pages
• Finger paint, paint-by-numbers or coloring books
• A toy tool kit with wooden or plastic tools
• Fidget toys that keep hands and minds busy, such as spinners or a simplified version of a Rubik’s Cube
• Games like checkers or Connect Four and cards games like go fish, war or blackjack
“Inspiring your loved one to stay engaged helps them to live a richer, more fulfilling life with dementia,” says YourLife™ of Tallahassee’s Michelle Straughn. “It also shows them you care about their happiness and that they are a valued member of your family.”
For more information or ideas on how to keep your loved one engaged as dementia progresses, contact a member of YourLife™ of Tallahassee. We will be happy to share our expert advice with you. Give us a call today at 850-250-5671.
Inspired ● Engaged ● Fulfilled
If someone you love is living with memory loss, you want the very best for them. You’ll find it at YourLife™ of Tallahassee. Because Memory Care is all that we do, we have the unique ability to focus all our energy, attention and resources into creating an environment that caters to each resident’s needs, preferences and abilities while providing unequaled peace of mind and support for families.
We see each resident as an individual because we understand that each resident has their own story. Using this idea, we develop personally inspired care plans that value and support each person’s independence while creating beautiful days. No matter how much care they need, our team of attentive, caring YourLife™ Personal Care Specialists can provide assistance with all activities of daily living while providing reminders, guidance, support and cues. Even better, residents and their families experience true peace of mind knowing that expert care is on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Our personal touch doesn’t stop at our care. In fact, it’s only just the beginning. We create days that leave residents feeling Inspired. Engaged. Fulfilled through our signature programming, YourStory. With individual experiences centered around each resident, engaging outings, services and amenities, activities, dining and more, we create opportunities to learn and pursue new endeavors. At YourLife™ of Tallahassee, everything was designed for you, but it is defined by you, creating a lifestyle that makes every day a joy. Contact us to learn more!
Call us at 850-250-5671 for more information or to schedule a personal visit today.