6 Activities To Improve Life For People Living With Dementia
Dementia is a is an array of signs and symptoms characterized by deterioration of a person’s cognitive abilities like memory, thinking, communication and judgment etc., severe enough to hamper everyday functionality.
It is a growing problem and currently affects 47 million people worldwide and the numbers are estimated to increase to a whopping 75 million by the year 2030! Dementia is generally ignored in its early stages and the mental deterioration brought on by it is considered to be a normal part of ageing.
However, it is naught but one of the myths about dementia, and needs to be eradicated. While old age is a risk factor for dementia, it is no way exclusive to its development.
Other contributing risk factors of dementia include genetics, lifestyle choices, health conditions, head injuries and several others. All of them indicate the fact that while aged adults are more susceptible to dementia, children and young adults are not completely safe either.
Memory loss, forgetfulness, difficulty in communication, impaired reasoning and judgement, spatial disorientation, confusion, depression and aggression are a few symptoms of dementia. Hence, it is clear why it can be overwhelming to deal with, not only the patients but also the families, friends and caregivers.
Since there is still no medical cure for it, medication along with good care can slow its progression, especially if its diagnosed in its early stages. Improving the quality of life for dementia patients can play a central role in their treatment.
Planning appropriate activities for people with dementia can greatly enhance their quality of life and give them pleasure as well as a sense of purpose. It is prudent advice that the activities planned for dementia patients must be designed according to their needs, keeping in mind their previous lifestyles, favorite pastimes, field of work and major life events.
Moreover, the activities must be meaningful and should be tailored in a way that match the capabilities and limitations of the person with the central aim of stirring memories, improving self-esteem and providing comfort and enjoyment. Simply put, the activities should be directed towards cognitive and social rehabilitation.
Keeping that in mind, here are six activities that can improve life for people living with dementia:
Try to involve them in activities that maintain the skills they haven’t lost control over yet. One way of doing this is by figuring out things they can still do without any assistance and asking them to lend a hand in performing the daily chores, for instance, washing, dusting, sweeping, folding laundry etc. Such activities will give them a sense of responsibility and make them feel like they are part of a team. You must also bear in mind that they will make mistakes while carrying out the tasks, so you have to be understanding, patient and tolerant, simply because this is helping them.
Indulge them in tasks that are related to their former hobbies or pertain to their area of interest. For example, a person who previously enjoyed gardening may find pleasure in something as simple as raking; a person who had a passion for baking before developing dementia will find accomplishment in partaking in something even as basic as mixing cookie batter. Hence, it is important to remember that the entire idea is to make them feel useful and productive.
Just because a person has dementia, does not mean that they can’t have fun. You should organize fun-filled and creative activities for them that encourage self-expression and involve arts and crafts such as watercolor painting, drawing and coloring with crayons etc.
Moreover, carefully planned games like sorting games, card games and solving jigsaw puzzles can also provide them with a pleasurable experience. Again, don’t expect perfection from them. The whole point is to allow them to have fun.
Carefully planned outings can also be of great help to people with dementia as it provides an opportunity to reduce feelings of isolation in them. This will give them a chance to see new places and interact with people. Social stimulation does not only yield cognitive benefits but physical benefits as well, especially in older adults. Remember to avoid crowded and noisy places as that might overwhelm the person with dementia and hence, invoke frustration and agitation in them.
Try to stir their memories by reminiscing the significant events of their lives with them. Talk to them about their wedding day or their favorite holiday. Go through memorabilia, look at photo albums or play family videos to encourage them to recall old times.
Playing their favorite tunes or singing familiar songs from the past can also help trigger memories. A research carried out at the Anglia Ruskin University concluded that dementia symptoms of participants and their well-being improved with musical therapy sessions. Thus, these tactics may help them remember and unlock some old memories.
Exercise holds a myriad of health benefits for everyone, including people with dementia. It improves cardiovascular fitness; reduces the risk of various ailments like high blood pressure, diabetes and osteoporosis; enhances strength, balance and endurance; improves cognition; improves sleep and boosts mood. Therefore, taking them on walks is a great way to dispel their restless energies and can significantly curb the person’s urge to ‘wander’ which is common in people with dementia. You could also take them swimming or on short tandem cycling trips. Another great idea would be encouraging them to do yoga. Yoga in itself can prove to be quite therapeutic and is one of the best natural remedies for brain fog.
Sensory stimulation activities can aid in mitigating psychological discomfort in dementia patients. These activities involve stimulation of one or more of the five senses and this can improve mood, reduce agitation, enhance well-being and hence, boost the overall quality of life for a person with dementia. Therefore, use sensory activities that they might enjoy and that can help them relax. Give them hand and foot massages with scented oils. Brush their hair or, better yet organize a visit to a botanical garden so that they can smell fresh flowers and different herbs.
Participating actively in everyday lives of people with dementia can unarguably raise the quality of their life. Hence, loved ones and caregivers are suggested to make use of the above mentioned activities to try to keep individuals with dementia busy under their supervision. This way, the affected ones may indulge in something meaningful to achieve a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment in their lives.