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How To Engage With Dementia Patients

Activities Can Give Relaxation And Pleasure

Ideas to Engage, Socialize, and Interact with Dementia Patients

It is very important to keep enjoying anything that gives meaning to one’s life or provides a sense of pleasure or relaxation. Many people enjoy creative hobbies such as playing a musical instrument, knitting or painting. Others enjoy social contact, so it is important to keep this up as much as possible. A person with dementia may enjoy an outing even if they may not remember where they have been. What is important is that the moment is enjoyed.

Benefits Of Social Engagement For Seniors

Depression is a common side effect of aging and one of the main reason seniors become depressed is being isolated and lonely. Engagement in social activities can have a positive effect on their cognitive abilities, however, and help them fight against dementia, depression, and Alzheimers.

Several research studies have shown a strong correlation between social interaction and health and well-being among older adults and have suggested that social isolation may have significant adverse effects for older adults.

National Institute on Aging

Socially engaged seniors experience a variety of benefits, including:

Listening To And Understanding Someone With Dementia

Communication is a two-way process. As a carer of someone with dementia, you will probably have to learn to listen more carefully.

You may need to be more aware of non-verbal messages, such as facial expressions and body language. You may have to use more physical contact, such as reassuring pats on the arm, or smile as well as speaking.

Active listening can help:

  • use eye contact to look at the person, and encourage them to look at you when either of you are talking
  • try not to interrupt them, even if you think you know what they’re saying
  • stop what you’re doing so you can give the person your full attention while they speak
  • minimise distractions that may get in the way of communication, such as the television or the radio playing too loudly, but always check if it’s OK to do so
  • repeat what you heard back to the person and ask if it’s accurate, or ask them to repeat what they said

Page last reviewed: 9 January 2020 Next review due: 9 January 2023

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How To Care For Someone With Dementia

As you can see, caring for a dementia patient requires extensive experience and the ability to patiently communicate with the sick person, so as not to provoke ill health. Only real experts in the care of such patients can cope with this task. This is the exact kind of service we offer at All American Home Care. Our nurses and caregiver experts will find the right approach to your beloved family member with dementia, provide proper medical care and help so that you can overcome this difficult period together, and without any psychological problems. Contact us today, and we will be happy to help you and your loved ones!

Hobbies Such As Knitting Or Painting

Does Music Help Dementia Patients?

Caregivers often assume that their loved ones with Alzheimers or dementia have to give up their favorite hobbies such as painting or knitting. However, thats not actually true.

Such hobbies can help give your loved one some much needed stimulation. Activities such as knitting require a lot of concentration and skill. Painting and other artistic activities, on the other hand, allow for self-expression.

You always need to ensure that the activity and tools provided are appropriate for the patient. For instance, knitting needles are often sharp while heavy needles can cause aches and pains if your loved one is also suffering from arthritis.

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Encourage A Feeling That The Activity Is Useful Or Relevant

People need feel productive and useful. Making a contribution by helping out can keep depression at bay and give them an emotional boost.

One way of helping them to engage in an activity is to make it relevant to these essentials.

My 93-year-old aunt still goes in once a week to work at the hospital gift shop where she has volunteered for more than three decades. She looks forward to making someone happy when she delivers flowers and gifts to their room.

Her volunteer position is emotionally rewarding and socially engaging, which is partly why shes still going strong in her nineties.

Communicating And Interacting With People With Dementia

Dr. Rita Armstrong offers valuable advice to help improve communication and provide quality care to a person living with dementia.

As a nurse, the goal is to treat patients with respect, patience, and understanding. For patients with dementia, this is especially necessary. Dementia affects 47.5 million people worldwide. With Americas population continuing to live for longer periods of time, the 33 percent of people ages 85 and older with Alzheimers may not be as rare as one may believe.

Dementia is an umbrella term for conditions involving cognitive impairmentwith symptoms that include memory loss, personality changes, and issues with language, communication, and thinking. More than 60 percent of dementia cases are people with Alzheimers. With improvements in health and people tending to live longer, loved ones can expect care costs to reach as high as $1 trillion by 2030.

I have been on both sides of the fence in talking about dementia. I have taken care of patients with dementia and Alzheimers as a nurse, and I recently took care of my dad who also had dementia. Communication and how a person interacts with people who have dementia is vital to patient care outcomes. Sometimes we do not realize what we say or how we say things that can trigger distress behaviors, which makes it even more difficult to give quality care to a person living with dementia.

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Prepare A Safe Working Area

People with dementia often have difficulty with visual perception and coordination. Ensure that surfaces are uncluttered with few distractions and noise. Good lighting, without glare, individual seat preferences and correct work heights are all important. If necessary, using plastic containers might help to avoid breakages.

What Activities Work For People With Advanced Dementia Some Practical Suggestions

Engaging People with Dementia in Meaningful Activities

Sarah Zoutwelle-Morris is a visual artist living in Holland. She describes a range of different practical activities which might hold the interest or attention of a person in the later stages of dementia:

  • Tapping, patting: make a rhythmic noise together on the table using a stick or spoon, following each others rhythms
  • Stroking: massage someones hands with scented cream or oil, giving them a chance to do the same to you if they want pet a live or stuffed animal, or smooth a cloth on a flat surface or the persons lap
  • Pressing: press glued paper down so it stays in place stamp with block print or a rubber stamp press the flat of your hand to theirs, gently giving and resisting in turn, taking your clues from them
  • Pulling: pull the wrapping paper off a package, pull clothes off a doll, or pull on a thick cord with knots
  • Folding: fold dish towels, clothes, bed linens, paper, newspaper, clay or dough.
  • Pick at: peeling paper, a torn out hem, little threads make a yarn card with easy knots to untie or things to pull through loops, or unravel a ball of wool
  • Wrapping, concealing: dress a doll or stuffed animal wrap an object in cloth or string, or wrap a present.

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Reminiscing Activities For Dementia Patients At Home

Reminiscence therapy uses sensory or visual cues from the past to help seniors reconnect with positive memories. Instead of asking direct questions that could be confusing or stressful, try gentle guidance. For example, if youre looking at childhood photos, ask generally about growing up rather than where an image was taken.

  • Look through photo albums. Photo albums with pictures from your loved ones childhood or young adulthood can bring back favorite memories. You can also scan or take digital pictures of old photos to create books. Joan Lunden, A Place for Mom spokesperson, shared this tip in an interview about her mother. When I would open up those books and my mom would see the old pictures, she would talk and talk and talk. It was like the mom I always had was there with me.
  • Watch old movies and TV showsDid your aging parent grow up watching westerns like Gunsmoke or My Darling Clementine? Did they prefer musicals like The King and I or Singing in the Rain? You can find old favorites at your local library or streaming online. Add some movie snacks for a fun family activity!
  • Exercise And Activities To Promote An Active Lifestyle

  • For dementia patients with limited mobility, try chair exercises. Chair exercisesare great for seniors whose mobility is limited. Find ways to encourage the person to move while sitting down. Seat your loved one in a comfortable chair and sit down facing the person. Play some stimulating music and start moving your arms, head, shoulders, legs, and feet. You might try tossing some propspom-poms, scarves, or small ballsback and forth with your loved one. Be inventive! Itll add to the fun. Activities for Seniors with Dementia: How to Create Quality Time, The Bristal Twitter:
  • Dance to music from their generation. Find a CD of music from your loved one’s time. If they are able, encourage them to dance and shuffle around a bit with you. They will not only benefit from the activity, but from the music of their generation, too. Activities to Do With a Loved One Living With Dementia, Fall River Jewish Home Twitter:
  • Take a walk. Go on a walk with your loved one through the park or courtyard. Take in the scenery and focus on how the sun or breeze feels. Try doing activities such as tai chi or yoga outdoors, as these activities calm the mind and allow for better sleep at night. The Health Benefits of Time Outdoors, The Jewish Association on Aging Twitter:
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    Tips For Choosing The Right Activities For Dementia Patients

  • Relate activities to the patients work life or interests. A former office worker might enjoy activities that involve organizing, like putting coins in a holder, helping to assemble a mailing or making a to-do list. A former farmer or gardener may take pleasure in working in the yard. Activities, Alzheimers Association Twitter:
  • Avoid over-stimulation. Try not to overstimulate the person with dementia. Be selective with outings. Avoid crowds, constant movement and noise, which many people with dementia find overwhelming. Dementia – activities and exercise, BetterHealth Channel Twitter:
  • Remember, activities include more than just planned activities. It is also important to understand that activities are not just planned activities. Activities can include life skills which means participating in their daily living skills. They are encouraged to help hold the tooth brush or wash cloth, or to choose an item of clothing. This could also include meal time activities. They could be encouraged to fold the napkins, set the table, clear the table, or wash the dishes. Also, allowing them to help with watering the plants, dusting, or folding the laundry. These are all activities and just as important as a game of bingo. Activity Ideas for Alzheimers/Dementia Residents, National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners Twitter:
  • Coma Work: An Example

    COMPAs: A path to person

    Rosemary Clarke attended a course on coma work and found it to have amazing benefits in her caring role with her mother. In an article for the Journal of Dementia Care, Rosemary describes how she learnt to sit very close to her mother so she could talk into her ear. She would pay attention to what her mother might be doing, for example, she would be chewing or moving one finger a tiny bit or sighing. She would then focus on one of these activities and support her mother to go with that impulse, to give it its fullest expression. She would therefore encourage her chewing with thats good, you really chew it or thats fine, you chew it over.

    Sometimes Rosemary would respond to her mothers moving finger by having a finger dance with her own index finger, talking to each other through applying pressure from the finger whether slow and soft or firm and persistent. All the time Rosemary would be giving verbal encouragement What an energetic/busy/strong finger!, This is lovely, our fingers are talking.

    As a result of this approach, Rosemary describes how her mother started to speak more often than she had before, sometimes with words and sometimes with sounds. On one occasion, even before Rosemary had sat down beside her, she looked up and said hello darling .

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    Sensory Activities For Dementia Patients

  • Provide sensory bean bags with different textures. Provide small bean bags made of different fabric textures: cotton, velvet and silk, and filled with different grains. 15 Activities For Late-Stage Alzheimer’s Disease, Golden Carers Twitter:
  • Incorporate art and music in the daily routine whenever possible. Music and art therapy involve a creative process. Creativity resides in a part of the brain that is affected late in the progression of Alzheimers disease. Communication and learning are two functions that are usually lost early to Alzheimers. Art Therapyand Music Therapyallow those critical functions to be regained to a degree. Because the creative center of the brain works after others have been lost to the disease art including music can provide an alternative mode of communication, and even a new way to learn. Perhaps more important, music is fun! Art is fun! Include opportunities for creating art and music in the daily routine whenever you can. Susan Neville, Choosing Gifts for Alzheimers and Dementia, Silver Lexington Twitter:
  • Try simple crafts. Try making bead necklaces or decorating a bird feeder producing items that give the person with dementia a sense of satisfaction and the chance to see it in use, gives the activity purpose. Kate Corr, Things to do: Activities for someone with dementia, Unforgettable Twitter:
    • Things with zippers or velcro closures
    • Little toys that wind up
    • Stress balls for squeezing


    Exercise And Outdoor Activities

  • Dig in the garden. Gardening provides a change of scene and will also ensure you both get some fresh air and exercise. It may be a good idea for the person to have his or her own patch of garden to dig and plant in. Weeding, trimming lawn edges, sweeping paths and general tidying in the garden can all be tasks many people with dementia can cope with. — Activities: A guide for carers of people with dementia, Alzheimer Scotland Twitter:
  • Give chair exercises a try. Face the person and have stimulating music playing with an easy to follow rhythm. You may wish to use music from their era, but it is acceptable to use any kind of music that elicits a positive response. Please remember their preference when selecting music. Design a routine that is repetitive and easy to follow. You may wish to start with 20 minutes and build up to 45 minutes as tolerated. Take lots of breaks. Hand held props held develop hand strength and provides a stimulating visual to follow the leader. — Activity Ideas for Alzheimers/Dementia Residents National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners Twitter:
  • Take a dip in the pool. The other remarkable thing about swimming is that for many people it is associated with happy childhood memories. So swimming can have a very positive affect on an individuals mood. This often lasts longer than just the swim. — Elaine McNish as quoted in Positive impacts of swimming for people living with dementia, Swim England Twitter:
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    Social And Emotional Activities For Dementia Patients

  • Create a mystery bag. One of the most popular activities you can use is called Mystery Bag, or Stereognostic Bag.
  • What you need for this activity:

    • 10 pairs of wooden shapes such as cubes, rectangular cubes, prisms, spheres, and eggs
    • A cloth bag

    Start by spending a few moments having the person look and feel each shape.

    Have them observe the different forms each shape takes on when placed down on a different side. Once theyre familiar with the shapes, you can move on to activities that involve touch.

    Place the cubes and rectangular cubes inside the bag, and ask the person to reach in and feel one shape. As they pull the shape out of the bag, they verbally say whether the shape is a cube or a rectangle.

    You can also play a matching game with the person in your care by placing all of the wooden shapes in the bag, and have the person find matching pieces by feel. Repeat this process until all of the pieces have been paired.

    Placing the objects in the bag eliminates distractions and stimulates the sense of touch, while the matching process helps to strengthen cognitive function. Activities & Games for Dementia and Alzheimers Patients, Elizz Twitter:

  • Playing with dolls can help to fulfill needs for comfort and attachment. While individuals may have different views on the use of dolls and childrens toys with people with dementia, it is now widely recognized that dolls can offer a very powerful therapeutic benefit if used at the right time and in the right way.
  • Types Of Exercise For People With Dementia

    Engaged caregiving and stage-appropriate activity for individuals with frontotemporal dementia.m4v
    • walking this is one of the best all-round exercises, and its free. Walking also helps to work off the restless urge to wander that is typical of Alzheimers patients. Try combining the walk with a useful errand, such as going to the shops for milk or exercising the dog
    • cycling a tandem bicycle allows you to sit up front and control the bike, while your passenger sits in the back seat and pedals. If the person with dementia has problems with their balance, you could try hiring a three-wheeled bicycle for them to ride, while you cycle alongside them
    • gym work such as treadmills, stationary bicycles and weight machines
    • aerobics you could attend classes together or hire appropriate low-impact aerobic workout videos.

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