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How To Keep Someone With Dementia Happy

What Activities Work For People With Advanced Dementia Some Practical Suggestions

How Can You Keep Someone with Dementia Busy

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.

Dont Just Talk Loudly

Not every person with dementia has a hearing impairment, and using a loud tone can make them feel like you are yelling at them. Use a clear, normal tone of voice to start a conversation with someone.

If the person doesnt respond or you become aware that they have a hearing problem, you can increase your volume. Speaking in a slightly lower register can also help if someone has a hearing problem.

How To Talk To Someone With Dementia Alzheimer’s Or Memory Loss

Communicating with a person with memory loss can be difficult, but the right strategies can bridge the gap and foster a more fulfilling relationship between you and your patient or loved one.

Those struggling to communicate with a person who has memory loss are not alone. As many as four million people in the US may have Alzheimer’s, and, as our population ages, that number is expected to increase. Anyone who is a senior caregiver is likely to be affected and will need to understand how to cope with what is happening.

Memory loss associated with aging, dementia, and Alzheimer’s typically doesnt happen overnight. Slowly, little-by-little, it sneaks up, until one day, family members realize that they can no longer communicate in the same way with the person they’ve known for years. They suddenly can’t rely on their words and their sentences dont match the situation.

Because we cannot see the diseasethe way we see a broken armits even more confusing when caregivers see how their patient and/or loved one will have good and bad days. The days when theyre alert and clear-headed make a caregiver hopeful. Then the bad days come, and family members and caregivers feel the pain of losing their patient and/or loved one all over again. This slow and normal progression of the disease makes communication a major challenge for caregivers.

This blog will share more information and advice to improve communication, including:

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Avoid Arguing About Whether They Are Already Home’

For a person with dementia, the term ‘home’ may describe something more than the place they currently live. Often when a person with dementia asks to go home it refers to the sense of home rather than home itself.

Home may represent memories of a time or place that was comfortable and secure and where they felt relaxed and happier. It could also be an indefinable place that may not physically exist.

Its best not to disagree with the person or try to reason with them about wanting to go home.

Do Not Keep Correcting The Patient

Help People with Alzheimers Stay Engaged

People with dementia do not like it when someone keeps correcting them every time they say something that may not be right. It makes them feel bad about themselves and can make them drift out of the conversation. Discussions should be humorous and light and one should always speak slowly and clearly using simple and short sentences to capture and keep the interest of the dementia patients.

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Check For Other Medical Conditions

Both sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome are associated with increasing age and have symptoms which will easily wake someone with dementia. To identify if your parent or partner has sleep apnea, you may have to watch them while they sleep. Someone with this condition will pause when they breathe, almost momentarily stopping breathing. This momentary lack of air can wake someone up, and is really quite frightening for the person sleeping next to them as they wait for the next breath.

If your parent/partner suffers from restless leg syndrome they move or twitch their legs uncontrollably, especially during the evenings and night-time. They may also experience tingling, burning and fizzing sensations in their legs too. Symptoms can be relieved by rubbing and stretching legs – but it can be so bad that it wakes the person up. If you discover that your parent/partner has either of these medical conditions, its wise to see a GP and ask for help.

Dont Use Slang Or Figures Of Speech

As dementia progresses, it can become harder for someone to understand what youre trying to tell them. For example, telling a loved one with Alzheimers disease that its “no use crying over spilled milk” might result in him looking to see where the milk has spilled, rather than end up comforting him or encouraging him not to focus on a past problem.

In fact, the proverb interpretation test, which asks the test taker to interpret abstract ideas such as the spilled milk reference above, is one way to screen for symptoms of dementia.

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Improve The Quality Of Life Of Persons With Dementia

Caring for persons with dementiaPersons with dementia enjoy some types of activities. They also like to do useful things.

What caregivers can do: Add fun-filled and creative activities to the daily routine of someone with dementia. Help them think of pleasant memories from the past. Add activities they consider useful to the day. Encourage them to enjoy what they can still do. Share relaxed and happy moments together.

If persons with dementia get suitable surroundings, they can lead productive and satisfying lives for many years after the diagnosis. They are happier and less likely to get angry or show worrying behavior. The caregivers are also less stressed and can enjoy the company of the person.

Sections on this page:

Tips for the COVID situation

Read Daily Newspapers News Sites Or Social Media Pages

What activities can help someone with Alzheimer’s stay active and engaged?

News sites not only keep you in touch with current events but also act as a reminder for the day of the week. Staying up-to-date on current events can provide cognitive stimulation and allow you to more relevantly interact with others. Interestingly, some research found that older adults who spent time on Facebook demonstrated improvements in their memory.

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Keeping Safe From Covid

The best protection from COVID-19 is having the coronavirus vaccinations. People who have had the vaccine are much less likely to become seriously ill from coronavirus. As well as protecting you, vaccines also help stop you passing coronavirus on to others. To protect yourself against new variants of the virus, you should have both vaccine doses plus your booster if you are offered. See our information on COVID-19 vaccines.

Even after having both vaccines, its still important to keep yourself and others safe. Coronavirus is still very much around, including more easily transmitted variants of the virus. It remains important to be careful in crowds and when meeting others to reduce the chance of getting or spreading coronavirus. See our advice on continuing to stay safe.

The UK government is advising people to remain cautious and act responsibly. This includes wearing a face covering in certain public places. See the latest government guidance on face coverings. In places where face coverings are not legally required, you can still wear one if you wish to.

Help The Person With Dementia Feel Safe And Comfortable

Adapt the home and adjust the daily routine of the person with dementia so that the person is comfortable and safe. Change how you interact with the person to reduce the frustration the person feels because of the growing dementia problems.

Try to reduce any confusion the dementia person has about the time and space. This can be done using various reality orientation techniques. Help the person have a suitable daily routine that is predictable most persons with dementia find a day with routines easier to handle than a day full of surprises. Use suitable ways to talk to the persons so that you understand them and they understand you. When helping them, give just the right amount of help so that they feel capable and independent to the extent possible, remain safe, and dont get frustrated.

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Boredom And Dementia Patients

Dementia dramatically affects a persons entire being, and its progression is impossible to stop. A person living with one of the various diseases that cause dementia may experience symptoms from memory loss to speech problems and vision decline, but the greatest complaints are boredom and loneliness.

Why do boredom and loneliness top the list? In most cases, caregivers are at a loss of how to provide dementia-related care. Dementia symptoms have changed the relationship between caregiver and loved one, and its common to feel at a loss of what to do. When you can no longer have a conversation with Mom like you used to, or Dads agitation has made visits with him feel negative, you might start to pull away. You visit the senior home less frequently, or your interactions with your loved start to become limited to basic personal care. And thats the problem. Mom or Dad is still here. They still need love, engagement, and attention. Its up to you to adjust your methods to connect with them in a new way. The care partner role demands lots of creativity.

Create A Calming Retreat

Dementia sufferers told white lies to keep them happy ...

Whether a person with dementia is living in a care home or with the family, it is important that they have a place to retreat to when they are feeling stressed or anxious.

This doesnt need to be a large area, it can simply be a comfy chair and a small table.

But it is a calming place, separate to the hubbub of the rest of the house, where they can relax and perhaps do soothing activities, like painting or a dementia jigsaw puzzles.

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Activities Can Give Relaxation And Pleasure

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.

Try These Tips To Encourage Them To Stay Safe:

  • Print out reminder signs or posters and put them up near hand basins these come in different languages too.
  • Use digital devices to set reminders such as: Its time to wash our hands.
  • Wash hands with the person to encourage them maybe sing a song together.
  • Break the task down into simple steps if this makes it easier to follow.
  • Focus on the details and senses and talk to the person while handwashing: Does this remind you of being back at school or work? Does the smell of the soap bring back memories?
  • Taking note of whats going on immediately around the person living in the moment like this can really help with anxiety too.
  • Avoid criticism of any errors offer encouragement and praise instead.

Practically, it may help to use a traditional bar of soap if someone is less familiar with liquid soap in a different colour to the sink.

With more frequent washing or hand sanitiser use, using a hand moisturiser or barrier cream afterwards will help keep skin healthy.

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Should You Tell The Person They Have Alzheimer’s

Families may frequently ask, Should I tell the person that he/she has Alzheimer’s? Keep in mind that the patient and/or loved one can’t reason. They don’t have enough memory to remember the question, then think it through to form a conclusion. Caregivers and/or family members may often think if they tell the person with memory loss that he/she has Alzheimer’s, then he/she will understand and cooperate. You cant get cooperation by explaining that he/she has the disease and expect him/her to remember and use that information.

Thoughts On How To Manage Your Anger When Caring For Someone With Dementia

How to respond when someone with dementia constantly asks to go home.
  • Denniesays:

    AM a caregiver. .My husband is battling dementia. having difficulty learning to live and cope with the issues this disease presents. Never thought this would be an issue in our lives. The anger,frustration and uncertainties keep me from feeling I am coping properly and am concerned about my well being as I travel this unknown scary path.

  • Iona Senior Servicessays:

    Dennie, thank you for your comment and sharing your fears and frustrations. You are absolutely correct that it is a scary and difficult path. But, do know that you are not alone. Ionas Information & Referral Helpline specialists can give you information about support groups and other programs and services in the DC area, or refer you to good online resources to find other services if you live outside DC. You can speak with a specialist M-F from 9 AM 5 PM by calling 895-9448.

  • Lisa Ssays:

    Do you have support groups in Queens, NY?

  • Iona Senior Servicessays:

    Thanks for your question, Lisa. Were a local nonprofit in Washington, DC and serve the DC metropolitan region. However, Ive shared your question with our Helpline staff in case they can direct you to resources in the Queens area.

  • Iona Senior Servicessays:

    Were glad that you found the article helpful!

  • Laurasays:

    Thank you for sharing. What you said really resonated with me. Im overwhelmed and not handling my mothers Alzheimers well at all.

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    Tips To Maintain Independence With Dementia

    If you have Alzheimer’s disease or another kind of dementia, you may be worried about how to best maintain your independence. This is a common concern especially for those who are adjusting to a new diagnosis, but there are a number of simple things you can do that will help as your memorybecomes less reliable.

    Using memory prompting strategies early on can develop patterns of behavior that can maximize your independence, as well as your confidence. Try these 10 tips.

    Dont Infantilize The Person

    Dont talk down to the person or treat them like an infant. This is sometimes called “elderspeak” and it’s got to go.

    Have you ever observed how people talk to babies? They might use a high pitched tone and get close to the babys face. While this is appropriate for infants, its not fitting for communicating with adults. Regardless of how much the person with dementia can or cannot understand, treat them with honor and use a respectful tone of voice.

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    Cooking Sessions At Home

    It is fairly common for a dementia patient to lose interest in food and dislike mealtimes. In such a situation, you should plan a baking or cooking session with them to stimulate their senses and reawaken their love for food.

    A fun, enjoyable and engaging cooking session may include making your patients favorite food or perhaps following a popular family recipe. You can get them to do things like cutting and chopping, washing and peeling vegetables, or perhaps decorating cupcakes or any dessert. For some patients, even setting up the dining table could be fun.

    Doing this wont only help the two of you spend some fun time together but it will also activate their senses and make them feel involved and useful. Because dementia can often lead to sensory changes like sight difficulties and a persons ability to smell or taste food, an activity like this can help them enjoy food and mealtimes.

    Engage In Social Activities

    How you approach dementia care matters

    Being in the company of others is crucial for seniors living with dementia, as the disease can lead to isolative tendencies. Staying socially engaged gives these individuals a sense of meaning and purpose. Choose social activities that match the seniors ability levels and preferences.

    Boosting a seniors feelings of inclusion may be accomplished through various appropriate activities, such as singalongs, dancing, arts and crafts and music. Rather than aim for the senior to acquire new skills, the focus should be on maintaining the seniors existing skills set.

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    Following Coronavirus Guidance With Dementia

    Having dementia can make this harder. The person may not understand what the guidance means or forget how to keep themselves and others safe.

    Explain the guidance clearly to the person in a calm and matter-of-fact way. Our practical suggestions on communicating may help, and we have information on wearing face coverings for people with dementia. It might help to point out that this advice is from the NHS, GP or someone the person trusts. And that following the guidance will help to keep coronavirus rates low so fewer people become seriously ill.

    See our information on Shopping and visiting public places during coronavirus for information on supporting a person with dementia when out.

    You may need to repeat this information while you are out with the person to remind them why we need to follow the guidance. Even though social distancing is not a legal requirement currently, the following video gives some tips about helping a person with dementia keep their distance from others to stay safe.


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