Dementia causes cognitive and physical function to decline, but seniors living with this disease still retain abilities that should be used and celebrated. In fact, studies have shown that when individuals with dementia continue to use their remaining abilities, it helps them stay at their activity level longer and can even help slow their decline. The key is finding purposeful activities that accomplish something for the individual, whether that’s building self-esteem, providing a purpose or simply being entertained.
“Activities can include everything from arts and crafts to outings and events to everyday tasks,” says Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA. “As you’re coming up with ideas for activities for your loved one, think about adapting favorite hobbies and daily tasks so that your senior can maintain a sense of accomplishment and independence. This type of validation helps provide confidence, a self-esteem boost and better overall well-being.”
Why Meaningful Activities Are So Important
They can help slow the decline of dementia. Our abilities, no matter how able-bodied we are, are very much “use it or lose it.” If we don’t use our muscles, they atrophy. If we don’t continue to practice a hobby, we may lose our aptitude. And if we don’t use our brains and mental acuity, cognitive functioning can decline. This makes it even more imperative for individuals with dementia to find meaning in daily life and tasks as much as possible. Although caregivers and loved ones may rush to help loved ones, they may inadvertently be causing more harm than good. Our loved ones can still do many things – it just may take them longer and may get done in a different manner than before.
They provide a structure to daily life. A daily routine helps people with dementia feel safe, secure and confident. Scheduling meaningful activities on a regular basis (especially if it’s something you end up doing day after day) will provide structure and predictability, and will perhaps be something your loved one can look forward to.
They give individuals a sense of productivity and self-worth. People with dementia are aware of their inabilities and being unable to do the things they always loved to do. By providing tasks and activities for them to do or help with, it can provide them with a purpose and make them feel a part of daily life and not just a burden to you. This is a great boost to their sense of self-worth and boosts their moods, improves their health overall and provides a better quality of life.
They can reduce challenging behaviors. Aggression, agitation, repetition and other disruptive behaviors are common symptoms of dementia. These symptoms can become worse if individuals with dementia are bored or simply don’t have enough to do. Providing meaningful and creative activities will keep them occupied and engaged, plus give them opportunities to use their energy in a productive manner.
Examples of Meaningful, Creative Activities
Meaningful means different things to each of us, so as you’re coming up with activities and tasks for your loved one, think about what they used to do in the past or a favorite hobby. Adapting familiar activities and hobbies to allow them to once again participate will be incredibly meaningful. Here are a few ideas of how to creatively engage and entertain your loved one with dementia.
Engage them in homemaking activities. Taking care of a home may have been a big part of your loved one’s life prior to the dementia diagnosis. See what tasks can be adapted so that your loved one can help out. She might enjoy helping to set the table, folding laundry or provide assistance in the kitchen. It doesn’t matter how big or small the task is – the point is to get them doing something familiar.
Use music to reach out. Music is a great way to connect with your loved one and evoke memories, emotions and feelings. Music has actually been shown to be an effective therapy in helping unlock parts of the brain that remain unaffected by dementia, helping those with the disease to communicate and share memories. Play music from your loved one’s favorite era, and sing along or dance to the radio. If your loved one was a musician, perhaps their favorite musical instrument will encourage them to play.
Create a work of art. Sculptable clay, markers, watercolor paints or simple paper and pencils can be a creative outlet your loved one can enjoy for hours. Gather all the materials you need and lay them out on a table so your loved one can easily see and request what they want. You can either do a directed activity (like making a vase or painting a picture of a flower) or let your loved one go free-form. This is a fun activity to do together, and it makes it easy for you to show how to use the items if your loved one needs a little push.
Go outside. Being in nature is a delight for all the senses. Take your loved one on a walk or stroll through a nearby arboretum to enjoy the sights, smells, sounds and feels of the world around them. Another fun activity is to create a garden together. Your loved one may enjoy helping you plant seeds, arrange flowers, weed the beds and watching their labor blossom. Vegetable gardens are an all-time favorite, as the products can be harvested and then used to create delicious dishes (which your loved one can help prepare as well).
Watch old family videos or look through scrapbooks. Looking at pictures of your shared history allows you to talk about your memories and can even jog recognition in your loved one’s brain. If your loved one is in a good frame of mind, you can ask questions about their childhood and inquire about different people in the pictures or videos.
“Providing creative and meaningful activities for your loved one will not only help them live a better quality of life, but will also help nurture and deepen your relationship with them,” says Andrea. “Even though their memories may be fading, there are still opportunities for you to have happy moments together and create memories. Use your imagination and your knowledge of your loved one, and you’ll find yourself with a variety of activities to do, experience and enjoy together.”
For more information about our community, our culture and our mission and values, please contact us at 925-272-0261.
Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care
Offering Assisted Living, Enhanced Assisted Living, Memory Care, Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation, The Reutlinger Community provides a continuum of care that allows seniors to live a life-enhancing and stimulating environment. Located in Danville, California, The Reutlinger Community’s newly renovated, 110,000 square foot community combines the comfort and familiarity of home with seasoned senior care and skilled nursing specialists to suit any seniors needs, allowing them to live the life they choose with freedom and security.
Because we specialize in a continuum of care, our residents never need to worry about leaving the community they call home or wonder what will happen when they need some more care. Residents and families alike can have peace of mind knowing that there are full-time licensed nurses available, along with activity coordinators, social workers, caregivers, a concierge and Rabbi who focus solely on helping each resident thrive. Even better, our services and amenities are equal to those of a state-of-the-art resort. This is the lifestyle and care that your loved one deserves.
At The Reutlinger Community, seniors have numerous opportunities to engage in award-winning programs that are designed to engage the mind, renew the spirit and provide opportunities to meet new people and learn something new. Whether residents are enjoying our art program and museum, listening to a lecture or educational program or attending spiritual programming and our wide range of activities, there’s something for each resident to love. Participate as much or as little as you like, the choice is all yours.
For more information or to schedule a personal tour, contact us today.