Individuals with dementia have the same social and leisure needs as all other people do. Interaction, engagement, and participation in meaningful activities not only reduces boredom but also gives them a sense of purpose and improves their quality of life. Recreation therapy uses an individual’s specific needs and interests to design and provide activities meant to help with physical, cognitive, and emotional health. To increase engagement in activities it is important to keep a person's interests in mind, prompt reminiscence of memories, and promote self worth. With fewer community resources for respite care during this time, it may be challenging to find fulfilling activities that consistently engage your loved one. Below are some ideas that your loved one might enjoy:
-Music: Play songs the individual likes and is familiar with. You can also provide copies of the lyrics and sing along with them. Dancing is also great to keep them physically active. Providing instruments such as drums, maracas, and pianos can also be beneficial!
-Arts & Crafts: Arts and crafts can be great for fine motor movement, cognition, and self expression. You can find a wide variety of coloring images online. Applications on tablets and iPads such as Happy Color, SpinArt Free, and Kaleido Free are also easy, mess free craft activities. Other crafting activities like, finger painting, geo-lacing, simple sewing/knitting, and air dry clay provide options that most anyone could find engaging. With arts & crafts, it is important to ensure supervision is provided when working with sharps, choking hazards, and toxic materials.
-Reading: Older adults and those with dementia may deal with visual impairments and/or other causes that create the inability to read, however this does not mean these individuals do not enjoy this activity. Books, magazines, poems, picture books, news, interesting facts, and cheesy jokes are all great sources of material to read to your loved one. Audiobooks and readings found online can also be helpful. These are great sources for prompting discussion.
-Reminiscence Therapy: Use objects or images as sources to aid in memory recall and discussion. Memorable materials like wedding photos, family heirlooms, or objects of importance, are great for reminiscing. Images from websites, such as Time Slips, are also successful in activating recall and stimulating cognitive processing. It is important to understand that answers may not always be appropriate or accurate. When this occurs, try not tell them they are wrong, as it may make them feel inadequate and discouraged. Rather, you can correct them by providing the response in form of a question and/or framing it as your own perspective.
-Physical Activity: Physical activity is important for maintenance of motor skills, coordination, and overall heath. Individuals with dementia are prone to wandering, however this increases their risk of falls and getting lost. Taking your loved one on a walk is a safer alternative. Other activities to keep your loved one engaged include seated exercise (videos and exercises can be found online), dancing, and active games such as bag toss, bowling, ladder golf, Simon Says, etc..
-Sorting & Organizing: This group of activities improves concentration, motor coordination, and memory to task. These tasks may also help your loved one feel useful and increase their self confidence and self worth. Activities in this realm may include sorting by color or size, organizing jewelry, matching socks, and even folding towels/laundry.
The important thing to keep in mind is that just because a loved one had dementia or isn't as active as they once were, this doesn't mean that they don't need AND still enjoy
activities for the body, mind and spirit. Get creative and have fun in the process.
Written by: Paige Felderman, Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist The Views Senior Living of Cedar Rapids