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ADVICE COLUMN: Activities for carers of people living with dementia

Active Minds

As a person progresses along their dementia journey, activities and hobbies can still be enjoyed, though they may have to be adapted to suit a person’s abilities. Activities should be varied, suitable and engaging, and it’s important to consider the individuals likes and dislikes.

For those caring for someone living with dementia, there are a variety of activities which can help bring joy and improve quality of life. Here, dementia care activity creators, Active Minds, explores some of the activities which can be conducted within the home.  

Reminiscence

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As the dementia journey progresses it may become more challenging to recollect shorter term memories. However, longer-term memories which have been called on time and again, and often have emotion attached to them, may be sparked with certain stimuli.

Some fantastic activities for evoking memories can be as simple as sitting down and listening to a piece of familiar music. Choose something reminiscent of a fond era and ask gentle questions such as, ‘where did you listen to this?’ and did you enjoy dancing?’. Remember to encourage and not require answers to these questions, as the simple act of listening to the music can be as enjoyable as discussing it. Watching a familiar film, can also be conducted in a similar way.

Other reminiscence activities could involve looking through old photographs together and asking gentle questions surrounding each one. If the individual doesn’t have many photographs of their own, then using carefully selected images from magazines or postcards can also be beneficial. Photos of familiar places, items or objects can be just as rewarding for sparking memories and stories; for example, seeing a photo of a place they went on holiday as a child, or perhaps an image of memorabilia.

Reminiscence activities are fantastic for improving mood and encouraging conversation, helping to boost overall wellbeing.  

Sensory

As we age it can be common for our senses to decline, which may result in withdrawal from activities or conversations; exploring different dementia activities can help engage the senses in a meaningful way to help improve mood and quality of life. For someone living with dementia, sensory activities can be highly beneficial, especially if verbal communication is limited, or perhaps if the person isn’t spending as much time outdoors.

Sensory boxes can be a fun activity for the person with dementia and their carer to build together, with the benefit of being able to revisit the box time and again and look back on fond memories. Put items within the box which hold significance for the person, but also provide a sensory element. Objects such as a loved one’s perfume, photographs of a special time, a CD of music which holds fond memories or perhaps even a childhood toy. Going through each item individually may help to evoke memories and encourage conversations.

Sensory activities can also be highly beneficial for reducing anxieties; listening to soothing music and smelling a familiar scent can transport someone back to a time of calm and happy memories. Try bringing in scents and sounds from the outdoors, which can relax and encourage fond memories.

Creative

Artistic activities can be fantastic for self-expression, boosting mood and providing a sense of achievement. Art based activities should take in to account the persons preferences, space and abilities, and often the most effective activities are built on personal memories or passions.

Whether this is painting from a still life object, making decorations for a special event or colouring in; there are a variety of activities which are suitable for different stages of the dementia journey. It’s important as a carer to provide encouragement and, perhaps display the finished product, on the wall to be enjoyed. It’s important to remember however, that ‘finishing’ is not a requirement and taking part is just as important and can provide the same benefits. There are so many activities which can be conducted within the home, to help improve quality of life and boost wellbeing for someone living with dementia. Trying different activities will help in finding the most suitable and enjoyable for each person.

Tags : Active MindsactivitiesdementiaGuest Column
Sarah Clarke

The author Sarah Clarke

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