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Help seniors with dementia stay engaged

Posted February 26, 2014 in Advice Column, Pleasant Hill

Routine activity that is carefully planned can enrich the lives of those affected by dementia and support them in many ways by helping them stay focused and not wander, easing agitation, maintaining proper blood pressure, blood flow and weight, keeping their minds sharp, potentially slowing down the decline of dementia, warding off depression and building confidence as they begin to lose some of their abilities. It’s important to provide ongoing opportunities.

Activities for people with dementia do not have to be strenuous. Senior care experts offer these recommendations:
• Explain the activities beforehand, even if you’re not sure the person with dementia can fully understand your instructions.
• Do regular reevaluations of the person’s abilities as his or her dementia progresses so you can adjust activities and avoid frustration or agitation.
• Be aware of limitations, such as eyesight, the need for rest and times of day that work best.
• Focus on enjoyment not achievement, and don’t criticize or correct the person.
• Let individuals with dementia know he or she is needed by asking for his or her help during activities.

Some activities that prove beneficial for seniors and help keep them engaged with those around them include the following:
• Talk about past loves and relationships. Bring old out scrapbooks, photos and cards to help get and keep a discussion going.
• Listen to music.
• Create art. Have the individual sign his or her name on the artworks and give them to facility staff, family, grandkids, and neighbors.
• Bake something sweet. If it is safe, make and decorate cookies using simple recipes or ready-made dough. The smells of baking treats might help bring back memories.
• Make jewelry. In addition to exercising hands, beadwork helps improve and retain the ability to manage details.
• Create with fresh flowers. Buy vases and an assortment of fresh flowers and embellishments the senior can assemble.
• Make gift bags to share. This activity keeps seniors with dementia active in sorting items.
• Finally, keep it fun. Make sure the activities are in line with the person’s interests and adjust them to his or her current ability level.
•  Plan outdoor activities when possible, and vary activities to include mental and physical stimulation, as well as those that stimulate sight, smell, hearing, and touch.

References: Alzheimer’s Association. (n.d.)., Enhancing daily life: activities. Aveyard-Barry, Michelle. (n.d.). Crafts for Alzheimer’s Patients; Bragg, Susan. (2010, Jan. 31). Activities for Those Suffering from Dementia; Richmond, Mary. (n.d.). Activities for Alzheimer’s Patients; Salazar, Gina, AD. (n.d.). Alzheimer’s/Dementia Activities: Fun stuff to do with Alzheimers/Dementia Residents; Shadowbox Press Blog (2013, Jan. 16). 10 Activities for Alzheimer’s Patients.

Information provided by Clint Rogers, Comfort Keepers, 1300 Metro East Drive, Suite 128, Pleasant Hill, 515-243-0011.

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