Dementia is a progressive age-related disorder that’s most prevalent in adults aged 60 years and more. Along with a decline in memory, the affected elder experiences cognition and language-related issues, irritability, depression, and anxiety.
In such a case, engaging the senior loved one in simple activities can help reduce stress and maintain a sense of independence and accomplishment, thereby boosting their self-esteem. Further, involving them in intellectual activities slows the disease progression and reduces challenging behavior, such as agitation and repeated questions.
If your aging parent has been diagnosed with dementia, you should make a deliberate plan to involve them in daily tasks and brain exercises. Here are a few activities and games you can incorporate into your elder’s routine.
1. Stir Up Old Memories
Seniors with dementia often have a stronger long-term memory. Allow your senior parent to reminisce about their life. This will encourage them to share their life experience and feel connected to their loved ones.
Look through an old family album or watch a family video together. Check facts with your parent about a specific memory of the past. This will encourage them to connect with their favorite memories.
You can also create a memory box with all kinds of photographs and keepsakes, helping your elder feel connected to their past life, career, or hobby. The box can hold their favorite stationery, letters, certificates, and other memorabilia related to their hobby or career.
2. Engage Them in an Activity They Enjoy
Does your parent like to bake? Is there a favorite hobby or interest that gets them excited? If yes, encourage them to pursue their passion. For hobbies, such as baking or gardening, they may need your assistance, depending on the stage of dementia they are in.
For instance, if your parent is exhibiting signs of mild cognitive decline, let them take the lead with baking a cake while you assist with the steps.
Read them their favorite book, if that’s what they enjoy! Go shopping together or explore nature by visiting a local botanical garden. Getting them closer to an activity they enjoy will keep them happy and engaged.
3. Engage in an Active Lifestyle
Scientific research has shown that promoting an active lifestyle in adults living with dementia can help alleviate the symptoms of late-life cognitive function. In fact, any kind of physical exercise bolsters brain function and cognitive skills and improves mobility in seniors with dementia.
Encourage your senior parent to remain physically active, thus giving them a chance to enjoy the outside world and meet people in your neighborhood. Depending on their age and fitness level, they can also try tandem biking, yoga, and water aerobics.
Your family physician is best aware of the do’s and don’ts when managing an elderly parent. Check with them on the recommended physical activities for seniors with dementia.
4. Encourage Your Parent to Socialize
Socialization is a critical component of one’s mental well-being. Elders living with dementia often feel lonely, isolated, incompetent, anxious, and depressed. Socialization stimulates the part of the brain that gives us a sense of time and place, which is critical in the case of dementia patients.
For instance, a plain exposure to a familiar face in the park stimulates the nerve cells and the senses associated with the event. Say, the voice of the person, the smell of fresh flowers or bees humming around the place. All these experiences can help your senior gain a sense of connectedness.
Further, patients with dementia often get into a state of daydreaming as they find it quite comforting. However, you should encourage your senior to get outside their minds and interact with others. Human interaction can help your senior transition from the daydreaming phase into the present, bringing them closer to their present.
However, sporadic exposure to a new face or location may confuse or threaten your elderly loved one. Make social interactions a part of your senior’s routine. Let them connect and interact with close family members and friends who can pick subtle cues as to when to further engage in conversation or pull back.
5. Let Them Pitch in on Domestic Chores
Ask your elderly parent to help you with tossing a salad or dusting the dresser. Get them involved in other domestic chores like folding a basket full of washed clothes, setting the table before meals, or washing vegetables or fruits. Involving them in the domestic chores will give them a sense of achievement and keep their spirits up.
The idea here is to give your senior something familiar and meaningful to do each day. In fact, if this is included in their routine, it becomes a part of their ‘to-do’ list, giving them a sense of purpose in life.
6. Organize Simple and Fun Activities
Seniors with dementia need activities and games that can stimulate their senses and help them feel like a winner in the end. Hence, the activities should be easy enough to help them emerge successful, yet challenging enough to stimulate their nerve cells.
Use these simple activities to make your elder feel productive and successful.
- Untie the Knot
Use a medium-thickness rope from the local hardware store and tie it into loose knots. Ask your parent to untie it. This simple activity will enhance their problem-solving skills and kinesthetic activity, provide sensory stimulation, and improve their eye and hand coordination.
- Solve the Puzzle
You don’t have to give your senior a complicated crossword puzzle. Make a simple picture puzzle of their favorite family photo or an occasion that’s special to them and ask them to put the pieces together.
- Thread the Pasta
Encourage your parent to thread dry pasta with big holes (preferably the penned pasta) using a thick yarn or string. The activity involves a considerable amount of focus and is fun.
- Make a Hobby Scrapbook
Most seniors enjoy making collages of their favorite pictures from magazines and newspapers. Get them a magazine that aligns with their interest and help them make a fun scrapbook.
For instance, if your parent enjoys gardening, they could enjoy magazines like Country Gardens or the Garden Design which are easily available at all bookstalls and online stores.
For an elderly person with dementia, a state of inaction and boredom can be quite frustrating, often leading to aggressive behavior. Therefore, it’s critical to stimulate their nerve cells with activities that engage and bring a satisfying smile on their faces.
Use the activity suggestions shared above to stir their memories, foster social connections, and improve their self-expression, mood, and cognition.