Activities for Dementia Patients
Everyone wants to form connections – with those around them, with nature, animals, or even with their memories of the past or of childhood. This is no less true of dementia patients, and in fact, dementia patients more so than anyone else rely on these connections to keep them grounded in the present and enjoying life. Activities that allow a dementia patient to connect in this way are therefore essential. And they’re not hard! A lot of fun and simple activities can help a dementia patient to enjoy themselves and stay rooted in the present, and they can be enjoyable for friends, family, or caregivers as well.
A number of studies have found that many older dementia patients still retain their memories of childhood and early adulthood, or, at the very least, can connect with memories of the time period. Stimulating these memories for them can be incredibly enjoyable. Let dementia patients hold antique toys or clothes from their childhood or early adulthood. If you have access to a record player, let them enjoy some music from the era. You can even enjoy movies or television programming from the time period; movies, TV and music will help stimulate multiple senses to reestablish the connection with memories from this period.
Dementia patients also typically enjoy looking at photo albums from their early adulthood or childhood. Even if they don’t recognize themselves in the photos, they should connect with the clothing worn, the cars, architecture, and other indicators of the time period. If you don’t have access to the patient’s photo album, try presenting them with periodicals or books from their childhood. Finally, if your dementia patient has a favorite book, let them hold it while you read to them aloud. You’ll stimulate their auditory senses and tactile memory; even the smell of a book can bring back memories or trigger recollections.
Help Patients Connect with Multiple Senses
Reading from past periodicals or listening to older records or films helps not only in establishing a connection with memory, but also works across multiple senses. This is really important for dementia patients: some times the visual does not trigger memory, but the auditory, olfactory, or tangible might. So take your dementia patient outside as much as possible: let them feel the leaves, the dew on the grass, and the wind in their hair. The smell of nature can be incredibly soothing and can help anyone (especially a dementia patient), feel present and peaceful. If possible, let your dementia patient engage with animals. Listening to a chick cheap or holding a soft kitten can be incredibly therapeutic. You can also help your friend or loved one with dementia connect with their past memories through taste and smell. Bake them dishes from their childhood or present them with perfumes or other scents that might be associated with past memories.
There are a lot of ways to help dementia patients feel engaged, present, and alive that are as enjoyable for family, friends, and caregivers as for the patient. At Main Line Adult Day Center, we understand how best to get dementia patients out and enjoying life, and we’re here to help! Come talk to us about how your friend or loved one with dementia might benefit from an active and engaging social life at Main Line.