The AgingCare.com forum is filled with people coming together to share valuable information. We’ve compiled some of our users’ best ideas for enabling a dementia patient to participate and contribute in spite of their increasing difficulties.
Adapting Activities and Encouraging Participation
“Let your loved one do what they can. If they always balanced the checkbook and paid the bills, and they still believe they are capable of doing so, get a ‘dummy’ set of checks and old bills and let them do these things. If they helped with the household chores, let them fold the laundry and put things away, even if you have to do it all over again. As their dementia progresses, they will do fewer and fewer things, and what they can do will become more basic. Still, let them do what they can unless it poses a safety issue. I know it is inconvenient, but I just try to imagine how frustrating it must be for someone like my husband. He was so used to doing everything around the house that, when he could no longer do things, he never admitted it. Instead, he just said, ‘I’ll do it when I feel stronger.’ Approach these challenges with an open mind and look for different ways to solve problems. It helps if you can think outside the box.” –Grandma1954
“I wouldn’t take away perhaps some of the last pleasures a loved one has. They probably enjoy these things, whether they’re doing them well or not. Let them continue to feel that they’re making a contribution and that their life has some value. Put yourself in their position. Would you want to be candidly told that you are no longer qualified to do something you enjoy? Sometimes people have to live with their delusions; they might be the only things they can cling to.” –GardenArtist
“Instead of changing the things your loved one is doing, look at it like, ‘Well, at least they can do that and it keeps them occupied.’ Remember playing house when you were little and pretending that you were having a tea party or making a mud pie? It wasn’t real, but it was fun for you and you were occupied. Mom let you do such things because you were in a happy place in your head and not harming yourself or causing trouble. In other words, if it’s safe, then it’s a good thing! Let them pretend to pay bills and try to put away the groceries. When it comes to other activities that are no longer possible, it can be trickier. For example, if Mom has the desire to drive, when you get in the car, tell her you thought it would be nice to give her a break. Ask her for directions like she is the boss. Dementia patients need stress-free ways to feel independent, but they don’t have to know you’re really in charge.” –wuvsicecream
“A good idea is to find activities that in some way mimic things they used to enjoy, but in simplified form. It’s important that they feel they have achieved something and have fun at the same time. It’s also very important to find activities that make them feel useful.” –JoanBeige
“I found that you can’t deal head on with a dementia patient’s illogical thinking or lack of reasoning. What to do about it depends on the situation. If they think they need to tear down a wall to see why a lamp isn’t coming on, of course you can’t let them do that. Maybe get a light bulb and let them change it to make them feel they are still in charge. There are many scenarios where you can supervise but work alongside them like you’re just helping. Patients often have a lot of frustration as they forget how to do things, and they may take that frustration out on you. It is difficult to figure out how much to give to make them feel better, since it can introduce a lot of stress into your life.” –JessieBelle
“I think there is a need for people to stay productive. My mom has always liked keeping house and crafting, so I’ve found ways to adapt daily activities so she can still participate. I’ll give her some vegetables on a tray that she’ll peel and prep for dinner. I bought her a Knifty Knitter Loom, and she has made four scarves/shawls for relatives. I have to thread it for her, but she can handle moving the yarn up and over. She tells everyone that she made her own shawl. Adapting things she enjoys so she can still help out has been very rewarding for her and for me.” –JulieQ