By Emilee Seltzer
Caregivers for the elderly with dementia often find that coming up with activities for the elder can require much thought and effort. But they are vital to your parent's health and well-being. Creating activities can really be quite simple if you follow some general guidelines.
Create Meaningful Activities
- Consider their interests
Depending on how severe your parent's dementia is or their stage of Alzheimer's, activities can vary; however, designing activities that involve their past interests are of the utmost importance. For example, if they love to garden, foster that passion with stimulating gardening activities.
What if your parent does not have either the physical or cognitive capability to engage in activities they once loved? Beth Kallmyer, former Director of Family and Information Services for the Alzheimer's Association, recommends adjusting activities to fit their abilities. If your parent loved gardening but no longer has the mental ability to engage in it independently, consider assisting them or simplifying the activity. You can go outside with them and do planting and gardening together, or you can bring a few pots with seeds inside the house for your parent to water daily.
Try to make activities meaningful, rather than ones aimed at simply passing time. Even though your parent may not remember different activities they do, he or she will simply enjoy the moment. It contributes to their general happiness.
- Reestablish old routines
It is very common for seniors to feel as if they have lost their sense of purpose. Design activities that you and your parent can do together and that will make them feel needed and useful. Many things people do are habitual – for example, washing dishes, folding laundry or taking out the trash. Your parent's ability may not be what it once was, but giving them a small task that they are able to accomplish independently or helping you with a more complicated task will create a safe sense of purpose for them.
Provide opportunity for social interaction
Even though your parent's cognitive and/or physical abilities have declined, they still need to interact with others regularly. "Humans have a basic need for social connectedness and those with Alzheimer's disease, regardless of what stage of the disease they are in, still have that need," said Kallmyer. If possible, have your parent accompany you with the grocery shopping or while running errands. In general, elders with dementia can feel anxiety in over crowded or hectic areas, so when you take them out with you, make sure to go at a less busy time. Your parent will enjoy the social interaction. Don't worry about how others may react should your parent have an outburst. Simply taking them with you is important.
- Engage in physical exercise
Another According to Kallmyer, elders with dementia often wander because they are not getting enough exercise. Take daily walks with them, if possible; they can reduce agitation. If the weather does not permit walking, have your parent use a stationary bike. A good time for exercise is when they are already feeling agitated or when they feel bored.
A major concern for caregivers for elders with dementia is that they become withdrawn and are resistant to participate in any activities. In these situations, it is important to get creative. Kallmyer said, "Sometimes people with Alzheimer' disease work well with different people." If possible, she recommends trying to get different people to engage in activities with the elderly parent. Sometimes, a different face can be the solution and your parent may be willing to participate in various activities. It is important to know that if your parent is becoming increasingly agitated you should talk to his or her doctor.