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The term dementia is associated with a wide variety of cognitive deterioration or dysfunction symptoms like loss of memory, difficulty in speaking, and deterioration in problem-solving skills that interfere with optimal functioning on a daily basis.
The most common cause of progressive dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia is caused by loss of the neural connections in the brain or damage to nerve cells that lead to the deterioration over time.
However, depending on the type of dementia, the symptoms can sometimes be reversed as well. These days, activities for dementia patients have made it easier for seniors with the diagnosis to live their life more comfortably.
People with Dementia
The stages of dementia progress in seven steps in which the person affected will experience a gradual decline in cognitive functioning, eventually leading to the 7th stage which represents very severe damage. Having dementia, however, doesn’t signify that the person has to abandon doing things that they enjoy.
There are different kinds of activities for dementia patients that are available for such people. After all, elders with dementia also desire connection and togetherness just like everyone else.
Seniors with Dementia
As much as 7-8% of adults aged 60 and above are diagnosed with dementia.
As mentioned, the most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s which affects 1/3rd of adults aged 85 or older. Several factors like smoking, drinking, high blood pressure, and uncontrolled diabetes increase the risk of developing dementia.
Staying active is useful for physical and cognitive health. Therefore, it is essential for people with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease to engage in fulfilling activities with their loved ones. But, one must also keep in mind the physical limitations that are applicable to their age.
The following sections of the article will now discuss fun, stimulating, and productive activities for dementia patients that can calm erratic behavior and promote cognitive function and a sense of security.
What is Cognitive Stimulation?
It is a method that can have numerous benefits for people with dementia. According to an article published by Elmcroft, cognitive stimulation is “an approach to brain exercise for adults with dementia to participate in enjoyable activities that stimulate thinking, concentration and memory.”
This approach can have a helpful impact on social interaction, communication, and increased quality of life. Several stimulating activities for people with dementia have proven efficient in terms of bringing happiness to them while also keeping them engaged thereby, improving cognitive functioning.
1. Creative Activities
Tailoring and other activities for seniors with dementia based on individual interests are very helpful. With the help of knitting or crocheting, let the person feel the weight or the rough textures of the yarn for sensory stimulation. Serious memory loss and cognitive dysfunction don’t appear to be a hindrance to knitting.
If the family member was a musician or involved with music, introduce them to instruments or sing-alongs. Musical abilities outlast other memory functions in people with dementia who have milder cognitive decline.
Nursery rhymes, maracas, and tambourines encourage creative self-expression in patients with advanced impairments.
Another method of safe creative expression is through painting and drawing. Encouraging the use of bold, bright colors on large surfaces along with the use of butcher paper are great activities for dementia patients that allow them to express themselves without the stress of enclosed spaces.
It might get harder for a person with Alzheimer’s to engage in arithmetic calculations and simple counting might also become very difficult. Games like snakes and ladders and Ludo help in boosting the person’s confidence. Bingo is a game enjoyed by everyone as it is easy to comprehend and play. Furthermore, it is essential to note that games like bingo are stage-specific and not applicable for those in the last stages of dementia.
In the earlier stages, such games are beneficial due to the existence of a certain level of cognition. Card games and other activities for dementia patients that involve matching help in improving memory, and concentration, and aid in stimulating hand-eye coordination and problem-solving skills. This idea improves self-esteem and self-confidence too.
Playing with Clay
Creative activities for dementia patients also include the use of slippery clay or play-dough. These activities are essential for older adults or seniors with dementia in terms of tactile stimulation. Feeling a variety of objects of different shapes and sizes in addition to rubbing hands in the motion is very stimulating for the person.
With the help of scrapbooking, dementia patients can choose and cut out pictures from magazines according to their interests, for example; cars, cooking, or fashion. The caregiver may also scan or take printouts of family photos and help the people with dementia to arrange them in ways that create a scrapbook for memories.
2. Reminiscing Activities
Reminiscence therapy is provided to allow seniors with dementia to connect with their memories with the help of visual or sensory cues. Instead of asking direct questions that cause stress and confusion, the therapist may approach with gentle guidance.
For example, while looking at a childhood photo, the people with dementia could be asked to describe what growing up felt like instead of being asked to tell when the picture was taken.
It is a form of talk therapy where certain smells and sounds from the person’s past are also used to spark memories. Reminiscence therapy is also used with other forms of therapy like psychodynamic therapy or art therapy. It has successfully treated patients with dementia and thus, it is also useful for Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s disease.
Activities for dementia patients that lead to reminiscence include putting together a memory box. Making a memory box is a great way of stimulating the recollection of memories. Old photos, favorite objects, and items from work that the person used to do can be put into the box. Looking at these objects may help an agitated senior to calm down.
The therapist may also bring in props like objects, photos, music, or certain shows the senior’s used to watch in the past. Looking at photos from the person’s childhood or young adulthood, watching their favorite movies and shows, and listening to old classics and Christmas carols will help a loved one to remember certain memorable things from the past.
Back in the day, people did most of their shopping from magazine catalogs. Activities for dementia patients like finding original versions of such magazines and prints that they enjoyed during their younger days could help bring back memories of that period in time.
3. Fulfilling Activities
These kinds of activities for dementia patients that are free of failure increase their feelings of self-worth. Folding laundry is a repeated motion that brings about a sense of calmness and the smell of classic detergent may elicit comforting memories. However, items like fitted sheets and buttoned shirts may be difficult to handle.
If the loved ones liked to fix things or tinker, fitting together PVC pipes is a great activity for dementia patients with high motor function. For those in the more advanced or late stages, wooden and plastic toys provide the same experience. The elderly may also enjoy untying knots from thick and loose ropes. Avoid rough ropes with knots that are too tight.
Puzzles with large, tactile pieces are fail-safe and help with matching. Picking a puzzle with wooden color or activities for dementia patients that include pieces of different shapes are very useful. A person who enjoyed crossword puzzles will also enjoy a puzzle book too.
4. Sensory Activities
Studies suggest that activities for dementia patients that include familiar smells from their childhood, like flowers or freshly baked Christmas cookies can lead to the recall of positive memories and emotions. But, it is important to avoid smells that lead to anxiety. Through tactile exploration, it is possible to bring up memories that are not accessible through verbal or pictorial prompts.
For example, a person may not remember their wedding or the first time they bought a car. However, feeling weighty keys and embroidered pearls may encourage reminiscence.
The Power of Taste and Touch
Just like smells, taste also has the potential to elicit emotions and memories. For example, a taste of chocolate cake could lead to the recall of birthdays, or sipping on freshly brewed coffee could bring back the quiet, early mornings enjoyed by the person.
For sensory stimulation and memory cues, activities for dementia patients that provide the person with unique textures may be considered. For example, if they liked animals, think about the soft fur of animals or if they were into gardening, touching damp soil or leaves is a great way to induce recall.
5. Outdoor Activities
Walking a couple of times a week may help to reverse the direction of the disease by improving physical fitness in seniors who have common age-related memory loss that does not require too many medications and treatments. Activities for dementia patients like hand massages may also be gladly accepted by seniors as the sense of “touch” is very familiar. Just five minutes of hand massage has been shown to provide physiological relaxation.
Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese technique of exercising that uses slow, flowing movements with controlled breathing. It is a great way of bringing about a relaxed state of mind not only in patients with dementia but also in their caregivers. Yoga and meditation help the patient with engaging different parts of the brain that facilitates neuroplasticity.
Simple types of dancing and riding a bicycle are also great activities for dementia patients that improve their quality of life. Cardio workouts facilitate the flow of blood into the brain, which is beneficial for those suffering from dementia. Swimming for many is associated with happy childhood memories. Thus, swimming can have a lasting positive impact on the individual’s mood.
6. Technological Activities
Immersive technology has a lot of safety benefits and it can provide mind stimulating activities for dementia patients.
Technological-based activities offer internet live streams for your loved one. Patients can view zoos, nature preserves, aquariums, and art museums like The Louvre, and since the live camera footage changes constantly, it provides visual stimulation to home-bound dementia patients.
Through Google Earth, the caregivers of the loved one might load the location of their favorite place or childhood home and allow the patient to explore.
Activities for dementia patients that include technology also facilitate connection through video calls and chats. Even if the senior is unable to speak, the presence of their family can still provide some comfort.
Record videos of their pets, family members, and auspicious moments and install them into a tablet for the patients to watch when they are feeling restless.
As the effects of the disease get worse, the loved one will require support at home. As the disease advances into its later stages, more intensive round-the-clock care is required other than just activities for dementia patients. In order to establish care as a part of their routine, an early acknowledgment is required for those with memory loss to help them remain independent.
In addition to activities for dementia patients, a residential facility may be the best alternative if the person with Alzheimer’s or other dementia wants a community living setting or requires more care than can be provided at home.
Types of Residential Care
There are various types of residential care to evaluate which one best suits the needs of the dementia patient. Some of them are:
1. Alzheimer’s Special Care Units (SCUs or Memory Care units)
For those with Alzheimer’s or dementia, memory care is aimed to provide a safe, controlled environment with established routines to reduce stress. Employees, like those at assisted living homes, prepare meals and assist residents with personal care responsibilities.
Residents in normal assisted living are expected to manage their own meals and mealtimes are displayed, but no one checks in on them. In contrast, caregivers in memory care make sure people get to meals, participate in activities for dementia patients and go on to the next thing.
Memory care facilities contain alerted doors, coded elevators, and enclosed outer spaces to keep residents with dementia on-site as they are prone to wandering. Such residents are also provided with tracking wristbands that allow them to roam freely while still allowing their caregivers to keep track of their whereabouts.
2. Retirement Housing
Individuals in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease (often referred to as the mild stage in a medical context) who are still capable of caring for themselves may benefit from retirement living.
3. Assisted Living
Assisted living is a middle ground between independent living and nursing home care. It usually provides a mix of lodging, meals, supportive services, and medical treatment. The federal government does not regulate assisted living, and its definitions differ from state to state. Because not all assisted living facilities cater to persons with dementia, it’s crucial to look for one that does.
4. Nursing Home
Nursing homes offer 24-hour care as well as long-term medical therapy. Nutrition, care planning, recreation, spirituality, and medical care are all addressed by services and employees in most nursing homes. Nursing homes have varying staff-to-resident ratios, as well as differing degrees of experience and training among their employees. Nursing homes are regulated and licensed by the state.
5. Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs)
Individual requirements are met by CCRCs, which offer several degrees of care (independent, assisted living, and nursing home). If a resident’s needs change, he or she can transfer between the various levels of care available within the community. These types of facilities can be paid for with an initial admission fee followed by monthly payments, or they can be paid entirely with monthly costs.
As discussed, Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of memory loss. Dementias are frequently classified according to what they have in common, such as the protein or proteins deposited in the brain or the affected brain region. Some disorders, such as those caused by pharmaceutical reactions or vitamin shortages, resemble dementias and may improve with therapy.
Dementia is a deadly disorder because it causes the digestive system, lungs, and heart to fail due to progressive brain cell death. Following a dementia diagnosis, someone can expect to survive for about ten years. However, with the help of advancements taking place in the form of treatments and activities for dementia patients, this fact has come to vary greatly across people, with some living for more than twenty years. It’s crucial to try not to get caught up in the numbers and to make the most of the time left with your loved ones.