Dementia is a daily reality for around five million people in the US. While the research suggests that statistically fewer people are developing dementia, many still do. Those with high-stress lives are particularly vulnerable.
It’s important to understand that dementia is a catch-all term for numerous conditions that compromise mental ability. What may be almost as harmful as the condition is the reduction in activities for dementia patients.
The cognitive decline and behavioral changes often make patients and their families withdraw from old activities. Yet, engaging in simplified versions of old activities can help to reduce the severity of dementia symptoms, such as agitation and memory loss.
Let’s take a closer look at some things to do with a dementia patient.
Activities for Dementia Patients
Puzzles engage both hemispheres of the brain, which makes them an excellent activity for dementia patients. The left brain solves the puzzle and the right brain gets an emotional payoff.
Puzzles require very little in the way of preparation or investment. They can be done almost anywhere you can find a flat surface. Many puzzles are quite reasonably priced.
If the patient’s motor skills aren’t great or dementia is more advanced, look for floor puzzles. These puzzles use larger and fewer pieces. This should make the puzzle more manageable for the patient.
Basic Household Cleaning
Having a dementia patient clean may feel like assigning work, but it’s handing them an easy victory. Most people do at least some basic housework throughout their lives. Even those with severe memory loss will probably be able to sweep or wipe down a counter.
They get to accomplish something helpful or meaningful, which is emotionally valuable. The housework may also spark a patient’s memories, such as folding dish towels with a parent.
Cooking probably sounds like an automatic non-starter. Of course, you would never ask a dementia patient to shave truffles with a chef’s knife or prepare beef bourguignon. The first is physically risky and the second too demanding.
Research suggests that cooking provides benefits to dementia patients when the tasks are geared to individual’s ability levels. Simple recipes are best.
You could make no-bake dessert recipes, salads or pudding dishes.
Reading aloud is something you can do for dementia patients. Listening to someone read often sparks memory recall and encourages imagination. Sometimes it even sparks discussion.
Shorter works, such as poems or short stories, work better. They don’t tax attention spans and compress significant meaning into much fewer words.
Decorating for Holidays
Much like housework, decorating for holidays is a lifelong activity for most people. That makes it largely immune to the ravages of all but the most severe memory loss. You could have the patient string popcorn or help you tape the decorations on the wall.
While nothing can stave off dementia, at least not yet, activities do help dementia patients. They help improve reasoning skills, activate memories, and reduce agitation.
If you have any ideas about activities for dementia patients, please share them in a comment below. If you have questions, please head over to the Contact page and send a message.