If your older loved one is impacted by dementia or another memory-related diagnosis, you may wonder how to best engage with them or what types of activities they would enjoy.
Here's a secret, though: Many people with dementia or Alzheimer's enjoy many of the activities they have always enjoyed. In the early stages of a diagnosis, an individual may be able to engage in all their regular activities, play games, care for themselves and live a fairly normal lifestyle.
Even as someone moves forward in a memory disease, they can still engage and have an active lifestyle. They, you and other caregivers simply might need to make some changes or allowances to make activities safe and enjoyable for someone with memory issues.
The staff at Autumn View Gardens in Ellisville is adept at caring for and engaging with memory care residents. We make a point to ensure all residents have a chance to engage in an active, vibrant lifestyle according to their preferences and ability levels.
But if you're currently working to care for someone with a memory diagnosis or you'd like to get involved with or support an older loved one's activities, check out the information below about memory care activities you might enjoy together.
If someone has been a life-long reader, they may continue to enjoy books in other ways. In the first stages of a memory condition, many people can still read books. They may not be able to recall all of what they read as they used to, but short fiction books can offer a way to enjoy a well-loved past-time. Consider reading the same book so you can talk about it, and get grandchildren involved as you read classic favorites that are appropriate for the entire family.
As your loved one progresses with a memory disease, they may be unable to continue reading on their own or remember what they read. You can start reading to them if they enjoy that. You might also incorporate books with a lot of pictures for visual stimulation. They can look through those books and continue to enjoy them.
Music is tied to all kinds of cognitive functions, and listening to music can trigger moods and emotions as well as memories. Listen to old favorites together and talk about them. If your loved one enjoys making music, play instruments or sing together. You can also use percussion tools such as sticks to create rhythms.
You might also have a little dance party. Encourage your loved one to get up and move as they are able. This lets you enjoy music together while also getting exercise.
Gardening is a great past-time for people of all ages. It gets you outside in the sun and fresh air and is very tactile, which can be beneficial for those with memory issues. This is a good choice if your loved one has a long-time green thumb, as it could bring back old memories and feelings.
Board and card games are great for exercising cognitive function. You can invest in games specifically designed for those with dementia or play kid-friendly games such as Candy Land, which don't have a lot of rules to remember.
Do remember, though, that people in earlier stages of dementia are often able to continue playing regular board games competitively. Don't automatically assume your loved one can't do something just because they have a memory diagnosis.
Creating things can allow your loved one to express himself or herself. Putting pen, marker or paintbrush to paper also helps calm many people, making this a soothing past-time to engage in together.
Tactile stimulation can be good for anyone, and the act of moving, sorting or molding things with the hands can help spark cognitive functions or soothe someone who is experiencing sundowning or anxiety due to their memory care issues.
It doesn't have to be fancy. You might have a fun bowl of buttons to sort through, for example. Or, perhaps you can play with Play-Doh together. This would be a fun one to get the grandkids in on.
Walking or any type of movement can help reduce stress and get out jitters. It's also just good for overall wellness. Pick a time of day to go walking together. Plan walks that work for your loved one. They can be long or short, depending on your loved one's capability, and you might try walks in a park or on a path in the woods.
This one may not have been especially possible this past year, but if you can go shopping together, this can be a fun activity. If you're still staying out of stores due to COVID-19, you may still consider window shopping during times when the streets and sidewalks won't be as busy.
Finally, consider cooking together. Allow your loved one to handle tasks as they are able. Simply being with everyone and doing things they remember doing before can help them feel comfortable and functional.