The importance of activities for dementia patients at home should not be overlooked. Activities promote well being and can help channel energy to avoid negative or challenging behaviors. A caregivers approach and activities can actually slow the cognitive decline of the person with dementia.
Many think that an activity is a form of entertainment or planning a special event. When we, at caregiverrelief.com refer to and activity, we include the tasks of everyday life. Dementia patients living at home begin to have difficulty with daily routines and tasks. This is due to the changes that are occurring in the the brain. It is important to maintain a level of independence for as long as possible. This means practicing what is called “habilitaion”. Simply put, you continue to encourage a person to do as much as they can, making adaptions to encourage independence. A person with dementia may lose the ability to do a certain task of everyday living- such as buttoning or unbuttoning a shirt. It is at this time, you may want to help do the task, or purchase shirts with velcro closures for getting on and off easily. There comes a time when any or all activities will require support of the caregiver and different approaches to care.
The first step to facing the caregiving journey, is to develop a person centered care profile for your family member.Taking time to start this profile in the early stages of dementia will be beneficial to you and your family member as the disease progresses. You will discover new information and begin to develop a plan to promote continuity and personalized care. Creating this profile will help you to learn hobbies, past job experiences, and roles your family member played in life. Activities can be planned around those interests. But, do not hesitate to introduce something new. Your family member may enjoy an activity they never tried before.
The best example I can give of that is of, President Ronald Reagan, who suffered from dementia. In the middle stages of dementia, President Reagan loved to rake leaves. Now, in Southern California, there are not many leaves to rake. Everyday the family had someone put leaves in the yard for him to rake up. He felt as if he was doing something worthwhile and it was a great physical activity for him to do.
There are many different areas of activities a family care partner should consider when making future care plans. These areas are:
Cognitive activities- reading, puzzles, brain games…
Social activities- can be as simple as having a meal together, making a memory photo book, or a family gathering
Creative activities-painiting, music, dancing, any type of hands on activity
Daily chores- setting the table, folding clothes, gardening
Personal care – Dressing, bathing, brushing teeth etc
The person in the early stages of dementia should continue to do as many activities and tasks they enjoy doing for as long as they can. These activities may be managing the checkbook, gardening and cooking. Modifications can be made, as needed, to ensure safety and success. The family care partner should be careful to not take over these activities too early. This can be the most difficult stage to work with your family member with dementia. The person with dementia is still lucid enough to know they are losing their abilities , but lack the insight to act and plan for those changes.
We suggest, when needed , the care partner can do the task together with their family member. Working on finances or a grocery list or cooking together can be a way to bond, as well as enhance the experience for both of you.