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Dementia, Activities, and Knowing Your Loved One

Written by OurParents Staff
 about the author
2 minute readLast updated April 20, 2023

Family caregivers around the country regularly ask themselves the same question: “What should I do with Mom all day?” Each person living with dementia is different, so it can be challenging to sift through activity recommendations and find what works best for you and your loved one.

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Dementia activities

An emerging theme across various publications and associations is the need for activities and engagement for a better quality of life for seniors living with dementia. You may encounter common suggestions like playing a game of cards or taking a walk. These are great ideas, but what if your loved one can’t hold playing cards or walk safely anymore?
To engage your loved one, you must modify activities to fit their abilities and accept that engagement can come in may forms. As their condition and abilities change, more complex activities may give way to simpler pastimes like having a conversation or listening to music together.

Let our care assessment guide you

Our free tool provides options, advice, and next steps based on your unique situation.

Knowing your loved one

Before you even get there, you must go back further. You must start with a topic or activity your loved recognizes and prefers.
Getting to know your loved one again is the foundation for communication, planning and engagement. Getting to know your loved one again is the First Pillar of Activities and Engagement. Get to know the person they were their entire life, not just the person of today. What were their hobbies, interests, likes, loves, careers? All of this will play a part in connecting with your loved one and getting them engaged.  It will also come in handy to calm them down if they are having a bad day.
One proven tool to help with knowing your loved one is a Personal History Form. This form, which can be downloaded for free at www.startsomejoy.org, helps organize a lifetime of accomplishments, likes and pastimes. From favorite foods to things they liked to do, this form should be filled out by as many friends and family members as possible as everyone has a different memory of your loved one.
The information should be kept in a central location and available to all caregivers. Why?  Because no matter how many people you have helping or want to help, if they do not know where to start or if they do not feel like they have something in common to talk to your loved one about, connecting and engaging will be difficult.
While caring for you loved one, you may have experienced moments when they are particularly lucid and engaged. Do you remember what was happening when their eyes lit up? Was there music playing? Were you discussing something about their past? Were there familiar smells in the house while a favorite meal was cooking?
Using information about things your loved one enjoyed years ago can help you devise activities to keep them engaged. It’s important to remember that when one suffers from Alzheimer’s or another related dementia, they may only recall memories from earlier in their life. This is why it is so important to know their personal history well. As dementia caregivers, we must enter their world where their memories are alive and well.
Tapping into their life-long interests, hobbies, and routines will help give them a sense of familiarity and normalcy and improve their quality of life.


Meet the Author
OurParents Staff

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