4 tips on running activities at Home for those with Mild to Moderate Dementia – A few ideas from Active Minds Dementia Leads

“What activities should I do with my husband/wife/parent when we are at home?”

This is a common question and one of the most common searches on google (please have a look at my short video for more information). However, it is also not that simple to answer, we will be doing a series on this subject looking at all aspects of running activities for people living with dementia, and those looking for dementia support services.

However, in this article we are starting not by searching for specific activities but rather I think it is more helpful for those looking for dementia support services, to understand WHY you are running an activity and HOW to choose the right one for your loved one. I offer 4 simple tips when choosing and running an activity for someone you care for (it should be noted this article is for family not professional carers who should approach activities in a different way).

Tip number 1 – It is harder for a loved one to run an activity

It is important to be aware that it is far harder for someone close to the person living with dementia to run an activity that it is for a stranger.

The husband will find it harder to encourage his wife to try out making Easter decorations than his granddaughter and the granddaughter will find it harder than the neighbour and the neighbour harder than a paid professional. From an early age, we are taught social politeness and social niceties; we will be grumpy and disruptive to those we love and know most and most polite and agreeable to those we know least.

If you are struggling to run an activity with a loved one and would like some support for dementia near you, get in touch with us 01626 774 799.

Tip number 2 – It is the action not the result that is most important.

I cannot emphasise this enough!

Most of us can be fixated on the outcome of the task rather than the simple pleasure of sitting with/near someone and laughing/talking as you just do. Someone living with dementia may no longer be able to paint a picture, fix a plug, plant a flower or make a bird box, but sitting with the materials and working together on something, using your hands and letting conversation wash over you both brings huge pleasure and mental stimulation. This can provide some respite for the dementia patient and the carer.. The result may well be a ball of mush or a stack of sticks.

Equally if you are doing a crossword, a quiz, playing boggle or dominoes the correct answer is not the point. The answer to the quiz is irrelevant but the question might take you down a line of questions, memories and laughter which brings great pleasure.

Tip number 3 – Everything can become a therapeutic fun activity!

Respite for dementia patients is something both a loved one and those living with dementia will be looking for, and a therapeutic, fun activity can be just that.

An activity in dementia does not need to be a craft or a quiz or a game, instead change the way you see every common action. The stimulation and benefit comes from doing an action together, communicating and learning. The person living with dementia needs to feel useful, to feel needed and to be stimulated. With this in mind loading the dishwasher, sweeping the drive, sorting buttons, un-knotting the knitting are all therapeutic activities.

Even better though they offer a sense of self-worth, you have done something that has helped your daughter/son/wife/friend, providing some respite from the disease for the dementia patient.

Remember tip 2, the end result is not important; the dishwasher doesn’t need to be loaded correctly or the leaves piled neatly; it is the social action that is important, not the outcome!

Tip number 4 – It is incredibly important to offer both mental stimulation and social stimulation to someone diagnosed with any form of memory impairment.

It is the single most important thing you can do for someone living with memory loss. There is now undisputed research to show that our brains shrink or become further impaired if under stimulated or isolated. Our brains are social muscles that learn new pathways, improve mood and maintain function through social stimulation. The temptation is to reduce social contact and to rely on your own ability to entertain and stimulate your husband/wife/parent..

However, going back to tip number 1, it is harder to stimulate your loved one alone, families need to engage a wide variety of people, groups and activities to enable/empower the person living with memory loss. The support services at our dementia daycare centre can provide respite to dementia patients and you and your loved ones as carers, if independent care becomes too challenging. Certainly do fun activities together at home but also get out and meet people, engage with neighbours, meet new friends.

One way to meet new people would be at our dementia day care hub, or give us a call on 01626 774799.

Keep an eye out for more

I hope the above few tips have given you some thoughts on why we should do activities with a person living with memory loss and that the activity itself is not that important. Rather it is the shared action and the social connection that comes from that. That said our next blog will be on more specific activities provided by The Ness dementia daycare centre in Teignmouth.

If you are looking for a dementia support service near you, give us a call on 01626 774799 to discover how we might be able to help.