Choosing Dementia Activities

Activities within Dementia – How to choose the right activity

Last month I wrote about the 4 guiding tips for running activities for those living with memory loss and this is the next blog in a series on activities in dementia care.  In the last article, I mentioned that pushing someone you are related to into an activity that they may not usually do or neither of you enjoys (like chair exercises or flower arranging) will result in refusal and occasionally an argument, so choosing the right activity is hugely important.  In this article I am going to talk through how to choose a stimulating dementia activity that you can do away from a dementia day care centre, that will be enjoyable and appreciated by both parties.

Dementia activities at the Ness Care Group

What We Do At The Ness Day Care Centre

At The Ness dementia day care centre we split our treatment groups into small groups of 4/5 people.  Each group is paired according to their cognitive ability and according (as much as possible) to their interests.  We use a planet system with those in Venus capable of the most complex activities and those in Saturn managing only simple, often sensory actions.  This is important as there is no point in encouraging someone living with dementia to complete a 500-piece puzzle if that person can no longer imagine the final picture and hold the pieces.

Step 1 to creating an activity for a loved one with dementia or memory loss

So the first step is understanding what someone believes they can still achieve.  I’ve framed that sentence carefully because the point is NOT what the person with dementia can still do but rather what that individual believes they can still achieve.  If your husband/father used to be the person who fixed the house, made shelves, and did all general DIY, he might still believe he can do those jobs. It is worth investing in some wood, glue, wires, car engines, garage tools, etc, and doing an activity based around DIY.  Remember the end result is unimportant but the pleasure in doing something together is huge and if you can also praise and say ‘thank you, how useful!’ then you are also building a sense of self-worth/self-esteem so crucial for someone living with dementia.  This is a mantra we use at our dementia day care centres, and we always see our dementia patients smiling and enjoying themselves. So choose an activity that fits someone’s own sense of ability and an activity that allows them to feel they have achieved something.

Step 2 to creating an activity for a loved one with dementia or memory loss

The second step is to choose an activity that links with a past hobby, interest, work, holiday, or memory.  Once again the end result is not important – so if they used to love to sew or knit but can no longer hold the needle or understand the pattern, bringing out a collection of sewing materials, pictures, old material, the history of how sewing changed in the 1950s, anything that will stimulate reminiscence and encourage conversation, possibly laughter, also it has a sensory aspect, a visual aspect and an opportunity to praise.  Or your father’s work took him to foreign countries and allowed him to meet different cultures, an activity based around travel, smells, pictures, objects, photos, and history books would bring great pleasure and encourage memories from the distant past.  Choose an activity that is linked to a past experience or pleasure.  

Notice in both examples I mention touch, sight, and smell, I’m a big believer in multi-sensory activity.  Memories are often linked to smell, sound or sight rather than conversation. 

Two simple steps in preparing for a stimulating activity away from a dementia day care centre, however, remember that in working with those with memory loss it is the action, not the results that should bring pleasure (the correct answer to the quiz or crossword is irrelevant).  The goal is both stimulation and an increase in self-esteem.

In the next blog, we will delve into some specific activities that you can do at home, and outside of dementia day care centres for those living with mild to moderate memory loss.

Get dementia respite care at The Ness

If you need some support in running activities for a loved one living with dementia or memory loss, then learn more about our dementia day care centres and dementia support services. 

Get a complimentary consultation to discover how we can provide dementia help for you and your loved one by completing our online form, or calling us on 01626 774 799