People living with dementia can easily become socially isolated due to a decline in their ability to communicate with others. Interacting with others and taking part in activities that were once easy to do may become more difficult and challenging.
If you’re caring for someone with dementia, it’s important to try to maintain their social bonds and activities where possible, but also to create new ones.
Keeping somebody with dementia active and taking part in the right activities for them is important for their wellbeing, and in some cases can help slow the progression of the disease.
Here are some tips for planning activities for someone with dementia:
1. Think about the setting
Avoid noisy places, big crowds or places with lots of movement as this can make people with dementia feel nervous, unsure and sometimes upset. Find an activity that has a good balance between calmness and stimulation so that they are engaged without feeling overwhelmed.
2. Keep up their previous interests
Every person living with dementia is still the same person they once were despite changes in their memory and behaviour. Try an activity they used to like doing or were interested in. Taking part in something familiar that they used to enjoy can make them feel happy. It may even reignite some memories. For example, if they loved walking, go for a walk on the beach or at a park, or if they loved art, join an art class with people their age. Remember, what’s important is enjoying the moment, even if they can’t remember it.
3. Make them feel useful
Doing something that reinforces a past role or enables them to achieve something physically is beneficial. For example, folding or hanging out the washing provides a sense of achievement and encourages family bonds. Focus on doing one task at a time and break it down into manageable steps. Use a retained skill such as watering the garden to encourage a feeling of responsibility.
4. Take your time
Take your time and don’t rush a person living with dementia. Don’t focus on completing an activity or finishing something, just enjoy the process of getting involved and taking part. If the person feels under pressure, it may put them off and stop them from giving something a go.
Dementia – preventing social isolation Super Seniors, Ministry of Social Development, NZ
Keeping active Alzheimers NZ