Keeping someone with dementia engaged at home
If you’re caring for someone with dementia in the home, you’ve probably found some activities that they enjoy and they probably involve things outside of the home. If you’re like most of our clients, creativity for dementia-appropriate activities isn’t your expertise and now that COVID-19 (Corona Virus) has us all home-bound, you may be frustrated and scrambling. At this point, you’ve probably turned to Internet searches. Out of curiosity, I also did an Internet search. I have to say, I was disappointed in what I found. Not soon after, I started getting requests to help come up with activity ideas. I would love to give you a list of activities to try with your loved one, but I’m afraid we will just try many different things to keep busy, become frustrated when they don’t work, and be back to the drawing board.
My goal is always to give good information that will empower my clients, readers, listeners, and viewers. If I gave you a list of activities, you wouldn’t understand the “how.” I guess you could say I don’t want to give you the fish. I want to teach you to fish.
Schedules and responsibilities.
The goal is to create a schedule that considers the caregiver’s schedule, tasks, likes, and dislikes, as well as your loved one’s schedule, tasks, likes, and dislikes. This will help you tailor the ideas you’ve gained from an Internet search, books, or others. So, I want to provide you with some tips on generating activities that allow you to truly do so in a person centered way.
Consider the caregiver’s schedule: Whether you still have someone coming into the home, it’s a new person, or if you’re providing the care yourself, you need to consider what the day-to-day looks like
- What things need to get done in the house?
- What time does the caregiver’s day start/end?:
- What “leisure” activities do they need to complete?
- What other people does the caregiver(s) need to consider in their schedule?
Consider the schedule of the person with dementia (PWD) pre-pandemic: Keep in mind that if it has been a few weeks since they’ve been on their pre-pandemic schedule, you probably can’t jump right back into that schedule.
- What time does the PWD’s day start/end?
- What time does the person eat breakfast?
- What time does the person eat lunch?
- What kind of activities did the do during the day?
- How much time was spent in transit?
- What did they do during transit?
Now, you’ll want to start asking yourself questions that pertain to likes/dislikes for the caregiver(s). For most, they will only consider the person with dementia. Something I learned as the director of a dementia neighborhood is that the activities I was best at, involved something I enjoyed, and my residents enjoyed it more. I am a terrible singer and I am embarrassed to sing. When I tried to do a sing-a-long with my residents, they did not enjoy themselves because I didn’t enjoy it. However, one of my activities was active in her church choir and enjoyed singing in front of groups. When she lead the sing-a-long, it was a great success!
Consider the caregiver’s favorite interests and activities: The caregiver(s) should enjoy the activities too. So let’s consider their preferences currently and throughout the time they’ve known the person with dementia.
- What kind of activities does the caregiver(s) enjoy in their own personal life?
- What kind of activities does the caregiver(s) enjoy doing with others?
- What kind of activities did the caregiver(s) enjoy doing with the person with dementia in different stages of their life?
- What kind of activities does the caregiver(s) enjoy doing with the person with dementia now?
Consider what activities the person with dementia enjoys: Sometimes a person with dementia’s reality and timeline matches ours. Other times, it doesn’t so we want to consider different stages of their life. You may need to go back a bit further than I suggest, or depending on the persons age, may not be able to go as far.
- What did the person with dementia enjoy doing in their 20-30s?
- What did the person with dementia enjoy doing in their 40s-50s?
- What did the person with dementia enjoy doing in their 50s-60s?
- What did the person with dementia enjoy doing in their 60s-70s?
- What did the person enjoy doing at their oldest age prior to dementia?
- What does the person with dementia enjoy doing now?
Physical, cognitive, and emotional abilities.
Now that you’ve taken some personal preferences into account, you’ll also want to make sure you are aware of physical, cognitive, and emotional abilities and any limitations. Again, we’re going to consider this both for the caregiver(s) and the person with dementia.
Consider the physical, cognitive, and emotional abilities of the caregiver(s): What are the strengths of the caregiver(s) physically, cognitively and emotionally? What are the limitations? Maybe they can only walk but can’t run. Or maybe they have a rotator cuff injury that limits arm mobility. Or, maybe they’re terrible at math but great with words and remembering names.
- Are there any physical limitations for the caregiver(s)?
- What is the caregiver(s) best at physically?
- Does the caregiver(s) have any cognitive activity limitations or dislikes?
- Does the caregiver(s) have any cognitive activity preferences or limitations?
- Are there any emotional limitations for the caregiver(s)?
- What is an example of an emotional strength for the caregiver(s)?
Consider the physical, cognitive, and emotional abilities of the person with dementia: In my experience, it is really easy to list cognitive “challenges” for a person with dementia. But, I always challenge my clients to focus on the positives or the strengths that still exist. I say “It’s OK to empty the cup first if that’s easier, but then you need to fill the cup back up.”
- Are there any physical limitations for the person with dementia?
- What are the physical strengths of the person with dementia?
- What symptoms does the person with dementia have that may create cognitive limitations?
- What are the cognitive strengths of the person with dementia?
- Are there any emotional challenges for the person with dementia?
- What emotional strengths does the person with dementia possess?
Now that you’ve answered some questions, you have started thinking practically and person-centered. Not just centered on the person with dementia, but also for the person who is carrying out the activities. Here are some additional things to consider.
- Try to keep the schedule consistent.
- Avoid over stimulating the person with dementia by taking time for rests.
- If there are activities that professionals were doing, can you replicate these virtually (ie: music therapy over the phone, an exercise program written by their trainer, etc.).
- Make household tasks into an activity.
- Create a safe environment by keeping toxic products away from the person with dementia when not supervised.
- If possible, replace toxic products with a non-toxic version.
- Pay attention to their attention span.
- You may only be able to do an activity 5 minutes at a time, but that doesn’t mean it failed.
- Be prepared to buy some products to execute these activities.
- Make daily grooming tasks an activity.
Since you’ve probably already generated a list of activity ideas from your Internet search, compare that list to the questions you’ve answered and see what still applies or what can be slightly tweaked to fit the criteria you’ve developed. If you still find yourself saying “I’m not cut out for this! I can’t figure out good ideas…” then you may need help from a dementia consultant. Trovato can help you develop a schedule, make a list of items to buy, and provide tips and instructions for implementing these activities for your loved one with dementia. Like most of our clients, you have a lot on your plate. Let us help! [email protected] or 443-510-1169.