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Living Well with Dementia: Activities for the Elderly

Article by Daniel Westhead Daniel Westhead Sure Safe Alarms

Staying active and engaged with loved ones is essential for living well when you’re elderly. That’s even more true for older people with dementia, who may find they can’t always do the same activities they’re used to.

However, there are many great activities and games for patients with dementia that provide mental stimulation, enjoyment, and bonding time with family. In this article, we’ll explore some activities for the elderly with dementia and some tips for success too.

Tips for quality time with an elderly loved one with dementia

Before you start taking part in activities for the elderly with dementia, make sure to prepare your space well. Depending on your activity and the progression of dementia in the elderly loved one who’s with you, you may need to:

  • Clear the floor of obstacles to avoid trip hazards, and clear tables or countertops so that only the things you need are in front of you.
  • Make sure that the colours of any objects you are using contrast clearly with their surroundings. For example, plates should be clearly different in colour from a table or countertop.
  • Think ahead to imagine what confusion might occur so that you can prevent it. For example, would your loved one see a glass of water to rinse paintbrushes and think it’s a water glass for drinking?
  • Make sure that the temperature is comfortable and remain alert to temperature, since your loved one may not notice or be able to communicate that they are overheating during activity, for example.
  • Ensure your loved one has access to water and remind them to drink, since dementia patients can often become dehydrated.
  • Consider the type of dementia your loved one has been diagnosed with and what they may need based on their specific condition.

Be sure to check with your loved one’s doctor before doing physical activity, and keep any other medical needs in mind, such as low blood sugar for a diabetic person.

Also, keep in mind that people with dementia may have a shorter attention span. If your elderly loved one enjoys taking part in activities or games for patients with dementia for a short while and then loses interest, that’s normal. Just go with the flow and don’t try to push them into continuing.

Most importantly, remember that when you’re having fun with an elderly person who has dementia, activities are about enjoying your time together rather than the end result. Don’t rush or worry that the end product isn’t good. If your elderly loved one is having fun, then your time is well spent, even if you don’t ever finish your project or game.

Now that you’re ready, read on to explore some entertaining activities and games for patients with dementia.

Music and singing activities

Studies have shown that singing and remembering music uses a different part of the brain than many other activities affected by dementia, such as talking. So even if an elderly person has severe dementia, activities involving music may still be enjoyable to them.

If your elderly loved one enjoyed movie musicals, try having a sing-along night where you watch their favourite classic musical and sing along at home with the family. If your elderly loved one played an instrument, give them the opportunity to play. Or if you’re doing chores around the home, try singing while you work and invite your loved one to sing along.

You could also try a Singing for the Brain group, which allows people with dementia to sing together. Or play a game with the family where someone sings the first half of a well-known lyric, and others are challenged to sing the other half.

Sensory time outdoors

For elderly people with dementia, activities that appeal to many senses are great. So if you have access to parks or outdoor green spaces, walking outside is often beneficial because elderly loved ones can enjoy not only the sights of outdoors, but also the scent of flowers and the sound of birdsong.

If you have a garden, why not plant some scented plants like lavender that you can pick a sprig of for your elderly loved one to enjoy? Or consider a birdfeeder that will attract birds that make pleasant sounds.

Alternatively, if you’re walking with an elderly loved one through a familiar neighbourhood, you can also try asking them for stories about places they remember as you pass by.

If a senior is in the early stages of dementia and still enjoys being out and about, a personal alarm with GPS tracking is a great way to ensure peace of mind for everyone. That way, an older person with dementia is protected against becoming lost, and family can request their location with a simple text message.

Art and creativity

Elderly people with dementia may start to find that they can’t communicate with words or explain their thoughts as well as they used to, and this can be frustrating. Artistic activities for the elderly with dementia allow them to express themselves without words, which is a great alternative.

Acrylic paints are a great option for allowing your elderly loved one to express themselves artistically, and you can buy large size brushes that are easier for elderly people to hold. If your elderly loved one isn’t sure what to paint, you could print off a still image from a favourite TV programme or movie for them to copy. Some people also enjoy paint by numbers kits for adults. Alternatively, take a look for art and craft lessons for seniors in your area.

And if your elderly loved one already knows how to knit, crochet or do another craft, ask them to teach you or spend time doing this with you.

Cooking

For older people with dementia, activities like cooking can be a pleasantly familiar activity that gives them a sense of normalcy and usefulness.

Depending on progression of your loved one’s dementia, you may want to do some preparation ahead of time. For example, you could complete difficult or more dangerous tasks like chopping before bringing your loved one to join you, while supervising your loved one to do safer tasks like weighing and measuring, shelling peas or stirring. Of course, you’ll want to keep an eye on heating elements to ensure your elderly loved one doesn’t touch something hot by accident.

Cupcake or biscuit icing can be a great and safer way to cook and explore creativity. Remember, as with all dementia activities, that it doesn’t matter whether the end result looks good. What’s important is that your elderly loved one enjoyed your time together.

Games and puzzles

There are many fantastic games for senior patients with dementia. The key here is to ensure you are choosing a game that your loved one enjoys and that fits their current abilities.

For people in earlier stages of dementia, many familiar games like Scrabble or Sudoku can be fun. There are free crossword builders online, so you can also create your own crosswords for an elderly loved one based on family memories or stories that they’ve shared with you.

It’s true that many elderly people also enjoy bingo, which can be done in a local group or at home with the family.

For older patients in middle stages of dementia, card games like Uno or Apples to Apples can be enjoyable as these have bright colours and don’t rely so heavily on reading or mathematics. You can also buy Uno and many other games in large print sizes, which are easier to read.

Draughts and dominoes are two more games that your loved one may already be familiar with and that don’t rely on words at all.

The iPad also has many games for patients with dementia or games that may be enjoyable for elderly people, such as word searches. However, some elderly people with dementia find this kind of technology confusing, while others enjoy it.

Partner with SureSafe to protect your loved one with dementia

When your elderly loved one has dementia, activities and games can really help to stimulate their mind and let you enjoy your time with them to the utmost.

And for when you’re not close by, a personal alarm is a great solution to keep your elderly loved one with dementia safe and as mobile as possible. A fall alarm for the elderly detects a fall without any input needed from the wearer, so help will always be on the way whenever a fall happens, day or night. A family and friends alarm also includes many features to help you keep aware of an elderly loved one’s wellbeing, including welfare checks, wake up checks, temperature checks and medication reminders.

With 4.8 out of 5 stars on review.io, SureSafe is a leading provider of personal alarms in the UK, and our team of experts is ready to help with any questions you might have. Give us a call 0800 112 3201 and we’ll be happy to chat. Alternatively, you can speak with us via live chat or request a call back.

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