It is universally recognized that
elderly people with dementia lose their short term memory first and
their long term memory last. For example, they often remember people and
events from their earlier years, but have difficulty remembering what
they ate for breakfast the day before.
A while back, a family member asked
me "what do you do with someone who can no longer carry on a normal
conversation?" The short answer is "Relax and have fun." The long answer
would require writing a whole book. A short summary of some activities
include the following:
1. Reminisce! Everything you do
together lends itself to reminiscing. If the person can still speak
fairly well, say, “Tell me about...” If his vocabulary is more limited,
you may have to facilitate the story.
“Do you remember when...” As you bake cookies together you can talk
about residents' favorite cookies, meals, etc.
2. Read aloud and use visual aids such
as memory poems, family pictures, or stories about "the days gone by"
stimulate reminiscences. Ideas include Chicken Soup for the Soul series
and Yesterdays by NaDezan, and other short stories
3. Make music.
Sing, hum, whistle, dance. Singing brings oxygen to the brain to help
you think more clearly. Dancing exercises other parts of the body. Both
increase your own sense of well-being as well as the well-being of the
residents! Have music activities and entertainers visit. Choose the
residents' favorite cassettes.
4. Sensory stimulation activities
could include the following:
Making lap quilts.
Tutoring, or visiting with children.
Happy hour with non-alcoholic
Ice cream party.
Brushing & fixing a resident’s hair.
Building with wood (include
Although these activities are written
for residents of a retirement community or a nursing home, they
certainly could be utilized for private use as well.
Keeping the mind and body active are important for everyone, but
especially your loved one with dementia.
Do something that is enjoyable for both of you, and it makes it that
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