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'
4. Sensory stimulation activities could include the
- Making lap quilts
- Talking books
- Scrap books
- Flower arranging
- Tutoring, or visiting with children
- Happy hour with non-alcoholic drinks
- Ice cream party
- Brushing & fixing a resident’s hair
- Ladies luncheons
- Building with wood (include sanding)
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 much