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Activities For People With Dementia
By Jennifer Buckley

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
  • Painting
  • Talking books
  • Scrap books
  • Walking!
  • Flower arranging
  • Tutoring, or visiting with children
  • Baking
  • Happy hour with non-alcoholic drinks
  • Ice cream party
  • Brushing & fixing a resident’s hair
  • Manicures
  • 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 easier.


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