Essential Activities for Dementia

Activities for dementia can make much more of a difference than you think. Human beings are actually human "do-ers". But what happens when an aging parent with dementia is no longer able to independently initiate purposeful activities?

Learn what our Guest Expert, Monica Heltemes can tell you about the importance of activities for dementia.


How to Keep the Person with Dementia Active

We know caregivers are busy. How many things do you have to do today? Probably more than you can count on your fingers - don't lose your balance trying to count on your toes, too!

I want you to think about all the information that must come in to your brain, be processed, and then be put out to make a meaningful and appropriate response or decision for all those things you need to do. Estimates are that 45 thoughts, on average, go through our mind every minute. The good news is that despite the busyness of your mind and day, you have the ability to process these thoughts and DO things.

For persons with dementia symptoms, such as memory loss and decreased planning and problem solving, their thoughts are short-circuited by the damage to their brain. They have difficulty or are unable to bring information in correctly, store and process it, and then respond to achieve the desirable outcome. Therefore, to avoid potential frustration or fear of failing, they may become less active.


Activities for Dementia are Vital

Inactivity for the person with dementia, can have undesired consequences such as boredom, which can lead to restlessness or agitation, and excess disability - or disability beyond what can be attributed to the disease. This can lead to a faster decline.Keeping the person with dementia active provides the cognitive stimulation and engagement needed to maintain daily mood and overall quality of life. It can prevent excess disability by tapping into what the person CAN DO and allowing opportunities to use those abilities.

This is where the challenge comes in for caregivers. Caregivers are usually required to get the person with dementia started on doing something and may be needed throughout the task. Often, caregivers do not know how to choose dementia activities. Some tips include:

  • Refer to the person's past interests, roles (i.e. mother), and occupations for activities that the person will be more likely to connect with.

  • Choose activities appropriate to their stage/level of dementia. This may take some trial and error.

  • Follow the 3 R's

    * Routine - Try to keep a similar day to day schedule. Try to incorporate different types of activity, such as something social (eat together), something physical (take a walk), and something sensory (enjoy ice cream or a favorite music CD).

    * Reduce - To simplify an activity (i.e. set the table), reduce the number of steps (set out only the forks), reduce the words used in directing ("Put these forks by the plates."), and reduce the abstractness of the task (have the plates already on the table, as a cue to where the silverware will go).

    * Reassure - Persons with dementia can benefit from being asked, "Will you help me with this?" to start an activity and from a lot of "You are doing a good job!" during the activity.

    A great gift we can give to the person battling memory loss is the opportunity for them to keep "doing things". This is the essence of being for all people. I hope these tips help you to provide opportunities for activity to the person you know with dementia.







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