Many people assume that those with dementia cannot take part in activities and exercises because of their limited cognitive capacity. However, this is not true. There is a wide range of activities for people with dementia that they can enjoy.
Studies have found that moderate levels of activity and exercise, if chosen carefully, can be quite beneficial. They support a sense of self-worth and socialization opportunities, as well as maintaining good physical health and, many times, slowing the onset of dementia. In addition, activity and exercise can provide a great way for family caregivers to connect with their elderly parents.
Approaches to Take with Demented People
- Keep the activity simple. Demented people can not process complex tasks very well, so the goal is to simplify things as much as possible. If a task seems too complex, break it down into easily understood parts. For example, if a demented parent is helping with dinner, have her set the table or one other task. Don’t try to have her help with the entire dinner preparation. This will create confusion and frustration.
- Remain calm and reassuring. Demented people can sense frustration and anger in others and may act out with frustration of their own. This includes tone of voice, body language, and other signals. An occasional hug or similar action can be reassuring to the demented person.
- Repeat the activity if necessary. Repetition creates familiarity, which improves the chances for success. It is unnecessary to “push the envelope” too much when introducing extra activities and exercises. Take one task and have the demented person repeat it until she shows the ability to perform it. Then, move on to another activity if appropriate.
- Plan activities and encourage the demented person’s involvement. Spontaneity does not work well with someone with dementia. Plan the activity or exercise carefully and involve her in the decision making. No one wants to feel forced to do something and demented people are no different.
Examples of Productive Activities for People with Dementia
- Complete basic chores around the home. Simple tasks, such as dusting, floor moping, and picking-up clutter, are things a demented person may remember. These are activities most people do, so there is already familiarity. Remember to take your time with chores. We are accustomed to completing chores in a hurry. However, people with dementia will become confused if hurried, which negates any benefit of the activity.
- Perform arts and crafts, music, and provide audio tapes of interesting articles or books. Arts and crafts can provide a sense of success as long as they are simple and you provide plenty of encouragement. Remember that the outcome is less important than the experience of doing the activity. Most people love music and it can be an important socializing activity. Demented people cannot retain the written word well, but may benefit from audio tapes if you are there to guide her.
- Consider food preparation. This activity, like chores, will bring back memories and be something most demented people are familiar with. Just keep the activity safe and simple to ensure success.
- Cognitive activities can be very beneficial. Reminiscing about the past can be stimulating for demented people. Create a scrapbook of old pictures and other items and then talk about each one included. Other cognitive activities, such as simple word games, can also be successful.
Demented people, while limited in their capabilities, can still enjoy activity and exercise. It is just important to identify the optimal ones they can perform effectively and enjoy. Click here to learn more from the Alzheimer’s Association about fun activities that are a good match for demented people.
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