Finding activities for your loved one with dementia can sometimes be a challenge. Often times, the behaviors that go along with this disease make things more difficult. They can be agitated, confused, depressed or at times show aggression. Finding activities that they can engage in and help them to stay calm are important.
My good friend who unfortunately knows this disease all too well took care of her mother. Her mother had early onset dementia with signs of the disease as early as 43. She cared for her for many years, until the middle-to-late stages of her disease when she moved her to a loving home, where they were better equipped to help her. When speaking with her over the years, and most recently about activities that she found were helpful for her mother, she was more than happy to share some of her mother’s favorites. She did preface her suggestions by saying that
“Everyone is different. What worked for my mom might not work for others, but to always remember to find things that won’t cause more frustration, and where they can feel success or that will help fight boredom while doing the activity.”
She also suggested that in the early stages, try to make sure the activities don’t seem too juvenile.
Here are five of her mother’s favorite activities that she thought others might enjoy too…
1. Create a memory box
She got a large sturdy cardboard box with a lid at a craft store. She brought in lots of pictures of family members and little trinkets that were around her home, and old magazines. She worked with her mom to cover the box with pictures and cut words from magazines that meant something to her mom. Then they used hodge-podge glue (you can purchase this from a craft store) to secure all the pictures in place. In the box, she helped her mom find things that were meaningful to her. Old pictures, a small stuffed animal, a charm bracelet, and old Valentine cards from her husband, were some of the things that her mother had in her box. She said her mother rummaged through her memory box often. She added more things as time went on, and loved ones would add cards or pictures too.
2. Fidget placemats
You will need a cloth placemats for this activity. She sewed several things to the placemat that helped keep her mom from getting too bored, and she also found they calmed her when she was feeling very agitated. On the placemat she made for her mom, she sewed three long strands of thick yarn to the placemat. Her mom always enjoyed braiding hair, so she used the yarn to braid. She also sewed another strand of yarn to the other side and a little pocket. In the pocket, she put some loose beads. Her mom liked threading the beads onto the yarn making different patterns. She sewed another pocket in the middle to hold some big buttons, and she made a few buttonholes on the placemat for her mom to place the buttons through. She said that Pinterest had several examples of these placemats and that an apron works well too.
3. Audiobooks or music
Her mother loved to read, but as the disease progressed she was not able to continue her love of reading. So, she got her several audiobooks, that she could listen to, and she would often listen to her favorites several times. She also suggested making a playlist of music with their favorite songs. Music is a wonderful way to engage and to possibly spark a memory from their past.
4. Family picture puzzles
For this activity, she laminated several family pictures. She said 8×10 size worked the best. She made little cloth bags to store each of the puzzles in and glued a smaller version of the picture to the front of the bag. Then, she cut each picture into 6 to 10 pieces that her mom could put back together. She said this activity usually led to memories of the pictures and some fond conversations about those events.
5. Scheduled pet visits
Her mom was an animal lover. One thing that she loved most was getting visits from pets. Many people in her community loved her mother, and knew of her love of animals, so she started having “pet days”, and she would schedule friends and neighbors to bring over their furry friends for a visit. She said it brought so much joy to her mom. She even said that they had a good friend load up their horse once a month to come over so that her mom could feed it some apples. A lot of her favorite pet owners gave her mom pictures of her loving on their pets for her memory box, and she loved going through the pictures and sharing them with others.
If you are going through this journey with a loved one, hopefully, these activities will help you.
Always remember you are not alone. We would love to help you and we have many loving caregivers whose hearts were made to serve. You can learn more about Seasons at www.meetseasons.com or stop in for a tour.