Seniors with dementia still retain and maintain a level of concentration which helps them to perform basic daily activities such as carrying out routine tasks, comprehending questions and interacting in conversations and activities. Activities if executed well, offer them a sense of responsibility and independence. These group tasks also arouse enthusiasm and a sense of achievement, especially when they feel they have been successful at a task.
This characteristic is predominantly displayed, while participating in group activities. More alert seniors feel purposeful, when requested to help and support other seniors who are facing difficulties performing a task. Much like a class monitor who has been appointed the task of keeping the class under control through fun activities.
Fun Activities for Seniors with Dementia
The first thing you need to realize is that people with dementia are not physically disabled. They are mentally slower but they are not ill. Which means that they feel everything around them and perhaps a lot more. We need to treat them with respect and compassion, and that is the first step towards helping them.
#1 - Help Them Enjoy Their Work
Almost all seniors with some type of dementia or the other enjoy doing activities related or similar to what they have always enjoyed and taken pleasure doing. For instance if someone always enjoyed cooking, the best thing to do is to let them do small chores in the kitchen. These activities could include small jobs such as tossing the salad, washing the vegetables, wiping the spoons, asking them if the food tastes perfect or if there are any more ingredients needed.
This would absolutely thrill them, as they would feel they are contributing to something and are being helpful. If suppose a senior always enjoyed politics, ask him to recite the daily political affairs in the state or country to the other seniors or family members.
All family members must pay adequate attention while the seniors are saying something. Like children they tend to feel hurt and feel ignored if left unattended. Praise them for their efforts by saying things like,
"That was very good Adam, I really enjoyed today's news. I want to hear the news tomorrow as well please!"
I love what you have painted John, it is really beautiful."
If you read between the lines, you would realize that the entire objective it to help them stay alert, and keep them motivated. Help them feel good about themselves.
#2 - Reminiscence
Let them flip through old family photographs and ask them to tell more about those experiences and what all they remember doing there. Do not force them though. If they want to discuss it they will, otherwise some just prefer sitting in silence while they absorb the significance of the photos from their own past.
This can also be a fun activity when a group of seniors are sitting together and one person discusses sad and funny stories from their past. It helps keep the memory sharp, especially while remembering faces and people related to them.
#3 - Music Therapy
When in solitude, put on their favorite music for them. Soothing music has proven to help calm down aggressive traits among seniors with dementia. It also helps reduce their fears of being harmed or abandoned. If it's a peppy track, encourage them to dance, if they enjoy dancing.
#4 - Animal Therapy
Having a loyal pet like a dog can prove a blessing for seniors with dementia, the reason being that dogs make loyal companions. Dogs also have this peculiar knack of sensing distress in their master, therefore it has been observed that the dog will encourage physical activity in his master. Many seniors go out for long walks with their dogs, which provides crucial mental as well as physical exercise to them, which is essential for their overall well-being.
If you cannot afford to have a pet for each individual, it would be nice to take the elderly patients, out for a visit to the zoo, and let them enjoy watching and speaking to the animals. Animals help calm these individuals. However, please keep them away from animals that induce fear and might scare them. These include snakes, other reptiles, octopus and large spiders etc.
#5 - Memory Games
Make them play kid games such as Crazy Eights, Chutes & Ladder, Monopoly, Carom Board, Old Maid, and Candyland, etc. They seem to be really indulgent and interactive while playing these games with one another. You need not have a large group; instead playing individually with them also works effectively.
Play games that involve catching a balloon and then passing it forward by pushing it in the air. Ask them the meaning of quotations, such as "To be or not to be", ask them what does that statement mean to them and where did it originate. You'd be surprised how smart they really are and how much they still remember. Ask them logical questions such as, "The opposite of North is South', now ask them which city is in the north of the place they are living in, and which places fall to the south of their place.
#6 - Odd One Out
This game can be one of the most interesting as well as educational activities for senior citizens. The odd one out, can help keep them busy for hours if they really enjoy it. The worst thing that most seniors with dementia fear is, not having anything to do. It makes them feel lost and useless. It is our duty to not let them feel that way.
Make them play a game where they have to separate all the similar things in one side and make categories of all the odd things. For example give them a box of coins, pebbles, candies, M&Ms, bottle lids. Now demonstrate how to play the game. All the coins go into one heap, while all the candies go to the heap consisting of candies alone, and so on and so forth. Make children join in with this fun, ask grandchildren to help sort out the heap with their grandparents.
All it takes is a little bit of effort and a lot of patience to help these seniors gain more control over their lives. Providing care for these individuals can be tough, but you have to stay calm and realize that they need your help more than they can express in words.