Living with dementia is a challenge that’s faced not only by the patient, but also by the family, friends, and caregivers. The condition affects all aspects of life. Today, the World Health Organization estimates that around 50 million people around the world suffer from dementia, with nearly 10 million cases being diagnosed every year.
What Is Dementia?
This is the term that describes a range of impairments in human beings of a progressive and chronic nature in cognitive, memory, thinking, reasoning, orientation, calculation, comprehension, language, and judgment aspects, with an impact on emotional control, social behavior, and motivation.
It is the major cause of dependency and disability in older people, but affects people in different ways. The early stages are often overlooked. There are several forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s Disease, vascular dementia, Lewy bodies, fronto-temporal dementia, etc. and the barriers between these different forms are often blurred, with multiple forms being able to co-exist in a person.
There is currently no treatment or cure available for dementia, but it can be managed with support and improvement of the quality of life for patients and caregivers. However, it takes a huge toll on not just the immediate circle of the patient, but also in terms of medical, economic, and social costs in general. Families and caregivers experience enormous stress financially, physically, and psychologically, leading to a strain on the healthcare, financial, and legal sectors.
Living With Dementia
A diagnosis of dementia can have a tremendous impact on the patient, and they may experience depression and stress, leading to self-imposed social withdrawal and isolation. This, in turn, affects memory, personal relationships, and the quality of life. That’s why it’s important to stay involved and engaged with persons with dementia as it helps to maintain physical and mental well-being. They need a structured, safe and comfortable environment to help them retain cognitive functions for as long as possible, give them a sense of security, and help them feel calmer and less anxious/stressed/aggressive, etc. A daily routine with fixed hours of stimulating activities and social interaction, use of technology and communication devices, physical exercise, and the right diet can help people with dementia cope with the condition.
Six Great Activities That Provide Benefits
Activities aim to stimulate, activate, and engage the person with dementia, ensure that they remain in a positive frame of mind, and prevent them from slipping into depressive or anxious states. These activities should be focused on fostering emotional connections with people, enhancing self-expression, reducing anxiety, stimulating memory, encouraging the patient to stay focused on maintaining a normal daily routine and improving their quality of life.
1. Brain Stimulating and Training Games: Doing crossword puzzles and Sudoku together with the patient helps to forge connections and also increase brain activity. Simple board games such as Snakes and Ladders, Ludo, etc., are helpful because they don’t create undue anxiety or challenge the reasoning power. If the patient enjoys Scrabble or other word games, they can continue provided it is in a non-competitive way. Online resources are available where brain training games in which face and name recognition, memory and reaction timing, etc. can be enhanced.
2. Exercise and Physical Activities: Incorporate a fixed routine for physical activity and exercise. You can set a special time for walking around the neighborhood or in the local park, where you can spend a quiet hour together with the patient, and also meet friends or neighbors and exchange pleasantries with them. If physical fitness is not an issue; tandem biking, water sports, swimming, water-aerobics, hiking, and fishing are great physical activities to participate in. Tai Chi, Yoga, dancing, etc. can be practiced at fixed times to give better sleep, regulate the emotions, and prevent restlessness and anxiety.
3. Cooking: Create a bank of simple recipes that the person enjoyed. Include some of their favorite foods, desserts, and snacks. The step by step following of the recipe, organizing the ingredients, measurements, and a systematic process of cooking and baking provides a soothing sense of structure and security. The final sense of achievement and the satisfaction of eating something that you have personally prepared help dementia patients to feel confident, motivated, and stimulated. Ensure that the activity is conducted in a safe, clean, and familiar environment. Based on the stage of dementia, some patients may prefer to simply watch as someone else cooks. They can be given simple tasks such as handing the ingredients to the cook, setting the table, etc.
4. Pet Therapy: Pets are known to provide a non-demanding, gentle experience for dementia patients who are animal lovers. They help relieve stress, depression, and anxiety, lower blood pressure and cortisol, and increase the production of the “feel good” hormone, serotonin. If you don’t have a pet yourself, you can accompany the patient on a visit to a friend/relative who has a quiet and well-behaved pet or to an animal shelter. Many organizations provide Pet Therapy trained pets for persons with disabilities, and your local vet can give you information about this.
5. Bingo: is the staple of nursing homes, care home and senior living communities, and it certainly has its advantages. It is suitable for people of all ages, and there is no competitiveness or skill involved. You can try different types of Bingo, such as shape or color Bingo, instead of the conventional number type. Make it fun with family members and friends over for a Bingo night and give out small prizes to make it more interesting. Such activities help dementia patients to feel part of a group.
6. Dolls and Building Blocks: Surprisingly, persons with dementia can enjoy playing with dolls. This play helps to express emotions and feelings that they may be unable to vocalize or verbalize. Constructing structures from simple building blocks help to enhance spatial awareness and creativity. Keep the activity time fixed and unstructured, and ensure that you provide a non-judgmental ambiance, where What, Why, How, When, Where questions are not asked.
We can Help! Our local advisors can help your family make a confident decision about senior living.