Ways to Help Those With Dementia
The growing epidemic of Alzheimer’s – and other forms of dementia – means that more and more families are having to face caring for a family member.
As the world’s population ages, a dementia crisis looms large. The syndrome, for which there is currently no cure, affects some 50 million people globally. That figure is projected to triple by 2050.
Dementia affects memory, thinking, orientation and comprehension while deteriorating a patient’s ability to perform everyday activities. Its most common form is Alzheimer’s disease.
In new recommendations, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in the UK, has come out with ideas.
Professor Gillian Long (Director of Health & Social Care at NICE) says that people with dementia can find it harder to take part in activities; to engage socially; to maintain their independence, to communicate effectively, to feel in control; and to care for themselves.
She goes on to say: “Understanding the activities that a person prefers, and thinks are suitable and helpful while adapting them to their strengths and needs, will make a person more likely to engage with the activities offered and therefore more likely to benefit from them.”
There are many activities that can help people with dementia live better, triggering precious memories and helping reconnect them with their communities.
Here are some suggestions on how to help:
This will involve a gentle touch (using a couple of drops of essential oil with a carrier oil) that can be both engaging and calming.
Stroking a pet
Spending time with animals is another activity those with dementia usually enjoy, helping to lift the spirit.
Joining a choir or just having a family sing song session
There is growing evidence that music can play a part in helping people with dementia live happy and fulfilled lives after they are diagnosed. To help investigate this idea, a British actress, Vicky McClure, organized a choir (for dementia sufferers) to take part in a study run by Sebastian Crutch, a professor of neuropsychology at the Dementia Research Centre, University College London, into how music and visual arts affect people with dementia. A series of documentaries on the choir featured on BBC television.
Listening to music
Listening to, and enjoying music, is a universal experience with many benefits for those with dementia, helping to reduce anxiety and depression, to maintain speech and language and to enhance the persons’s quality of life.
Art classes and other creative activities.
As well as drawing and painting in an art class, these activities can include knitting, working with clay or doing a collage. Art therapy is an activity that has been proven to successfully engage adults with dementia.
Watching old family videos
These can bring back happy memories, enabling those with dementia to connect with faces and places that are familiar.
Looking at books
Looking at books together, especially ones that have been enjoyed in earlier years, are another way to revisit old memories.
Activity box or making a scrapbook.
Many memory care programs utilize activity boxes. They are created with the senior’s specific interests in mind. For example, it might be a box with a set of tools that the person might have used during their working life. Another suggestion is to make a scrapbook by sorting through old photos and other items and then using them to create a series of memories.
Bake or cook simple recipes together
Most of us love the smell of cookies baking in the oven and there is no reason why that same smell cannot bring back memories for those struggling with dementia. As well as the aromatherapy value, this activity can be an important opportunity to reminisce about baking or cooking favorite family treats.
Cleaning tasks around the house
There are lots of simple ways to work together or even for them to work on their own with a bit of supervision. Suggestions include sweeping floors, wiping the table, folding towels or linen and more, helping the person have a sense of accomplishment, feeling successful and productive.
Helping with gardening
Gardening is a healthy pastime whoever you are and having dementia should be no barrier. Whether pottering around in a garden or outdoors in the fresh air, communing with nature is a mood elevator. Your local park may even have a handicapped accessible trail for those who might need to use a wheelchair or walker.
This is the exercise bicycle attached to a flat screen TV. While the dementia patient pedals, the screen can flash up places of interest from his or her past, transporting them back into their past. This simple piece of technology known as Motiview, has been shown to have a positive effect on elderly users’ mental well being – not to mention the obvious physical benefits.
Created by engineers in Norway, it allows elderly people to go on virtual cycling trips around the world from the comfort of their home. Users can choose to cycle through places that truly mean something to them – their hometown, the location of a past holiday, or somewhere special to them and their partner.
The significance of this to someone battling dementia cannot be overstated.
“For people with dementia, the bikes have been amazing. As they sit and pedal, they can visit lots of different countries– where they were born, or somewhere they might have gone to as a child.”