Archive for Activities for Severe Dementia

9 Reasons Why Meaningful Activities Are Important in Dementia

Individuals with dementia benefit from engaging in activities for many reasons. Meaningful activities address the social and psychological needs of the individual by tapping into their sense of personhood and allowing them to feel included and needed. Activities also help to keep behavioral concerns at bay, improve quality of life, and may even make caregiving tasks go easier. It is important that the activity be a good fit for the person based on their progression of the disease, remaining strengths, and personal interests.

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Courtesy of verywell.com, here are 9 additional reasons why meaningful activities are so important!

  1. Mental Stimulation: Activities that challenge and engage your brain are beneficial in maintaining cognitive functions and may even slow down the progression of the disease.
  1. Physical Activity: Activities that involve physical activity improve and maintain overall function of the body’s mobility, can increase strength, and have positive effects on the brain.
  1. Social Interaction: When individuals engage in socialization they are more likely to have better overall mental and social health.
  1. Improvement in Sleep Habits: Engagement in activities throughout the day keeps your loved one engaged and less likely to fall asleep during the day.  Reduced napping during the day will lead to better sleep habits at night time.
  1. Improvement in Self-Esteem: Individuals with memory loss may struggle to cope with their declining abilities. When they are engaged in activities in which they can be successful, it is a boost to their self-esteem.
  1. A Change in Behavior Challenges: When individuals with dementia are engaged in activities of interest, behavioral challenges tend to diminish.
  1. Decrease Depression and Anxiety: Engaging individuals with dementia in meaningful, engaging activities has been shown to decrease the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  1. Caregivers Benefit: Meaningful activities bring happiness and joy to your loved one with dementia, which by itself is a benefit to caregivers.  Caregivers have the opportunity to have more positive interactions with their loved ones.
  1. Overall Health: Overall, meaningful activities can keep your love one with dementia engaged and their minds stimulated.

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Play with a Pet

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You probably know that pet therapy is an emerging area of research and application in care of people with dementia. While therapy dogs have special training and certification, any well-behaved dog cat, or rabbit can potentially bring a little joy and a lot benefits to a person with memory loss. While companionship is an obvious benefit, pets may also help with agitation, depression, and anxiety. It’s not uncommon to watch someone transition from emotionless to animated or from agitated to calm when a pet enters the room, especially if it triggers pleasant memories. However, keep in mind that the opposite reaction is possible as well!

Of course, to some caregivers, the idea of adding another thing to care for, no matter how cute and cuddly, sounds pretty overwhelming, so don’t feel as if you have to adopt a pet to get the benefits. Even having a friend bring a well-behaved pet for a visit is a great option. Of course, it’s important to be mindful of the pet’s temperament and energy level. In general, too much jumping and/or excessive barking may do more harm than good. Also, be sure that the animal is a good “match” for the person with memory loss. A 90 pound woman who’s unsteady on her feet probably shouldn’t walk an excitable St. Bernard; someone with thin skin and on Coumadin might want to stay away from a cat with sharp claws; someone who throws things when angry should probably be supervised around a small yorkie…you get the idea. Of course, animals are unpredictable, as can be people with dementia, so supervision if probably wise, especially in the beginning while everyone is getting to know each other.

Other tips for success:
1. People in the later stages of the disease may respond better to animals that remind them of animals that remind them of former pets. But be warned: they might not like having to leave the “family dog” behind when they leave!
2. People love to feed animals, so be sure to have appropriate treats available for the person with dementia to feed the pet or you might find that they get a lot of people food!
3. Even those in the late stages of the disease can enjoy petting a soft dog, cat, rabbit, gerbil, etc. Even just hearing a cat purr across the room can be soothing, so don’t feel like the animal has to be right next to the person to have a positive effect.
4. Don’t forget to reminisce!

More information about pet therapy can be found at:
http://www.everydayhealth.com/alzheimers/how-animal-therapy-helps-dementia-patients.aspx

http://www.alzheimersproject.org/About-Us/News-Photos-and-Calendar/Latest-News/Pets-and-Dementia

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Register with Alzheimer’s Association TrialMatch

Clinical trials are essential to advancing Alzheimer’s disease research at a time when Alzheimer’s is reaching epidemic proportions. Through clinical studies conducted over the last 20 years, scientists have made tremendous strides in understanding how Alzheimer’s affects the brain. It is only through clinical studies that we will develop and test promising new strategies for treatment, prevention, diagnosis, and ultimately, a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

To learn more about how to participate in clinical trial, watch the video below about TrialMatch (a free, clinical-trial matching service).

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Make Your Own Holiday Presents – Gifts in a Jar

 

red presents

I seriously cannot be the only person who has not done their holiday shopping yet…right? Well, if you’ve procrastinated like me, or if you have a few people still remaining on your gift list, consider an easy, do-it-yourself present that your person with dementia may enjoying helping you with. In searching the internet, I encountered dozens of potential ideas for this post, from diy christmas ornaments, to cookie recipes, to personalized coffee mugs and more. If you are reading this and not already familiar with Pinterest, let me just say….I LOVE Pinterest! I’m actually what you would call pin-sessed. Not only is Pining a fun (and addicting) past time, but there are a plethora of activity and recipe ideas which you and your person with Alzheimer’s may enjoy trying. Just saying!

So after doing my research, I finally settled on a “gifts in a jar” theme. These really appealed to me because of their versatility (did you know you can make so many different gifts in a jar??) and their easy execution. Chances are, you probably have many of the things needed for this activity already in your home.

In the example below, this diy gift in a jar contains a “fudgy brownie mix”. Honestly, who wouldn’t want to receive that as a present? Your person with dementia can assist in this activity by dumping in the different layers of ingredients, one at a time. This will probably be easiest if you offer guidance and supervision throughout the process. For instance, you could pre-measure the quantity of flour needed for the bottom, position a funnel over the mouth of the jar, then assist your person in pouring the flour in through the funnel. It may work best to repeat the process of pre-measuring, funnel, and guided assistance with the remaining layers. Of course, the amount of hands on supervision you provide will vary depending on what stage of the disease your person in living with. Your person may also enjoy nibbling on the chocolate chips (which are added to the jar last), or reminiscing about pleasant memories involving food and baking. Many older adults experience a great deal of fulfillment from sharing their stories with others, and it is important to offer opportunities which encourage this.

Homemade-Fudgy-Brownie-Mix-in-a-Jar

Below I’ve included the ingredient list for this gift in a jar, as well as recipe instructions for the recipient of this gift. For more details, please visit the SixFiguresUnder official website. Happy Holidays everyone! 🙂

Homemade Fudgy Brownie Mix

  • 1 cup + 2 tbs flour
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  •  1/3 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Instructions for Using Homemade Brownie Mix

Mix contents of the jar with:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2/3 cup oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Pour into a greased 9″ square pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until an inserted knife comes out clean.

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Play with Gak or Silly Putty

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This blog is no stranger to sensory-based activities. And why not? As dementia progresses, sensory stimulation is a prime way to foster meaningful connection, particularly as language ability fades. So here goes, another fun-filled sensory activity sure to tap into your creative side!

Does anyone remember playing with Gak or Silly Putty as a kid? And by ‘play’ I mean stretch, goosh and mush, and use the silly putty to lift the newsprint off of newspaper or comics. These can be great choices of activities because there is no right or wrong way to perform, and there is no established beginning or end point. In many ways, it really is fail-proof. However, always ensure safety and be cautious that your person does not try to ingest the putty/gak.

Gak and putty can be purchased at many toy retailers. Also, the web is chock full of DIY gak and putty recipes (usually with as little as 4 ingredients). Another plus, if you make your own, you can experiment with different colors.

Take, for instance, this homemade gak recipe accessed from livingwellmom.com, which takes less than 5 minutes to make and requires only school glue, water, Borax (can be found in the Laundry aisle) and food coloring (optional).

Happy gak-ing everybody! 😉

 

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Brush or Stroke Hair

As caregivers, it is important for us to identify passive activities, as well as action-oriented ones, in which to engage our loved ones. Especially as the disease progresses further and the person’s abilities diminish, passive involvement may become more appropriate. Another plus: passive activities are extremely versatile — virtually anyone at any stage of dementia can find pleasure in them.

brush or stroke hair

Have you ever had someone brush or stroke your hair? It’s enjoyable for a lot of us (just look at the smile on that baby!). Brushing or playing with your loved one’s hair is an excellent way to foster meaningful connection, especially if language is no longer accessible. In the absence of words, we can communicate love, care, and reassurance through our touch. Older adults in particular may benefit from this type of interaction as many are touch deprived.

At your next opportunity, try this out with your person with dementia. You could simply touch the person’s hair, or brush, stroke, braid, style, wash, etc. See if you notice any nonverbal feedback from your person that indicates whether they are enjoying what you are doing (e.g. eyes closing, body relaxing). Of course, if you observe signs that suggest pain, such as grimacing or wincing, do not continue with that type or intensity of touch.

References

Love, K., & Femia, E. (2014). The comfort of touch. Health Progress, 95(6), 28-31.

Nicholls, D., Chang, E., Johnson, A., & Edenborough, M. (2013). Touch, the essence of caring for people with end-stage dementia: A mental health perspective in Namaste Care. Aging & Mental Health, 17(5), 571-578. doi:10.1080/13607863.2012.751581

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Use a Twiddle Muff

twiddle muff - bluetwiddle muff - cat

 

When you hear the word “activities”, what do you think of?  Maybe you picture arts & crafts, bingo, card games, or woodworking.  To participate in such activities, one must: follow instruction, sequence multiple steps, maintain mental focus, etc., etc. Executing such activities effectively involves use of higher order cognitive processes that are eventually eroded in dementia. Activities need to be simplified more and more extensively as the disease progresses. As your person enters the late stage of the disease, even familiar activities may become too complex.

However, it is critical that those with late stage dementia still be engaged. Keep in mind that “activities” may no longer resemble activities that we would traditionally think of. Reading a book out loud to the person with dementia, listening to a song together, or looking out the front window are all activities suitable for individuals in the later stages of the disease. At this point in the disease process, sensory stimulation or ‘passive’ activities tend to work best.

For someone in the late stage of Alzheimer’s, the Twiddle Muff may be an ideal choice of activity. The friendly, soft and cozy muff, contains a soft, squeezable ball tethered within the center of the muff. It also has three exchangeable gadgets: a sealed satin bag containing movable marbles, a strand of textured ribbons, a loop of colorful wooden beads, as well as a soft, faux suede pocket for personal essentials and a velcro tab patch.

The Twiddle®Cat provides comfort, warmth, and activity to promote increased hand flexibility and brain stimulation. It can help and comfort those with diminished hand mobility, limited social interaction or anyone soothed by repetitive tactile motion.

Interested in learning more or purchasing this product? Follow the links below:

http://store.best-alzheimers-products.com/index.php/twiddle-pup.html#.U4YZP_ldWSo

http://store.best-alzheimers-products.com/index.php/twiddle-cat-cream.html#.U4YZOvldWSo

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