Posts Tagged activities for men with dementia

Paint Rocks

lady bug rocks

 

Painting can be a relaxing activity that captures your person’s attention and keeps them focused. By keeping your person with dementia zeroed in on an activity, he/she is more likely to feel content, and behavioral concerns are less likely to appear. Recent research suggests that artistic activities may help individuals with dementia to express complex emotions, particularly when language ability fades. Art also provides intellectual stimulation for the person, which may help to keep cognitive powers sharp (although nothing can prevent dementia from progressing).

Furthermore, painting or (in this case) painting rocks is an activity that can be easily adjusted depending on the person’s remaining strengths and abilities. For instance, someone in the early stages of the disease may be able to execute a multi-step project over the course of a couple of sessions. The first session could consist of cleaning and sanding stones. The next session may involve painting a base color on a couple of rocks. The last session may include finer details (such as those seen in the ladybug picture).

Someone who is further progressed may do better with a shorter-term project with fewer steps, such as only painting rocks in solid colors or arranging (already painted) rocks in a decorative way. Even watching you paint or admiring your finished handiwork, might be pleasurable activities for someone in the later stages of the disease.

garden markers 2 garden markers

Materials you will need:

  • Smooth rocks (either found outdoors or purchased from a craft store)
  • Assorted acrylic paints
  • Paint brushes (various types)
  • Palette or mixing tray (e.g. paper plate, tin foil, styrofoam cup)

Helpful Hints:

  • As dementia progresses, the individual will need more supervision and guidance.
  • Consider using simple patterns for your design. Or you could add in more intricate details yourself, if desired.
  • Wear a painting smock or old set of clothing that is ok to get dirty.
  • Check out library books (such as those by Lin Wellford) for inspiration and step-by-step instruction.
  • Be alert to signs of frustration or boredom. Adjust the activity, so that it is a good match for the person based on their remaining strengths.
  • If the activity goes awry or causes the person to become agitated, be prepared to stop.
  • Your finished rocks can be used as decoration, such as on a countertop or in a garden. A functional use for painted rocks is to use them as garden markers for various plants/herbs (pictured above).

 

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Namaste! Do Some Yoga

yoga for senior citizens

The benefits of yoga are well-documented by research. In fact, some researchers suggest that yoga may have the ability to improve sleep [4], decrease chronic inflammation [5], and even slow the aging process [2]. One study [1] found that over the course of an 8-week yoga and compassion meditation intervention, familial caregivers of persons with dementia had statistically significant decreases in reported stress, anxiety, and depression, in addition to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Still looking for a reason to try yoga? Recent research [3] suggests that regular participation in yoga may be rather beneficial for individuals with dementia. Some of the benefits cited include decreased behavioral issues, increased physical functioning, and improved muscle strength and agility.

So what is yoga? “Yoga is an ancient East Indian practice that utilizes mind, body, and spirit to balance our systems. Yoga combines flexibility, balance, strength, breathing, and meditation through a series of stationary poses that use isometric contraction and relaxation of different muscle groups to create specific body alignments” [3] Yoga’s definition is very broad and can be interpreted in different ways. For instance, someone with limited mobility can implement yogic exercises in the form of chair yoga. Yoga instructors and enthusiasts can often recommend adaptations to traditional yoga exercises, if certain movements are problematic.

Try out some of the yoga poses below at home. If you prefer to follow along with an instructor, consider renting a yoga DVD for free from your local library or find free YouTube videos online. Be very mindful of physical limitations, and if necessary, consult a physician to ensure that this type of exercise is appropriate for you and your person.

Lily Pads

chair yoga 2

My favorite….don’t forget to…

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Rest in savasana when you need to take a break or at the end of your yoga routine. Let the tension from your body sink into the floor. Let all of the stresses from the day melt off of your body. Concentrate on the rhythm of your breathing as you deliberately and consciously take full breaths in and out. If your mind wanders, gently redirect your attention to your breath and the stillness of your body. Become aware of how good your body feels to rest and restore.

Namaste!

References

 1 Danucalov, M. D., Kozasa, E. H., Ribas, K. T., Galduróz, J. F., Garcia, M. C., Verreschi, I. N., Oliveira, K.C., Romani de Oliveira, L., &  Leite, J. R. (2013). A Yoga and Compassion Meditation Program Reduces Stress in Familial Caregivers of Alzheimer’s Disease Patients. Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine (Ecam), 1-8. doi:10.1155/2013/513149

 2 Lavretsky, H. M. (2013). A pilot study of yogic meditation for family dementia caregivers with depressive symptoms: effects on mental health, cognition, and telomerase activity A pilot study of yogic meditation for family dementia caregivers with depressive symptoms: effects.. International Journal Of Geriatric Psychiatry, 28(1), 57-65.

 3 Litchke, L. G., & Hodges, J. S. (2014). The Meaning of “Now” Moments of Engagement in Yoga for Persons With Alzheimer’s Disease. Therapeutic Recreation Journal, 48(3), 229-246.

 4 Staples, J. K., Hamilton, M. F., & Uddo, M. (2013). A yoga program for the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans. Military Medicine,178(8), 854-860. doi:10.7205/MILMED-D-12-00536

 5 Yadav, R. K., Magan, D., Mehta, N., Sharma, R., & Mahapatra, S. C. (2012). Efficacy of a Short-Term Yoga-Based Lifestyle Intervention in Reducing Stress and Inflammation: Preliminary Results. Journal Of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, 18(7), 662-667. doi:10.1089/acm.2011.0265

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Find an Indoor Walking Path

indoor walking path

 

In the Midwest and other regions in the U.S., we have dealt with subzero temperatures, snowfall by the inches, and slippery, unsafe conditions for the past several days. If you usually enjoy being outside in fresh air, you might be finding it difficult to adjust to your new snowbound status. Most individuals spend more time indoors during the winter, but this is even more pronounced in older adults, those with dementia, and their caregivers. Persons with dementia may experience increased confusion due to shorter days, less sunlight, and disruptions from a normal routine. He/she may also exhibit “wandering” behavior which includes walking or pacing about and trying to leave a safe environment. Although not all wandering is bad, unsafe wandering has the potential to turn into a very dangerous situation.

To keep behavioral issues at bay, prevent unsafe wandering, and maintain levels of physical activity, consider frequenting a local indoor walking path or create a safe path to walk inside your own home. Many say that walking is one of the best exercises because it requires very little equipment, can be done almost anywhere, and can be done by almost anyone. Furthermore, walking with your person with dementia can help to channel wandering behavior into a safe outlet. As human beings, we have inherent impulses that drive us to be active and to seek out activity. Therefore, be deliberate in making sure your person is being stimulated and challenged at a comfortable level. And don’t worry, winter won’t last forever! :)

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Listen to and/or Sing Holiday Music

holiday music 2

 

Holiday music is an excellent medium to connect with our person with dementia. Whether we are singing fragments of songs throughout the day, or playing ambient music while baking a special treat, we can incorporate a little bit of holiday magic into our person’s day.

Stay warm, take care of yourself, laugh a lot, spend time with those you care about, and have a prosperous new year! Be safe and enjoy the holiday season!!

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Play Shake Loose a Memory!

shake loose a memoryshake loose a memory 2

This game is the best conversation starter! It also provides a wonderful opportunity to reminisce with your person. Shake Loose a Memory contains a single die. Participants roll the die to see which card they should receive. Each card begins with a simple instruction, such as “Keep this card if you have driven a tractor.” If yes, the person will respond to the question posed at the bottom of the card, such as “Remember sitting in the driver’s seat?”. If no, the individual would roll again and draw a new card. Like with other games and activities, the focus should not be on ‘winning’ or providing the ‘best’ answer. It is about connecting meaningfully with the person and allowing them to share a piece of their history with you. Have fun with it! :)

To learn more or to purchase this product, follow this link.

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Listen to Pandora or Groove Shark

pandora internet radio

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Listening to music is one of my favorite things to do. I love how a song has the power to overwhelm you with emotion or transport you back in time to a special memory. Truth be told, every time I hear Green Day’s “Time of Your Life” I instantly think of my senior prom (our class song).

We all have songs that are significant to us, and individuals with dementia are no exception. Think of the song that reminds you of your first love or the song that always cheers you up. If we know these things about our person, then we have an excellent opportunity to foster meaningful engagement. Encourage the person to reminisce and tell stories related to the songs they hear. Listening to music is an excellent choice of activity for those with dementia because the individual retains the ability to do this very late into the disease. Even someone who is nonverbal or bed bound can enjoy a beautiful peace of music that is meaningful to him/her. There are some remarkable accounts of individuals in the late stages of the disease that can no longer carry on a conversation but can still sing.

So what makes Pandora and Groove Shark so special?  They’re both free and totally customizable. If you’d like to check out Pandora, simply go to pandora.com, create an account, and start creating stations. You can choose a song, artist, or genre for each station. Consider asking the person what their favorite artist is, or select music that you know was popular during their adolescence and adulthood. Timeless pieces, like Christmas carols or religious music, can be meaningful to a wide variety of individuals. You can even pick a station like Sounds of Nature, if you are looking to play soothing, ambient music. Grooveshark.com is another great resource for finding free music online. If you know what songs you want to listen to, you can create your own customized playlist by adding them to your queue. You can also enter in search criteria, such as Oldies, babbling brook, 1950s, etc., to find music that you may want to use.

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Make Trail Mix

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I love trail mix. And one reason I love it as much as I do… it is so easy to make! I mean literally, just throw different ingredients together into a bowl and ta-da! It doesn’t need to get any fancier than that. Another amazing thing about this treat? You can totally make it your own and add whatever you think will go great together. Many trail mixes contain a combination of dried fruit, nuts, seeds, and (most importantly) chocolate. If you or your person has a nut allergy or an aversion to chocolate (weird), again, totally customizable.

Depending on how progressed your person’s dementia is, you can choose to involve him/her in different ways. For instance, someone in the earlier stages may be able to create a shopping or ingredient list with you and measure out individual components. Someone who is further progressed may have a difficult time thinking of ingredients that are not visible to them (too abstract). For those folks, it might help to set out a bowl of nuts, dried fruits, etc., and then ask the person to chose from what’s right in front of them. So basically, it’s nice to provide choice where we can, but we want to be careful not to overwhelm the person with too many options or abstractions. Someone in the later stages of the disease might enjoy taste testing or feeling the different textures by using their hands to mix everything together.

Ready to get started? Try out this recipe below or change it up however you like! My recipe is actually a variation of this one that I found.

  • 1 cup mini marshmallows
  • 1 cup Candy Corn
  • 1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup of your favorite mini pretzels
  • 1 cup Honey Nut Chex cereal

Mix ingredients together in a bowl. Eat and enjoy!

 

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