Posts Tagged activities for men with dementia

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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Pretend that You are the Host of Your Own Cooking Show

pretend you are the host of a cooking show

I was inspired by this idea when a friend of mine actually demoed a simple guacamole recipe for her mom. She thought it would be fun to pretend to be cooking show host while her mom was the ‘audience’. My friend went through the recipe step-by-step, provided tips on how to prepare the world’s best guac, and gave her mom a taste of the finished product at the end. It reminded me of Mario Batali’s cooking show (featured above) where he describes the ingredients, the process of putting it all together, and (best of all) gives the audience members sitting at the bar a taste of what he’s prepared.

I think this activity can be readily adapted for someone with dementia with a little bit of creativity. For example, you could hand the person the garlic or cilantro to smell the aroma. Have them taste just the plain mashed avocado before other ingredients are added. Ask the person to help stir the ingredients together in the bowl. Or ask them to lay out tortilla chips on a plate for dipping. Say you are trying our a new recipe and it would really help if they could be your taste-tester. Be flexible and find what works for you and your person!

I like that it gives the ‘audience member’ the option to interject comments or otherwise add to the interaction, but they are not pressured to do so. Depending on the person, they might be involved more passively, however, they are still being engaged throughout the entire process. But be ready in case your person would like to jump in and have a suitable activity in mind (such as the suggestions above). Do most of the prep work in advance before getting the person involved, so it is mostly a matter of assembling things together (e.g. chop garlic beforehand, open and scoop out avocado) — make sure your mise en place up to par! It is also best if you can use a clean and clutter-free counter space for this activity. Set out only the items that you will be using, and remove anything that will just get in the way or create clutter. Simplify, simplify!

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Wash Dirty (or clean) Dishes

dirty dish

I am the type of person that does not like other people cleaning my dishes. When I do receive help, I am often thinking about how wrong the placement of the dishes in the dishwasher is, or how the helper is certainly not scrubbing quite as thoroughly as I would be. OK, so maybe I’m a little bit of a dirty dish control freak! The point being, when someone does everything for the person with memory loss, it does not necessarily make the person feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It might cause them some anxiety or agitation because they’d rather be the person scrubbing away. Likewise, the caregiver may have a difficult time receiving help from the person with dementia because perhaps they believe the person will not clean the dishes as immaculately as they could. The solution? Relinquish some control and solicit the person’s help to wash those dishes (jeez!). Even if the dishes are not washed exactly as you would have done them or in the same amount of time, it is good for the person with dementia to feel purposeful and engaged in daily activities. Still concerned that the person may miss some stuck on grime? Offer the person a batch of already cleaned dishes that they can wash and dry. Be sure to remove hazardous items, such as knives and heavy skillets. Plastic cups and plates are a good choice because there is virtually no risk of dropping and breaking them. Monitor the person to ensure they are deriving enjoyment throughout the process. This activity can be very open-ended, and he/she can be involved for as long as they desire. Also, be sure to praise the person’s efforts!

 

 

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Play with a Nerf Football

We are currently in the midst of football season! I trust this is exciting news for many of us, as football has been the most popular sport in America 30 years running. Men in particular may be passionate about the sport, and it may even form part of their identify. However, as dementia progresses, the person’s attention span will decrease and watching a full 3-hour game may no longer be possible (You can pretty much rule out watching a full DAY of football on Sundays). Instead, you may wish to consider some of these fun, football-related activity ideas.

nerf football

Your person may enjoy playing with a Nerf Football, which is safer and softer than a traditional football. You can be completely creative in how the Nerf Football is played with. For instance, throwing the ball back and forth may be suitable to someone that becomes confused with complex rules.

You could invest in a ‘football rug’ (shown below, about $20.00 at most retailers) or create your own makeshift version. Your person might enjoy throwing a pass to you as you stand in the end zone or punting the ball to the opposite end of the field. You can cheer and congratulate the person as they secure the game-winning rushing touchdown!

football_field_rug touchdown football rug

 

Also, do not forget to reminisce about the person’s experiences related to football! Sharing favorite sport memories can be a fun and engaging activity in itself.

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Go to a Baseball Game

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The weather is warming up and the days are getting longer. That can mean only one thing-baseball season is really heating up! So why not take the person with dementia to a baseball game! Any fan knows that watching a game in person is even more fun that watching it on TV, and even non-fans might catch the excitement in the stadium. If they done, well, then they can always enjoy the food, the people watching, or if you’re lucky enough to be in a newer stadium like our Detroit Tigers, the other things to do like the carousel or the fireworks! A baseball game is a great options for people with memory loss in the later stages because unlike a movie or a concert, no one cares if you talk, get up and move around, or even if you fall asleep! If the person with memory loss is unsteady on his/her feet, be sure to get handicapped seating so you don’t have to climb the stair in the bleachers, which often don’t have railings. Many stadiums also have benches rather than seats with backs, so you might want to check on that before you order tickets. You might also want to consider bringing a seat cushion as those hard seats can be uncomfortable to sit on, and the person with memory loss may not be able to ignore or work through feelings of discomfort as well as someone with normal cognition.

All those caveats aside, attending a baseball game really is a fun way to spend and afternoon! Just ask this lucky lady who caught a home run ball!

Last but not least, going to a baseball game is a great way to start reminiscing. You can ask about games they may have attending in the past, old favorite players, if they played baseball as a kid or if they coached their child’s team, etc.

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Box with Bozo

Bozo

Bozo, the world’s most famous clown, first appeared in 1946 in the first-ever read-along book, Bozo at the Circus. Bozo and his wide red hair was franchised as a local TV show in the 1950’s and 1960’s and had many popular toys. Hopefully, this popularity translates into some remaining long-term memory of the clown in the person’s with memory loss’s memory, though it’s certainly not necessary to have fun with this inflatable boxing set. This activity is nice for those who might have some extra energy to get out, who might be feeling a little agitated or upset and need a safe outlet to expel some of it, or even just for those who are no-verbal and appreciate an activity where no talking is required! Be sure to ensure the surrounding area is relatively clear so avoid breaking anything or injuring the boxer. You can punch without the inflatable “gloves” but they do offer a nice extra cushion for someone who might get overzealous or has sore hands from arthritis or other conditions.

Don’t forget to ask questions that might spur on reminiscing, such as if they remember the Bozo Show from TV, other memories involving clowns, if they ever boxed in the service or even if they got into any fights at school!

You can buy the Bozo inflatable punching bag here and Bozo’s inflatable boxing gloves here.

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