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As their disease progresses, it can be hard to stay engaged with a demented loved one.  Sometimes, due to cognitive or physical limitations, the ability to participate in previously enjoyed hobbies and activities is limited.  It is easy to think that as the disease progresses, the individual loses interest in participating in activities at all.  However, it is important to understand that even those with advanced dementia can suffer from anxiety, frustration, and boredom.  It is important to keep people engage with your loved one as long as possible.  Focus on the things they can do rather than what they cannot, and make adjustments for more passive activities as needed.

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Try to make adjustments to previous favorite activities in order to engage with your loved one.

  • If your demented loved one was a gardener, try having a small, raised garden or some containers where they can grow a few herbs, vegetables or flowers.  There are small indoor garden kits that can be purchased locally or on Amazon.
  • For a baker, try involving them in tasks they can still safely do such as measuring, stirring, etc.
  • If they are artistic, painting and coloring materials are inexpensive and readily available for those with an artistic twist.  Arts and craft projects-seasonal crafts, picture puzzles, paint by numbers, handmade cards, etc. Even at an advanced stage of dementia, the arts can be soothing.
  • Read some of their favorite author aloud to them.  The words on the page may be inaccessible to them, but they may still enjoy hearing them aloud.
  • Locate word-find puzzles or simple crosswords.
  • Look for easy jigsaw puzzles or children’s block games.
  • For bird watchers, see if you can put a feeder outside their window.
  • For animal lovers, see what pet therapy may be available locally.  Or you could get a small fish tank.  You can also help your loved one upload animal videos on YouTube.  And some zoos have live-cams to show what their animals are doing.

Engage with them by listening to their favorite music, or play an instrument if they can.

Fill in the blank cards with common expressions such as “A penny for your ________”

Dolls can help to engage with a loved one:

  • Sometimes demented loved ones like to play with dolls

Work on a memory book of their life journey.

Tour a museum virtually.

Chair exercises when available.

Watch plays and musicals online.

Folding clothes provides another opportunity to engage with your loved one.

Give your loved one a hand massage with lotion or oil.

Look through old family photo albums.

If your demented loved one enjoys getting out, take rides to look at spring flowers, pretty sunsets at the beach, or Christmas lights at the end of the year.

Make a collage.

Give them a manicure or pedicure.

Provide special treats to eat, consistent with any dietary restrictions.

Dementia can bring a time of great sadness to a family.  But if you get a little creative, you can find simple ways to reach them on the level they can still relate to.   A big stumbling block in many cases is your own pride or senses of what is appropriate for your aging loved one.  You will have noticed that many of the activities would also be equally useful with children or toddlers.  You have to get over the hurdle of rejecting activities as “too simple” or “undignified.”  Dementia certainly takes away dignity slowly.  But there is nothing wrong or inappropriate in relating to your loved one according to their current limitations.

If you have a demented loved one, reach out to the team at Burzynski Elder Law.  We can help you put a plan in place to help manage the transitions as limitations you will be facing.  Our number is 239-434-8557.