As a dementia caregiver, you may have heard before the recommendation to "enter their world". This means trying to let go of your expectations and fit yourself into the "world" that the person with dementia perceives. This cannot be done all the time, obviously. For instance, if the caregiver needs to pay the bills, he or she needs to be very attune to the real reality, to get the bills paid correctly. But if it is time that can be flexible, the caregiver - or a visitor - can "enter the world" of the person with dementia and have an enjoyable time together. Try these 3 activities to make a successful connection.
3 Activities for Connecting with the Person with Dementia
These 3 activities were chosen because they are almost always successful ways for connecting with the person with dementia, regardless of the person's ability level or personality.
- Music activities - Music works so well with the person with dementia because we have all been exposed to it and because memories are often attached to certain music. For instance, nursery rhyme songs will remind the person of their childhood. Also, the auditory part of the brain, where music is stored, is the last part of the brain to be affected by the dementia disease - so can be accessed long into the disease. Even a person who has lost their ability to talk may still have the ability to sing some phrases of familiar songs. So bring some music or MindStart songbooks for dementia and make some music together!
- Food related activities - Food is also a near universal way to make connections with the person with dementia. Again, it is something we all encounter and that can have meaningful memories attached. A favorite dessert recipe, a fun finger food to dip, or a food that can be 'decorated' with toppings (cheese, sprinkles, condiments, etc.) can all be tasty and fun to eat. Hint - ice cream is almost always a hit! For some recipes good for making with the person with dementia, see our stone soup, cinnamon roll, and bread baking recipes.
- High touch activities - Activities that include your gentle touch are almost always enjoyed and appreciated. In fact, people with dementia can often be touch deprived, at least compared to what they received prior to their illness. Find ways to hold hands (ex. during a walk, while watching ducks at the park, while giving a manicure), pat or rub the person on the back, hold each other while dancing, or give a loving hug. During high touch activities, conversation is not really needed, rather just appreciating and enjoying each others' being and presence.
Try these activities for connecting with the person with Alzheimer's or other form of dementia, in a way that is easy, inexpensive, familiar, and loving. You will likely both enjoy the time spent together in one "world".
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Products to engage the person and help with dementia care: