What is dementia?
Dementia is sadly one of the most common health issues among those aged 65 and over, with 850,000 people living with this condition in the UK alone. As well as affecting people’s ability to remember, think, plan and communicate, dementia has severe repercussions on how people feel, behave and handle daily activities.
However, for Gracewell Healthcare residents, and indeed for all older people, living with dementia should not mean having to give up doing the things that they did before their diagnosis.
To begin with, it may be difficult to adjust, but there is no doubt that staying active and engaged has enormous benefits for both physical and cognitive health.
Why are activities so important?
Encouraging a person with dementia to keep active, both physically and psychologically, is not an added extra. It is essential to their health and wellbeing in many different ways.
From maintaining day-to-day routines to more engaging activities such as games and exercise, a stable yet stimulating routine will help people with dementia feel more confident, valued, whilst lessening anxiety and irritability.
There are many ways to stay engaged with our loved ones throughout the disease and bring activity into all parts of the day. This can be anything from helping someone with an activity they are already familiar with but also provide support with a new passion or skill.
It is key to keep things simple and concentrate on the process of an activity, not the result. The most important thing is that they enjoyed the time spent on it and helped them feel good.
Here at Gracewell we help and encourage our residents to take part in lots of stimulating and interesting activities, such as:
Evidence suggests that social activities can have a very positive effect on an individual’s mood. This is why there are many community-based opportunities that people with dementia can take part in as well as national efforts to create more dementia-friendly places where people are aware of and understand this condition.
- Exercise and outdoor activities such as swimming and walking.
- Visiting a local memory or dementia café. We host many informal drop-in events in our communities, which provide a great opportunity to learn more about what it is like to live with dementia and share experiences and support.
- Putting together a memory box with favourite photos and objects to stimulate and draw out memories. This can also be done in a digital format and include things like video and music files.
- Sensory gardens which provide an intimate space where people with dementia can be immersed in scents, textures and colours of plants and related elements.
- Film screenings and theatre productions put together specifically with people affected by dementia in mind.
The digital age provides many opportunities for those living with dementia to keep active including:
- Apps specifically designed to improve memory, concentration and stimulate problem solving skills.
- Online puzzles and other games.
- Digital entertainment such as films, music and shows.
- Maintaining a stable daily routine is extremely important for those living with dementia. Providing help with activities such as getting dressed and washed, washing up and folding clothes will enable our loved ones to retain their independence, within reason, to do things their way.
A person in the later stages of dementia can still experience emotions such as loneliness and boredom. This is when multisensory activities become even more important, especially with people with limited verbal communication: music, holding hands, flowers can all help them remain engaged.
There is no doubt that participating in activities can improve the quality of life for people living with dementia. Be sure to offer meaningful activities based on the person’s individual personality and interests. While this may be challenging to begin with, it’ll be worth it to see the genuine engagement and joy when they feel a sense of purpose.
If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with dementia, contact Gracewell Healthcare to find out more about how we can help. You can also visit your nearest Gracewell home.