Many of us are familiar with the film “Alive Inside,” please at least watch the trailer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IaB5Egej0TQ
It is amazing how music can both calm and energize people who have dementia. Headphones bring another level of connection. Just yesterday I watched one of our clients listening to Bruce Springsteen with headphones on. He sang aloud with an enthusiasm he would have never done otherwise! He was unaware of how he sounded, uninhibited and joyful.
Download a playlist. If they can’t come up with names of their favorites you can help with a bit of hit and miss. Start with songs that were popular during the years your loved one was in high school. During those years we generally make the strongest connections to particular songs. Experiment. Play a song, see how they react – connection? no connection? Build the playlist based on their reactions. The results can be magical.
Please don’t assume that if the person in your care is “older” they will automatically prefer classical music or 50s jukebox. I had a client once, a man in his 80s whose career included conducting an orchestra in New York. One day I asked him to bring a favorite CD for us to listen to. He did. It was Janis Joplin.
Name that Tune is entertaining too, particularly with theme songs from those old shows. My Three Sons, can you hum that one? Give this a try:
Watch what happens when your loved one is listening to this (especially with headphones on): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6Sxv-sUYtM
DOCUMENTARIES and BIOGRAPHIES and NATURE FILMS and NOSTALGIC T.V. SHOWS
We treat our adult clients with the dignity and respect they deserve. But I vote that right now we bend one rule. If your loved one enjoys a particular cartoon or a Disney princess movie, now is the time to watch it. Though it may seem childish, it might also be comforting.
Normally we know it’s best that people who have dementia are socializing, moving, seeing, doing, being engaged in community as much as possible. But now it is important that they stay safe. Equally important is that the caregivers are at peace. Let’s not get overwhelmed as we care for others during these challenging days. Let’s relax and go with the flow a bit more. Use discretion. We don’t want people who have dementia to be isolated, nor filling their days with passive and solitary activities. But if visual media bring moments of joy and a calm to our day, and respite to the caregiver, it makes sense.
Ideas: Might want to avoid heavy films about war or other tragedies. Turn off the news. How about those Planet Earth DVDs you have in a box somewhere? Some beautiful nature scenes might be just right. Try Youtube short clips from movie favorites or T.V. shows that were popular years ago. We have had a ball watching clips from Gilligans Island, Get Smart, and Mork and Mindy!
This might help get you started: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1F0lBnsnkE
BOOKLET OF IDEAS
Terrific suggestions here, might want to order one right away.
Written by Meghan Morrisey http://sensoryoutings.org/home/soc-booklet
If you don’t have a dog, does a neighbor need help with theirs? Animal therapy might be super important these days, when we are discouraged from human touch. Folks who have dementia can benefit from being with dogs, horses, cats. If possible, pay a visit to a ranch and connect with animals, or at the very least, let your loved one spend time petting every dog you’ll pass on walk in the park.
Many food pantries are in need of donations right now. Contact one, get a list of their needs and then, with your loved one, organize the donations into a box. Organizing and sorting can be satisfying work for someone who has dementia. Particularly if their dementia is mild or moderate, and they understand their work is going to a good cause. Decorate the box together, put the box in the car and deliver it. Very gratifying. If you loved one can’t get out of the car, or needs to keep socially distant from others, they can watch from the car as you bring their colorful box of food to the donation site. And don’t feel like you need to pick the one closest to home. Taking a longer drive might be part of your adventure today. Many restaurants are offering meals to go, probably a good time for us to support them. A few days ago I took a client for a hike and then we ate sandwiches and salads in the car with the windows down for that fresh air. If it’s not quite warm and dry enough for a picnic, we need to be creative!
STATE PARKS PASS
Great time to visit the state parks here in Colorado, they are conveniently located and easily accessible. Buy a pass for your vehicle, so you can zip in and out any day you want and for any amount of time. If you only have a 1/2 hour, it’s worth it! https://cpw.state.co.us/buyapply/Pages/AnnualPassInfo.aspx
You can take a scenic drive, pull over and do some bird watching right from the car, bring a picnic lunch or coffee and morning goodies, take a walk, watch the clouds go by, notice all the children, look for deer, throw a ball around. Look for signs of spring.
CROQUET OR BOCCE BALL
We have had great success with these two games which can easily be played in your own backyard.
Many families have a set stashed away in their garage, ask your friends and neighbors if you can borrow one.
It depends on the degree of dementia someone has, but folding and sorting can be comforting activities for many people. It’s familiar and feels productive. Take one or two decks of cards and spread them out on a table. Ask your loved one to help you put them back together in an organized fashion – sort by number or color or whatever works. I’ve seen this keep people engaged for an extended period of time. Maybe now we should take the blankets and towels out of the cupboard and refold them too.
DUSTING, VACUUMING, RAKING, WEEDING, TAKING THE TRASH TO THE CURB, SETTING A BEAUTIFUL TABLE
Spring is coming (thankfully). Are there leaves left in the yard from last fall? Here is an activity, like the folding and sorting mentioned above, that needs very little instruction. Let your loved one go for it. Hand him a rake and a set out a trash can and see what happens. Maybe neighbors need help too? Would they understand that you are looking for some activity and outdoor time? Would they let you come in their backyard and do some cleanup work? Or how about buying flowers to make flower arrangements, then placing them all throughout the house? Or deliver to friends and family?
Get all those photos downloaded off the computer and developed. Photo albums are hard to find these days, but if you can buy one or two or three – bring them home! Filling them with pictures could be a great activity right now.
WRITE LETTERS, SIGN CARDS
Many people who have dementia are not able to write, but they can dictate to you! If you have cards or stationary or art supplies to make them, this might be the time to pull that all together. It might be brief, their words might be limited, but it’s a meaningful project and worth trying.
This will depend on your loved one’s ability and interest, but check out this website for puzzles appropriate for those who have dementia:
The family of one of our clients recently had great success with this. Her son prepared a list of questions, then interviewed his mother and recorded their conversations. She was in the early stages of dementia. He gave her one question at a time, and a few days to come up with her answer. Then the next time they would meet, her would record her answer to his question. He compiled these sessions into a lovely audio he shared with the rest of the family. “when did you meet Dad”, “what was important to you when you were raising us kids?” “how did you feel when you left home for college?” The recorded conversations were emotional of course, but interspersed with lots of personality and humor.
WASH THE CAR
For a few dollars you can use a self-service car wash, which is definitely a productive project. Your loved one might be capable of doing quite a bit of the work, or at least help get the mats out and vacuumed, or put the quarters in the box, or dry the car with towels. (Then wash and dry and fold the towels when you get back home?)
They are closed now, but have a tremendous amount of material available online. Music, movies, books, games.
Well Wishes to Everyone. We hope the ideas listed above are of some help.
wrapups from our group outings over the years: