It’s difficult to think of things to do with a parent or other loved one who has dementia. Your options may seem quite limited. However, it’s important to make the effort to find ways to spend quality time together: this will improve your loved one’s happiness and their health. Below are some tips to get you started: once you begin to think about it, you may realize that there’s more that you can do than you think.
1. Come up with activities that incorporate their interests.
All of us thrive and are much happier when we’re doing things we enjoy. But what if your loved one is no longer capable of taking part in the activity in the same way they once did? The answer is to think of ways to modify their hobby. For example, if they once loved to read but their eyesight has deteriorated to the point where they can longer read even large-print books, you can get them audio books and a good set of headphones. If they once loved to play baseball, make sure they have a radio or TV that they can use to catch the game, or even take them to a day at the ballpark.
2. Don’t just try to pass the time.
Ideally, the activity you do together will have a lot of meaning to both of you. Don’t plan to do something that neither of you would have enjoyed twenty years ago. Sometimes people rationalize not putting much thought into the time they spend with loved ones with dementia by telling themselves that the person won’t remember the activity anyway. It’s true, they may not remember, but they can enjoy the present when they’re in the moment.
3. Do something that involves social interaction.
We all need to feel connected to others, even those of us with dementia. We make an effort to visit with a loved one in assisted living for this very reason. But try to add variety as much as you can. Consider taking your loved one with you on outings – even just a simple trip to the mall or to a park can be interesting and different for them. (Do try to avoid very hectic places, though, as that could make your loved one anxious.) Even if they’re not able to leave home, try to make sure they see new faces. Ask visiting relatives to come to their care home with you when they’re in town, or bring one of your loved one’s former neighbors by to say hello.
4. Do something that involves exercise.
Does your loved one tend to wander, as many dementia patients do? The underlying cause of this behavior may be a lack of exercise. Try going for a walk with them around the neighborhood, or get them an exercise bike if they’re still limber enough to use it. This can be a solution for boredom and anxiety.