14 November 2017
The Importance of Activities for Dementia Clients – By Interchange Australia Consultant, Suzanne Eustace
When the diagnosis of dementia is given to someone it is not the end of all activities. The person experiences a normal reduction in their ability to initiate activities and this reduces their socialisation. It is important to maintain their lifestyle and include meaningful activities.
According to the clinical practice guidelines of caring for people with dementia, intervention to promote independence in daily living tasks, problem solving and continuing with a healthy lifestyle is paramount to the self-esteem of the person.
The importance of finding meaningful activities is driven by the need to feel connected. It is important for the individual to have activities that are meaningful to create connectedness, such as:
- Oneself – i.e. quiet times on their own
- Other people – i.e. friends, family, neighbours
- One’s environment – i.e. outings, contact with nature
Connectedness allows the person to have a sense of security and reduces the feeling of isolation. This also assists to maintain residual skills without the pressure of learning new ones.
Activities that can re-establish old roles such as washing the dishes, setting the table, sorting clothes and raking the garden are all important. Initiating an activity that reflects the person’s former lifestyle, such as hobbies, religious beliefs, recreational activities and travel can be meaningful, especially when done with the carer or a family member.
Giving the person space and time to focus on one thing at a time whilst communicating one instruction at a time will improve communication. Decreasing stimulation is also important to reduce agitation (i.e. avoiding crowded areas with constant movement and noise), as is ensuring that the area for the activity is a safe environment (i.e. uncluttered, low level of distractions and noise, good lighting). Remember that an activity may not work one day, but may work at another time. Organising an activity at the best time of the day (such as a morning walk) might be better when the person has more energy. Or alternatively, an evening walk may help if they get agitated.
Activities that may give positive feelings include contact with children and animals, listening to music, or time spent looking at old photos and memorabilia to relive treasured moments. Audiotapes, picture books and magazines relevant to the person’s areas of interest are great activities to do in a quiet environment.
Lastly, sometimes just singing favourite songs can be the best therapy! We all know that ‘music improves quality of life’ and Interchange Australia is continually developing activities to engage people in music: band class, guitar lessons, singing lessons and now, our new ‘croon a tune’ singing group. Come along, sing along and enjoy yourself.
To learn more about our range of dementia services, please call 1300 112 334 and speak to one of our friendly and experienced Consultants.