The coronavirus pandemic has made life feel very unsettled and frightening over the last few weeks. However, if someone living with dementia is not supported effectively, these types of feelings can be a reality every day. They also may find it extremely confusing and not really understand what’s going on and why people can’t visit them like they used to.
If you have moved in with a loved one with dementia or you provide care for a customer with dementia, it’s important to make sure that they’re continuing with activities they’ve always enjoyed, especially in the current lockdown situation. Providing the activity is safe and the proper safeguards are in place, there’s no reason why favourite home-based hobbies should have to stop with a diagnosis of dementia. Even if it’s something that would usually be done outside, with a bit of imagination you might just be able to bring it indoors!
To read about the different types of dementia, please click here.
People living with the earlier stages of dementia will still crave a purpose and may get frustrated if this isn’t supported. If you have always enjoyed a tidy house and orderly cupboards this isn’t going to change, so why not tidy together?
You could set or clear the table, make the bed, put clothes away, dust (using a spray bottle of water for safety), organise your bag or wallet (these are comfort items), clean out a drawer or fold laundry. Pairing socks is a great way to stimulate cognitive processes, which is good for people of any ability.
Activities doesn’t just mean planned activities; they can include life skills including helping to hold their toothbrush or wash cloth, or to choose an item of clothing to wear for the day.
Despite not being able to visit in person at the moment, there are many antique-related TV shows that focus on finding interesting items from the past. These can be helpful in starting conversations about an earlier era or a favourite item.
Sing-alongs or favourite music
Music is proven to be a great trigger for sparking memories, even for people not living with dementia, so why not play some songs from a cherished era and sing along together? You might even find that keen former dancers may suddenly feel like getting on their feet and jigging around the living room!
It’s best, however, not to use nature tapes, ocean or stream sounds for example, as to someone with dementia it may suggest running water that needs to be turned off, which could cause frustration and distress.
Life story scrapbook
Photographs are also a great way to remember the past, and if there are photo albums in the house it can be stimulating to look at them together. If appropriate, a life story scrapbook is a valuable activity to undertake together. And you may discover things about your loved one that you didn’t even know about.
Preparing a meal together may take a little longer, but the feelings of self-worth will be timeless. Peeling vegetables is a familiar activity that may be valuable, but always use safety peelers and keep knives out of harm’s way.
Simple food preparation tasks such as mashing potatoes may be possible, although be careful of hot stoves, pans etc. If you’re a baker, then sponge cakes and biscuits can be very simple to make (depending on preference and ability), or better still, no cook recipes such as salads, fruit dishes or cold soups.
You can use props, such as a cup, pen, magazine or any household item. Make sure you’re facing each other and have stimulating music playing with an easy to follow rhythm. Music from their era may elicit the most positive response, but any suitable music should work. Design a routine that is repetitive and easy to follow and start slowly, building up time if appropriate, but remember to take lots of breaks. Handheld props help develop strength and coordination and provide a stimulating visual to help follow the exercises.
We understand that these are difficult times and many people feel frustrated about being confined in their homes due to the COVID-19 outbreak. However, you must remember that these measures have been brought in to protect the vulnerable and save lives. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to stay active and keep yourself entertained through these difficult times. If you or a loved one with dementia is experiencing loneliness or needs extra support during self-isolation, then contact our friendly team of carers on 0808 278 2589 to discuss how we can help.
Find out what we’re doing to support our customers during the coronavirus outbreak here.
Page reviewed by Deanna Lane, Senior Clinical Lead on March 24, 2022