Loved One with Dementia? These 5 Hobbies Will Help Now.

It is emotional seeing a parent or spouse decline for any reason, but when their memory slips, it is sad seeing the person who you have known for all your life slip away as they need long-term health care.

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Loved One with Dementia? These 5 Hobbies Will Help Now.
7 Min Read April 14th, 2021

Every three seconds, someone in the world develops dementia. In 2020 over 50 million people were living with some type of dementia. Many families were never prepared and are facing a crisis on how to deal with their loved one now that they live with a cognitive decline. 

As their dementia progresses, your loved one is more likely to become more disengaged, avoiding social interaction and not enjoying any of their everyday activities and passions the same way they used to. For this reason, any attempt to reverse this trend can make a world of difference. 

These five hobbies benefit dementia patients and help them soothe the anxiety that frequently accompanies dementia-related illnesses. Planning activities and hobbies that are good for dementia patients will benefit both the caregiver and the care recipient.

No matter if you are a family caregiver or a professional, these hobbies will help the person you are caring for and make their life more enjoyable.

Selecting the Right Activities

You can plan appropriate activities by reflecting on the person's needs and former lifestyle, hobbies, work history, recreational and social interests. However, there are several points to consider:

  1. Be selective in choosing activities. Someone who has dementia may enjoy an outing but, some may find crowds, noise, and constant movement overwhelming.
  2. Ideally, the activities you choose should compensate for their lost abilities and maintain their residual skills (not involve new learning). The idea is not to reinforce inadequacy or increase their stress level. 
  3. Activities should improve their self-esteem and well-being while being sensitive to the person's cultural background. The goal is to provide an opportunity for pleasure, relaxation, enjoyment, and social contact.

A woman sitting.

Be patient and emphatic. Involve Your Loved One as much as possible.

Prepare a Safe Space

In addition to selecting activities appropriate for people with dementia, you will need to prepare a safe working area. Keeping the surfaces uncluttered, reducing distractions noise as much as possible will help alleviate problems with those who have difficulties with visual perception and coordination. 

Be careful with the lighting in the room. Be sure to reduce dark shadows since they can be seen as objects (or objects perceived as shadows) by a person with dementia. 

High gloss finishes or floor surfaces that highlight reflections need to be avoided since a person with dementia can perceive these surfaces as being wet or as a mirror. 

Also, consider ergonomics for their seating preferences and surface height.

Cooking and Baking

Generally, a person who has dementia should not cook or be near a stove or oven alone. Many informational resources and advice columns for caregivers for dementia-affected individuals recommend unplugging the stove. 

However, while there are valid safety reasons behind the recommendation, it’s important to mention that, while they should not cook alone, the process of preparing a meal can be very beneficial for people with dementia. 

Cooking and preparing a meal can stimulate their senses (and appetite), improve hand-eye coordination, trigger very vivid memories, encourage creativity and socialization, elevate their mood, and maintain their sense of independence. 

Of course, creating a safe environment, addressing any mealtime challenges that may arise among people with dementia, and assisting to make this activity enjoyable for them is key to seeing the therapeutic benefits of cooking and baking at work.

A woman washing dishes.

Play music and make conversation while cooking with your loved one

Moreover, the National Institute of aging suggests that cooking and eating healthy meals is an excellent way for family members and caregivers to practice self-care while caring for a dementia-affected individual and spend quality time with a person they care about.

Gardening

The golden combo of reconnecting with nature, staying active, reducing stress, agitation, and pain, increasing serotonin, attention levels, and independence makes therapeutic gardening hugely beneficial to those with dementia. 

Before bringing them outside, you’ll want to ensure that the environment is secure and senior-friendly (if you are caring for an elderly loved one) by setting out comfy chairs or benches, an umbrella for the shade, and lightweight gardening tools and buckets. 

Moreover, avoid all risks of muscle or back strain, falling, and feelings of dizziness by using raised beds and standing planters. If they cannot get outside very often, consider mini gardens in their windowsill containers or terrariums.

Arts and Crafts

Help your loved one enjoy life again with some therapeutic, fun, and meaningful arts and crafts activities. As a form of therapy, their goal is to offer cognitive stimulation, promote creativity and self-expression, help maintain the patient’s sense of self, provide an opportunity for socialization, and upper-extremity exercise to encourage and support range of motion, strength, and dexterity.

Equipment and supplies will depend on the project, but, mainly, you need to keep safety in mind. Help them select activities that will work best, are meaningful to them but are simple and safe. 

Some examples are flower arranging, kneading play dough, making a scrapbook or collage, painting clay or plastic pots, paper quilling, drawing, crafting festive wall art or button trees, creating a photo album from their memorabilia, etc. 

The best things about these activities are that they can be done in any season, they can be adapted for all stages of illness and, on top of it all, there’s no right or wrong way of doing it!

A person drawing and painting.

With just a dash of creativity any simple household object can be turned into an easy craft. 

Exercise

As a significant part of a healthy lifestyle, exercise may improve individuals' quality of life in all stages of dementia. The benefits are clear. 

Saying active contributes to an individual's general fitness, coordination, muscle control, and motor skills. Plus, exercise helps with better sleep, reduced likelihood of constipation, and maintenance of adequate blood flow to their brain. It also helps maintain their sense of well-being. 

Elevating their self-esteem and mood can encourage more social engagement, opportunities to socialize, and improve the person's independence. However, it is crucial to exercise merely as much as the person's current physical condition allows and not over-exercise or overstimulate the dementia patient because it may be bad for their health. 

The types of physical activities best for people with dementia involve walking, cycling, gym work, aerobics, and yoga. When caring for an elderly patient with dementia, again, you need to take into consideration their present physical condition and abilities and find the form of specific activity that will suit them best. 

For instance, yoga provides many workouts designed for seniors in particular, such as stretching, chair yoga, simple balance asanas, and others, which have variations you can always simplify or add an extra challenge when appropriate. This adjustability makes it one of the top hobbies for people with dementia of all ages.

Dancing

Dancing should definitely be among the hobbies that are desirable for dementia patients. Dancing, just like gardening, belongs to the category of physical exercise that does not feel like any structured exercise. Any physical activity that raises the patient's heart rate can be regarded as exercise, which is such a joyful activity. Dancing parties are frequently included in senior clubs' social calendars for their obvious benefits. 

The psychotherapeutic use of movement is often used to further the cognitive, physical, emotional, spiritual, and social integration of people with dementia. Moreover, besides being a great outlet for self-expression, dancing may also promote engagement and encourage communication.

Caregivers Should Seek Help for Themselves

Both family caregivers and professional caregivers face tremendous pressure and anxiety caring for anyone, much less a person with dementia. You need to take care of yourself to have the ability to care for anyone else.

Do not be afraid to ask for help. Many family caregivers find support groups immensely helpful. These support groups give caregivers the ability to vent in a group setting with other people experiencing the same stress and anxiety of being a caregiver. 

These groups help caregivers hear what things are working for other caregivers. You can learn about local Alzheimer's and dementia resources here. 

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About the Author

Jane Stinson is a relocation specialist who has worked with many seniors over the years. Having seen how hard some of them have taken it, she has decided to start blogging about helping seniors, and younger generations, move to their new homes. Jane aims to make the whole experience more comfortable. In her free time, she enjoys reading and gardening.

LTC News Contributor Jane Stinson

Jane Stinson

Contributor since March 26th, 2021

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