Keeping active is an important way for people in all stages of a dementia to maintain a sense of wellbeing. Many people living with dementia can start to feel they lack purpose or cannot contribute as they once did which can lead to feelings of frustration and isolation.
By supporting people living with a dementia to continue to do as much as they can independently for as long as possible, we can help to maintain and build confidence.
Breaking activities down into bite-size chunks can be a good way of enabling someone to do things on their own. For example, instead of making the tea for someone, could you ask them to do it but prompt them if they get stuck? Could you enable them by boiling the kettle and getting out the items they need to make the tea? Or if someone struggles with getting dressed in the morning, could you leave an outfit on the bed in the order clothes should go on?
If we view the jobs of day-to-day life as activities to be enjoyed rather than tasks to be done we can go a long way in supporting a person with dementia to feel a valued part of everyday life.
Making small changes to routine activities could make a big difference.
Assisting someone in the bath or shower could become a pleasurable activity by playing a person’s favourite music in the background, trying a bubble bath that smells nice or using it as a chance to reminisce by finding bath products people may have used in the past such as Pear’s Soap. The smell could bring back memories which spark a conversation.
We all want to feel useful and valued, and this will be the same for anyone with dementia.
It may be someone has been a keen cook in the past but can no longer follow a recipe on their own. Perhaps they could help with meal preparations by peeling the veg or mixing ingredients.
If someone has always been a proud home-maker, this may still be important to them. Even if they cannot do as much as they once did, could they still do small tasks like polishing table tops, dusting or doing the washing up?
It is important that activities are suitable to a person’s abilities so that they don’t feel patronised by being given something that is too easy or frustrated by being asked to do something too difficult.
If someone cannot stand at the kitchen work top for a long time perhaps a mixing bowl or potatoes and bin for the peel could be brought to them where they are sitting. Some activities may have to be adapted to ensure people can take part.
If you are trying to encourage someone to do an activity it could be worth phrasing things in such a way that the person knows they will be helping you, for example, “It would be such a help if you could…”. Activities can be a great way to boost a person’s confidence so ensure they know what a big help they have been.
Everyday activities to try at home for different abilities
- Listening to music – music is great for bringing back memories and can also support people to retain language.
- Eating lunch outside as the weather gets warmer can be a simple way of mixing up a normal day to make it feel more interesting.
- Pairing and sorting washed clothes.
- Watering plants in the garden, taking cuttings or planting seeds.
- Baking cakes or making bread.
- Peeling vegetables for dinner.
- Cross words – may need to buy easier versions.
- Wiping down the table after meals.
- Knitting or untangling knitting wool.
- Sorting out recycling.
- Doing the washing up.
- Cleaning jewellery.
- Playing cards.
- Looking through photo albums together.
- Arranging flowers.