Boredom and Isolation are never a good mix for the person living with dementia and their caregiver. Throw in a global pandemic, and you may be facing quite a challenge. As abilities decrease and your loved one’s interests fade, it is a challenge to find activities that one can enjoy and feel capable of doing. Especially when there are so many restrictions in place.
The Montessori Dementia Care style approach focuses on re-discovering and supporting the person behind the dementia. Activities with meaning and purpose are put back into people's lives, based on their needs, their interests, their skills, and their abilities. People who have dementia often feel they are always being told what to by others. Here are a few things to focus on to empower your loved one during such challenging times:
1. Cognitive Skills
Cognitive activities can be performed in a variety of different exercises depending on the ability of your loved one. Try incorporating trivia, discussions about current events, newspaper articles, blogs, and other brain challenges for loved ones with higher cognitive abilities. These exercises may not be ideal for those diagnosed with more severe, long-term dementia as short-term memory begins to fade. Instead, try puzzles like matching words with objects or identifying famous landmarks are other tasks that allow the mind to stay active. These puzzles are all modifiable depending on the individual’s skill set. The important thing is to make sure your loved one is engaged and interested.
2. Life Skills
With dementia, an individual's short-term memory may fade, but their long-term memories remain intact. You can absolutely incorporate your loved one's skills, history, and background into life skills activities. If your loved one worked on a farm or had a garden, plan an activity like sorting or planting seeds. Consider a small herb garden which may be easier to manage. This is a chore that could bring back memories from when they were younger. If your loved one was a handyman, simple activities involving hand tools, like using a screwdriver or wrench will allow your loved one to complete an activity using skills that have been developed throughout their life. For those who were homemakers, activities involving baking, folding clothes, or household chores can be simple, and modifiable.
Stick to purposeful movements. Activities involving a full range of motion incorporating slow movements can be calming. Try to incorporate slow, deep breaths in these activities. If your loved one has physical limitations, you can have them seated in a chair. If they are seated, have them motion like they are picking an apple from a tree, painting a fence, stirring a pot, or placing flowers in a vase. These movements are universal and can keep your loved one active and engaged. Consider Chair Tai Chi or Gentle Stretching on YouTube.
Sensory activities are important and can help keep the whole mind alert. For smell, use cotton balls and essential oils including citrus, lavender, or vanilla. Ask your loved one to identify the scent. For taste, have your loved one put their hands over their eyes. Line up three different bite size types of fruit, have them taste and see if they can identify the fruit.
5. Learning and Learned Skills
Those with dementia still have a great amount of creativity and NEVER stop learning. Have a loved one paint in a simplified setting. You can have them choose a picture they would like to or have them try to copy a photo. You can visit art instruction website, virtual zoo and museum tours and destinations if your loved one liked to travel. Try putting on a cooking show and watching together then make the recipe you watched being made. Remember that using a knife is a skill that some folks with dementia may still know how to do. We tend to take away tasks that our loved ones can accomplish when being a family caregiver. It is important to be mindful that your loved one, can sometimes continue these tasks in a safe manner.
COVID-19 has put a damper on our Socialization through dining. Dining is a great way to socialize because it is an activity that is done every single day. Dining usually allows your loved one to interact with others and now your loved one may only be interacting with you. Have your loved one set the table, help cook the meal and chat, or clear the table while you are socializing. Incorporate the task with the socialization.
Every interaction should be focused on the physical and emotional wellbeing of your loved one. Create a stimulating environment where they can thrive in mind, body, and spirit.
The Montessori Method can have tremendous benefits for people with dementia, as well as their loved ones. The activities are generally easy to set up, can be modified depending on a person's skillset, and customized from a person’s lifestyle before the diagnosis.
Please give us a call if you need support during this time in caring for your loved one with dementia and think it may be time to plan for when the pandemic restrictions lift. Remember that legal planning for those with dementia is a specialty and it is important to consult with a firm that truly understands this. Paying for care, determining competency, and putting the right care option in place is a process. We have a team of Lawyers and Paralegals who can help walk you through the legal and financial situations you may be facing as your loved one progresses. We also have Certified Dementia Practitioners and Certified Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Care trainers as well as a Certified Montessori Dementia Care Professional on staff who can help you with the process of creating a stimulating environment for your loved one at home while quarantining. Call 609-580-1044 if you would like to discuss your loved one’s expressions or if you would like to start to plan for life ahead.