Head of Research and Publications at Dementia UK, Dr. Karen Harrison Dening, introduces this series of blog posts pointing to why meaningful activities are so important for someone with dementia.
Maintaining meaningful activities add value and quality to a person’s life, whether they have a diagnosis of dementia or not. If a person is diagnosed with dementia their strengths and abilities will vary a great deal depending on what stage of dementia they are at. By thinking of activities which give the person with dementia meaning and engagement as much as possible, we can make sure these needs continue to be met, not only when their dementia progresses but also in the pandemic we’re facing which has meant that many people are now staying indoors.
Meaningful activities can include a range of things from the usual tasks of daily life, such as, cooking, cleaning, gardening, self-care, through to activities which engage like a call or a zoom session with a relative or friends.
Dementia can cause people to withdraw from activities and enjoyable interaction with family so it’s important to try and maintain those interests and relationships to support people living with dementia to lead a better and more enjoyable quality of life. People who live with dementia may show signs of apathy and seem to withdraw, such as, falling asleep at inappropriate times or becoming easily distracted. This can make engaging with the person living with dementia difficult at times.
Meaningful activities should be linked to hobbies or interests the person enjoyed before the diagnosis of dementia. Where ever possible the person with dementia should be encouraged to take an active role in choosing and defining activities that are meaningful to them. This will help to ensure that activity is meaningful and that relationships are developed and maintained.
Adapting activities as the dementia progresses
Adaptation and adjustments to activities may be necessary and will be dependent on things such as, what stage of dementia the person is at, a person’s physical abilities, the range of support available to them, such as whether they’re living on their own or have any family carers. As far as possible, people with dementia should be included in family activities. There is nothing to say that that this cannot happen following the pandemic with more families now spending time indoors, if the right meaningful activities are followed.
Overall meaningful activity provides the person living with dementia:
A sense of purpose and routine.
Acknowledges and uses the skills and life experiences of the person with dementia
Emotionally nurturing experiences which increase self-esteem and help the person to feel valued.
Opportunity for more social time with family
Maintain skills and independence, and in some cases improve the person’s ability to perform certain daily activities.
Opportunity to make decisions and have choice
Meaningful activities part two: physical exercise
Physical exercise is important for families with dementia during coronavirus isolation – here’s the best way to achieve this