Growing up, my grandmother, who I call my Nanny, was living with early-stage dementia. I would often stop in at her house for a visit and would try to think of the right things to say. Sometimes it was difficult for me to think of certain stories to share with her or to know just how to engage with her. I was only a teenager when I was really exposed to dementia and still had a lot of learning to do. That’s when I realized that although she couldn’t remember certain words, memories, or sometimes my name, she was still able to feel and engage with me. I’ve learned a lot by maintaining my relationship with her along her dementia journey. I want to share what I’ve learned with you and how we can create the most meaningful activities, especially when reading Marlena Books! I’m also going to share some tips on how to socialize with persons living with dementia and reduce your fear of speaking to persons with dementia.
The first tip I have is to be present. When I would visit my Nanny, I would make sure to stay fully engaged with her and leave all my distractions at the door. I wanted to make the most of my visit and connect with her. It was moments at her kitchen table, chatting over breakfast, that are the most special to me. Take the time to be present and fully engage, maybe even over a Marlena Book! I know when people aren’t always listening to me, it does not make me feel so good.
Another tip I have is to maintain the pace of their world and to only assist when necessary. Offering opportunities for individuals to maintain their independence is essential. Individuals living with dementia may need more time, and that’s okay! When reading a Marlena Book, let them turn the pages if they wish and only assist when necessary. This will make the whole experience much more fun and relaxing!
This tip is so important – maintain social interactions! Due to the stigma associated with dementia, many persons living with dementia tend to lose a lot of their friends or close people in their lives. You can change this! Advocate for people with dementia and stay connected with a loved one in your life living with dementia. Together, we can create a more inclusive, accepting dementia community. If reading a Marlena Book, create conversations, reflect on something special you did together or laugh together over the book. This will make the activity much more enjoyable and also allow for meaningful conversations to be created.
Reflect. You can not only reflect on some special memories you had together, but you can also reflect on a Marlena Books story you read together. Download one of our journal reflections and reflect on the theme of the book, a special memory, or how it made you feel. This is a great way to not only reminisce but to also start conversations and spend more time together!
My last tip is to read more often. Research shows the benefits of reading, not only for people living with dementia but for anyone! Get lost in a good book while gaining those benefits! Continue to read beyond dementia and to create new memories.
My Nanny is one of my favourite people in the world, and through my experiences, I learned just how to interact with her and make the most of our time together. Don’t be afraid to engage with persons living with dementia and if you’re struggling with finding activities to do, try using one of our books to start the conversation!
Download our best practices guide here
Have any of your own tips for best practices? Share them with us in the comments below!