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Modifying Activities for Persons with Dementia

Posted by Karen Thompson on

          Whilst individuals with dementia remain one of the most stigmatized groups within community programming, individuals with dementia want to remain integrated in their community and given opportunities to partake in meaningful leisure with others. Socializing with other individuals has been shown to improve one’s overall health and helps to reduce stress. It is important to maintain your relationship with your loved one with dementia and to partake in activities that they’ve always loved, regardless of a dementia diagnosis.

Here are some modifications you can adopt when partaking in activities with your loved one with dementia:

Extra time and patience

Persons with dementia might need some additional time to carry out a particular activity. Be patient and give them extra time or support when engaging in leisure activities. They want to enjoy the same activities but may need additional time thinking about how they want to engage in the activity.

Stay optimistic

Approach activities with a ‘glass half full’ mindset. Focus on the positive experiences that occur within the activities and this will allow everyone to enjoy the activity! Embrace the positive outcomes that come along with leisure and make the most of your time spent together.

Take one step at a time

Avoid overwhelming individuals with dementia, but rather provide information one step at a time throughout the activity. If you’re engaging in a physical activity, like lawn bowling, provide instructions throughout the activity rather than all at once. This can overwhelm anyone, so it is beneficial to explain instructions in a clear way.

Find a place with limited distractions

Distractions can take away from the activity at hand – which might frustrate individuals or create a negative experience. Finding a place with limited distractions helps individuals with dementia to focus on the activity at hand and fully engage.

Be present

Individuals might get off task, so providing gentle reminders of the activity might help them to engage for a longer amount of time, creating a positive experience for everyone. For example, if you’re baking together, reminding them of the current steps that need to happen before introducing a new step allows individuals to engage in the activity and be present in that moment.

Actively listen

Ensure you are actively listening to concerns and questions from your loved ones and not ignoring them, as this makes individuals upset and feel a loss of dignity. Listening to individuals’ needs or opinions throughout activities can benefit both you and them and sets everyone up for success.

Be flexible

Life is never perfect – so activities shouldn’t be either! Take a moment to recognize that everyone does things a bit differently, and that’s okay! Be flexible with activities and make modifications when needed. As long as everyone is having fun, that should be your main concern.  

Put safety first

Modifications can be made to any leisure activity! If individuals face challenges with certain activities that are detrimental to maintaining their safety, make changes! Safety is a key concern and should be considered throughout any leisure activity.

Providing opportunities for decision-making

Individuals with dementia enjoy making decisions in regard to their leisure activities. Encourage them to choose an activity that they want to partake in, not one that might be of most convenience. This allows individuals the opportunity to make their own decisions and be in control of their leisure. Simply letting them choose which book they'd like to read is a great start!

Find a time that works best for individuals with dementia

Select a time that is most beneficial for individuals with dementia to engage in leisure activities. This sets everyone up for the most engaging and energetic leisure experience! If individuals are not feeling up to the activity, don’t force them to do something they don’t want to do.  

Having fun

At the end of the day, leisure is about having fun and staying connected to one another! Enjoy the company of one another – laughter is the best medicine!

Do you make any modifications to your leisure activities? Tell us in the comments below!


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