By Sue S. Wilson, LMSW
Fun, meaningful activities are as important to the wellbeing of an individual living with dementia as they are for anyone. Bringing children and elders together can provide endless opportunities for creating moments of joy and mutual engagement. With a little planning, you can set the stage for fun, meaningful activities that support the strengths and abilities of individuals with dementia while growing compassion in children.
When I look back at caregiving with my mother-in-law who lived for many years with dementia and died from dementia, I remember both tough times and joyful times. The toughest times hurt and made me feel sad. The sadness stemmed from the loss and grief that I was feeling. The joyful times lifted my spirits and made me feel happy. The happiness stemmed from loving interactions and moments of connection. People with dementia experience these same feelings for the very same reasons. It is important to note; that individuals with dementia, are able to feel sadness and happiness longer than they are able to remember what caused the feeling.
Some of the happiest moments I remember involved my daughter and her grandmother. I think of the wonderful ways they would naturally connect and enjoy each other’s company. Ideas below draw on those experiences and are offered as doable ways you can encourage connectedness and joyful moments.
Reading, Yes Reading
Like most young children, my daughter, loved to have someone read to her. She enjoyed the connection and would become totally engaged. I had no idea that my mother-in-law could still read books but she could and did. It was not about discussing the plot of the story but the opportunity for closeness.
My mother-in-law always loved shoes and shoe shopping. I remember one day, I was cleaning the kitchen, and it occurred to me that the house was a bit quiet. To my pleasure, as I approached my mother-in-law’s bedroom, I could hear happy chatter. I peeked in the room and what did I see? The two were playing shoe store. My mother-in-law was sitting on the edge of her bed and my little girl was taking pairs of shoes from her grandmother’s closet and putting them on and taking them off of her grandmother. I backed away and felt a smile wash over me. It’s those joyful moments that keep you going.
Scavenger hunts provide fun and entertaining opportunities for those with dementia and children to play together for a shared goal and even a prize! Team up your youngster and elder for a scavenger hunt. Give them some minor instructions and a list of things to find or do and you can turn even a chore into a game. Scavenger hunts can be modified to ensure success and safely challenge the ages and abilities of both those with dementia and children.
Flower arranging provides an opportunity for togetherness, reminiscing and making a beautiful creation to be admired and enjoyed for days! If your loved one lives in a memory care community, take a bouquet of fresh or artificial flowers and make arranging the flowers the focus of your visit. Doing something together can be engaging and satisfying even when language-processing skills are diminished by dementia.
For more on these ideas and for other resources, visit www.360eldersolutions.com.
Submitted By: 360 Elder Solutions, LLC
Phone Number: (512) 799-5043