Insight was the place where my brother would go for a fun, entertaining, and engaging day. Right now, of course, he’s spending a lot of time at home. I don’t have a background in recreation or activities or anything like that and I don’t really feel comfortable leading any kind of activities at home. Is there anything else in terms of activities you would suggest?
Yes! I understand that there can be a pressure to replicate activities and engagement that happens at the center. The fact of the matter is, you don’t have to replicate those things at home. Leading an “activity” can be stressful and uncomfortable. The best engagement is that which feels comfortable for you AND your loved one. There are plenty of things that aren’t “activities” that are fun and engaging and can create a fulfilling day at home. Activities serve as a vehicle for positive engagement, and aim to set someone up for a successful, good day. I have a couple suggestions for how you can achieve this success at home, without having to “facilitate” an activity.
One thing I would recommend is to establish a social routine for someone living with dementia. Something I know to work well is to set up routine calls with friends and family. I sometimes hear that extended family or friends members want to help with someone with dementia, but just don’t know what that looks like; have them set up a weekly call to check in. For example: plan that every Monday at 11:30 your loved one chats with a good friend or neighbor. Consider reaching out to other brothers and sisters, or other close friends and see if they would schedule a routine call. It will take some initial legwork on your end, but the goal is to create a system that works in the long term for your loved one and you.
Another suggestion is to start conversations based on things around the house. You don’t even have to dig out a photo album! Pull a family photo off the wall and use it as a fun conversation starter. Suggest where the photo might have been taken, or who or what is in the photo. If recalling information is difficult, talk about the clothing, items, or colors in the photo. You can use any knick-knack or memorabilia on the mantle to jump start a story. When it comes to conversation, make sure your loved one with dementia feels engaged by having authority in the conversation. Let them direct the conversation. A one-on-one conversation is not the time to correct that “you actually got that item on a different vacation,” or that “that happened 8 years ago, not last month!” Let your loved one lead the conversation!
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Kennedy O'Donnell is the Early Stage Coordinator at Insight Memory Care Center.