Offer support and supervision. You may need to show the person how to perform the activity and provide simple, step-by-step directions. Concentrate on the process, not the result. Does it matter if the towels are folded properly? Not really. What matters is that you were able to spend time together, and the person feels as if he or she has done something useful. When the person insists that he or she doesn’t want to do something, it may be because he or she can’t do it or fears doing it. Don’t force it. If the person insists on doing something a different way, let it happen, and change it later if necessary. Don’t ask the person to do certain tasks, rather ask if the person would like to help you with your tasks.
While you’re polishing shoes, washing the car or cooking dinner, talk to the person about what you’re doing. Even if the person cannot respond, he or she is likely to benefit from your communication. If a person with dementia rubs his or her hand on a table, put a cloth in his or her hand and encourage the person to wipe the table. Or, if the person is moving his or her feet on the floor, play some music so he or she can tap them to the beat. If something isn’t working, it may just be the wrong time of day or the activity may be too complicated. Try again later, or adapt the activity.
Make activities safe. Change your surroundings to encourage activities. Place scrapbooks, photo albums or old magazines in easily accessible spots to help the person reminisce. Minimize distractions that can frighten or confuse. A person with dementia may not be able to recall familiar sounds and places, or may feel uncomfortable in certain settings. Hang lots of happy pictures or paintings in the part of the house that the person spends a lot of time. Mirrors confuse the dementia patient. Standing in front of one sometimes causes the person to think there is another person in the room. They don’t always recognize their own reflection.
Try some of these activities: