Navigating through the care and support of a loved one with dementia is challenging any time of year. But the hustle and bustle of the holidays can bring added stress to both patients and caregivers as they manage the symptoms through a particularly demanding season.
Despite the challenges, it’s important for seniors with cognitive impairment to feel included in family activities and mentally stimulated so they can continually practice their language, memory and decision-making skills. Here are some activities to help seniors with dementia stay engaged and feel a sense of purpose and accomplishment around the holidays.
Make Holiday Crafts
Craft activities improve mood, dexterity, cognitive function, and they are a necessary outlet for creativity. Try decorating ornaments, creating a wreath or centerpiece, making pomander balls with oranges and cloves, or drawing/painting a festive scene.
Decorate Their Space
From a whole-house transformation to a small bedside Christmas tree, bright, colorful and festive surroundings can do wonders for dementia patients. A few things to keep in mind when decorating:
• Don’t use flashing lights or large moving displays that can be disorienting
• Don’t use breakable ornaments
• Don’t use ornaments or decorations that look like food
• Don’t use real candles
• Keep walking areas clear to avoid tripping hazards
Listen to Music
Finding familiar tunes can be extremely therapeutic to dementia patients. Music is a powerful memory trigger and singing along keeps seniors engaged and immersed in happy holiday traditions.
Remember the Past
Many dementia patients struggle with short-term memories but can easily recall the events of long ago. Collect old pictures and put together a scrapbook, or make an audio recording or life-story book as they reminisce.
Take a Walk
Getting outside is essential for cognitive health. A walk through a park, a festive shopping center, or even just around the neighborhood is a fun activity for all ages and a great way to involve the whole family.
Take a Drive
Make it a holiday tradition to pick up a warm drink and drive through some beautifully decorated holiday displays. Just getting out of a familiar environment can be invigorating and energizing enough to improve mood and boost cognitive function.