While the everyday tasks of daily living can become more difficult or near impossible for older adults with dementia, it becomes increasingly important for them to feel a sense of capability and accomplishment, no matter how big or small.
We all know the feeling of self-worth we get from accomplishing something: a hard day's work, finishing a personal project, even winning in a board game. That sense of accomplishment gives us confidence and drives us forward. For those with dementia, achieving that sense of accomplishment can seem like a daunting task. That's why it is important as Caregivers to present them with simpler tasks that are actually feasible, dependent on their level of ability.
Below are some recommendations for easy, simple activities that you can use or adapt in order to provide the opportunity for their accomplishment.
Simply transferring small plants into clay/ceramic pots is a fun activity for those with dementia. Just the act of taking the plant out of a bland plastic container and placing it into a colorful pot is enough to brighten the day. You can make it more complicated by using pots that are larger than plant's original container, using some soil to fill in the gaps. You can even decorate the pots prior to transferring the plants.
The simple task of folding towels, or hand towels, or washrags is an easy way for the older adult with dementia to feel helpful as they are contributing to the household. Depending on their level of ability, you may need to set with them and perform the folding simultaneously, as humans learn by modeling the behavior of others.
PATTERN BLOCKS AND BOARDS
We've all seen them in the waiting rooms of doctor's and dentist's offices: boards with shapes cut into them with corresponding blocks of various colors. For those with more severe dementia, these are great tools for the aging adult to occupy his or her time and feel satisfied with completing the basic shapes.
Jigsaw puzzles are common, recognizable, and there are very simple versions out there. Along with jigsaw puzzles, there are other tools, like a simplified Rubik's Cube, that can provide a small challenge.
You can even make your own simple jigsaw puzzle by simply cutting pictures into shapes, rearranging them, and putting them back together again.
Using a rope or cord of medium thickness, tie it into a knot for the aging adult to untie. You can make it more complicated by tying knots in succession, as in two or more in a row, as opposed to just one knot.
It's important to use a rope or cord of a size that will not be accidentally swallowed.
These are just 4 examples. What creative ideas do you have? A search online for simple tasks can help uncover the possibilities and give ideas to utilize or adapt for the aging individual with dementia in your life.
Melva Sherwood, RN