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What to do? : Thinking Differently about Activities with someone with Dementia

Posted on: 2013 10 09

What to do? : Thinking Differently about Activities with someone with Dementia Engagement: For some, the word triggers thoughts of wedding plans and diamond rings. For those of us who work in memory care, this word encompasses the purpose behind every interaction with our residents. How do I engage my resident with dementia? The answer to this question is different for every resident…. Art therapy was just the answer for one resident. This expressive program allowed him the outlet to share cherished memories of his life with his wife. Despite having diminished language skills, he drew pictures of summer vacations at camp and always dedicated his pictures to his wife. Sensory activities help our residents maintain cognitive abilities, while reminding them of rewarding accomplishments and special memories. On move in day, one family brought in their mother’s favorite red sweater, and displayed it decoratively on the wall. Typically she is introverted and does not engage in social activity; however this object with its familiar color and tactile qualities reminds her of a special time in her life providing her with a sense of comfort, as exhibited by the smile on her face when she touches the sweater. Objects can be used serving as a topic of communication. For instance one day during “Nurses Week”, a nursing cap was worn by a resident who was an active duty nurse. This cap, played a significant role in her life and triggered memories of accomplishment…allowing her an opportunity to recall a time in her life where she felt good about what she had done, a time when she could care and nurture her patients. As we care for our residents and loved ones with memory challenges I encourage you to think about sensory activities. Our senses are powerful memory enhancers…the fragrance of a rose may trigger a memory of an engagement proposal, or prom date….. a photo of a new born may allow someone to talk about the birth of their child…..touching a cap and gown may trigger a memory of graduating from high school or college…the taste of chicken soup may bring back a memory of learning how to cook with a loved one…and the sound of “Amazing Grace” may trigger a time in life where things were less complicated. Let’s think about how we can touch the lives of our residents and loved ones in a meaningful and positive way, be if socially, physically, emotionally or spiritually……let us think of ways to enhance their quality of life with purpose and dignity Lauren Jacobi is a 2008 graduate of SUNY Albany with a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology, 2009 graduate of SUNY’s School of Public Health with a Certificate of Graduate Study in Public Health : Fundamentals and Practice, and a 2011 graduate of Sage Graduate School with a Masters in Science in Health Services Administration.  Lauren has worked for a dementia care specific adult day service and for memory care homes.

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