Alicia Seaver is the Vice President of Memory Care Operations for EPOCH Senior Living and a Certified Memory Impairment Specialist. Every month, she addresses a specific issue related to memory and memory care. If you’re interested in hearing about a particular topic, please send a note to email@example.com.
Q: What are some meaningful activities my family and I can do with my loved one?
A: Fall and winter bring some of the best times of the year, no matter the weather. The changing colors, falling snow, favorite holidays … all these things and more carry meaningful memories for all of us, making it a perfect time of year to connect with a loved one with dementia.
The best activities for someone with dementia are simple – and also combine the senses and mental stimulation, of which there’s plenty at this time of year! For example, sitting outside on your back porch brings all sorts of sensory opportunities: touching a falling leaf, feeling the cool air or watching the wildlife. In the winter, enjoy the classic fall pumpkin spice scent or bake a favorite family recipe.
As you’re planning things to do this winter, here are some suggestions for meaningful activities that will be enjoyable for you, your family and your loved one living with dementia:
Go outdoors. As I mentioned previously, being outdoors provides sensory stimulation to the max. It also provides a good dose of natural vitamin D, which is essential for helping boost mental health, improve immune systems, regulate circadian rhythms and more. If going outside isn’t always possible, sit at your window and take in the sights or bring the outdoors inside with gourds, apples … anything else that sparks memories and conversation.
Build from favorite traditions. What sort of favorite fall and winter activities do you and your loved one enjoy? Singing holiday songs, checking out holiday light displays, baking delicious treats, watching favorite seasonal moves and going through pictures of celebrations past are all excellent ways to connect and share. They’re also great ways to keep your loved one involved and make new memories to celebrate in the future.
Over the holidays, it’s also beneficial to involve your loved one in holiday preparations and activities as much as possible – or appropriate – for your loved one. Have them help prepare favorite family recipes or set the table for dinner. Decorate the Christmas tree with favorite or meaningful family ornaments. Wrap your family’s gifts together or make holiday cards to send to friends and loved ones.
Use seasonal sensory therapies. Sensory therapies are excellent for helping stimulate the brain and connecting with memories – even if your loved one is in the later stages of dementia. Luckily, this time of year is filled with things to thrill the senses. Put together bundles of things that your loved one can explore, such as scent bags filled with cinnamon and spice for aromatherapy, chunky ribbons to hold and manipulate, acorns and leaves, checkered fabrics and other seasonal items.
Doing simple, seasonal crafts is also a fun way to engage your loved one during the winter season. Bake and decorate holiday cookies, put together a gingerbread house with the grandchildren or create a seasonal wreath to hang on your front door.
Celebrate the holidays. This time of year is meant for gathering with friends and family to celebrate Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and other seasonal holidays. While a large family gathering might be daunting for your loved one (and yourself), there’s no reason why you can’t still celebrate. Instead, modify your plans and opt for smaller get-togethers so that your loved one can see the people they love and care about without becoming overwhelmed. Try to stick to the familiar in terms of both location and routine, and schedule events when your loved one’s mood and attention tend to be at their best. Plan for a quiet area for the person to retreat if things get too hectic.
Another tip to help with the holiday celebrations is to prepare family and friends ahead of time by giving examples of unusual behaviors they may notice, providing tips on positive interactions with your loved one and ideas on meaningful ways to engage. The connection between your loved one and family members will help make the holidays very merry indeed.
Enhancing Quality of Life
Bridges® by EPOCH communities have been developed from the ground up to anticipate, meet and exceed the needs of our residents and their families. Our team of remarkable people, the exceptional care and services we offer and the purposeful design of our buildings all combine to create the most rewarding, secure and nurturing lifestyle possible for our residents.
We understand the concern families feel about ensuring quality of life for loved ones. That’s why, at Bridges® by EPOCH, we offer a wellness-centered lifestyle that focuses on reinforcing individual strength, so residents enjoy heightened confidence and self-esteem. Ultimately, we provide everything residents need to thrive and rediscover a life with purpose.
Inspiration for Success
At our Bridges® by EPOCH communities, we work closely with families to gain necessary insight and deeper understanding into the lives of our residents upon admission. With this initial information, along with what our exceptional team members learn about our residents every day, we are best prepared to provide highly individualized programming for our residents.
Bridges® by EPOCH is New England’s largest stand-alone memory care assisted living provider.