Dementia affects relationships
Every year, there are more than 10 million new dementia cases, according to Alzheimer’s Disease International. This means many of us navigate this condition with spouses, parents, grandparents, siblings and more.
If you love someone who has dementia, you know the disease is often accompanied by symptoms that go beyond memory loss. For the patient, dementia can trigger paranoia, speech difficulties and, at times, even a lack of empathy. These symptoms usually only make the caregiver’s experience more complicated and emotional.
Fortunately, finding moments to connect with a loved one who has dementia, and enriching their life with things you can do together, is possible. In fact, welcoming them into a few of your regular tasks may not only help the two of you enjoy some one-on-one time, but as you might discover with a few of the ideas listed below, it could also help to remind you that there can be joy in the most basic routines.
Read on for wisdom and ideas from geriatrics clinician Dr Jeffrey Landsman and longtime family caregiver Breeda Miller. Many activities for dementia patients and their caregivers are relatively easy to plan.
Pull out old photo albums
For some dementia patients, looking through old photos can unlock memories from childhood and early adulthood. “Though someone may not remember you – they may have no short-term memory – long-term memory can persist,” Dr Landsman says. “Somebody with pretty advanced dementia may still have some of the old memories available.”
Digging out old albums or boxes of photos might take a little time, but it’s likely to be very rewarding. Your loved one with dementia might be able to talk about old times in a way that they haven’t for months (possibly years).
Organise a cabinet or shelf together
This simple activity can check an item off your to-do list while also reconnecting with an older family member. Miller recalls that her mother, who had Alzheimer’s, loved “the tactile exercise of smoothing and folding paper” while unpacking and organising a box of fragile china dishes.
Not only can this be good for a dementia patient’s spirit but, according to a 2018 review of studies that suggested sensory activities might also improve dementia symptoms, published in the journal Clinical Interventions in Aging, it might actually “help improve dementia-specific issues”.