Dementia impacts seniors in many ways and symptoms can vary widely. It isn’t a specific disease, but several diseases, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Lewy body dementia, and many others that can lead to a dementia diagnosis. The common thread is that these all have the potential to significantly impact memory, thinking, and social abilities to the point where they interfere with seniors’ activities of daily living.
How to Enhance Life for Seniors with Dementia
For the loved ones of seniors who suffer from dementia, it can be challenging to deal with struggles associated with the symptoms this diagnosis presents. However, there are many effective strategies you can employ to enhance their lives.
1. Encourage Social Interaction
Seniors make many social connections over the course of their lives and it’s important that they keep in touch with family, friends, and former work colleagues. Even if they have trouble remembering people or communicating, social interaction is critical to prevent the loneliness and isolation that studies have linked to faster cognitive decline. Even simple conversations help stimulate the brain since seniors need to think about responses and reactions when interacting with others.
Engaging with people socially also leads to more physical activity and better nutrition. Getting seniors who suffer from dementia involved in social groups through volunteering or even just playing cards gets them to socialize with familiar people regularly. Besides engaging in social interaction, physical activity, and better nutrition, there are additional methods to boost seniors’ memory.
2. Art & Music Therapy
Art therapy, which can also include activities such as cooking and crafts, connects seniors with their creative side and often facilitates memory by motivating them to tell their stories and recall events from their lives.
Many studies have shown that music can impact a variety of neurological disorders and diseases based on the connection between sound, cognition, and memory. Music may improve memory recall, boost moods, and help seniors renew their sense of identity. Listening to familiar music can also spark powerful memories.
3. Emphasize Good Nutrition
Seniors with dementia often have difficulty at mealtimes due to physical and cognitive challenges. Make sure mealtimes are calm and eat with them to encourage conversation and social interaction. Put their favorite foods on the menu, be aware that these may change due to dementia, and make sure to watch their calories so the senior isn’t eating too much or too little. For physical problems such as using utensils, chewing or swallowing provide softer options, finger foods, and purees that they can sip through a straw.
4. Move for Better Physical, and Mental Health
For all seniors, regular exercise helps them maintain their independence and perform activities of daily living more easily. For people suffering from dementia, it’s even more beneficial because better cardiovascular health improves blood flow to the brain. Exercise also
provides opportunities for social engagements, boosts self-esteem, and can improve cognition and slow mental decline. Everyday tasks such as walks, housework or digging in the garden can raise their heart rate. Before starting anything strenuous, it’s always a good idea to check with their physician.
5. Create a Safe Living Space
Take a close look at your loved one’s living space to spot potential hazards. Locks in bedrooms and bathrooms may be problematic, so consider replacing them with non-locking ones that can be opened in the case of an emergency. Consider installing internet door and window alarms, webcams and motion activated camera doorbells around the house. Adults with dementia may seek to find places from their past and may become disoriented once they leave their homes. These devices can alert you if they wander away.
6. Keep Things Calm
The agitation and irritable behaviors linked to dementia can be triggered by seniors’ discomfort in their environment. What may seem normal to you may be intimidating or confusing for them. Pay attention to behavioral patterns to identify causes and times of day when a senior exhibits agitated behavior. Sudden loud noises from doorbells, clocks, and cellphones may upset them so disabling them may be effective in moderating behaviors. Calming activities such as craft or reading together can help manage mood and behavior.
7. Practice Meaningful Communication
When speaking with a senior who suffers from dementia, address them by name to get their attention and make sure to include them in group conversations. It’s also important to give them time to respond because they may have trouble finding the right words to express themselves. Even if what they are saying is untrue or inaccurate, avoid contradicting or correcting them as this is often a source of great frustration for them.
In the coming months, Blakeford will introduce licensed and secured memory care to our Nashville community. Burton Court at Blakeford Memory Care is designed to provide quality care for seniors with Alzheimer’s and Dementia in a home-like setting. Our research-based programs will allow residents to pursue a variety of interests in a structured and calming environment with specially trained staff to guide them through their day. For more information, contact us at today!