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It is very difficult to come up with ideas of what to do to spend meaningful time with someone who has dementia. I have attached a link to one of many variations of 101 things you can do with someone who has Dementia. This list was generated many years ago by a chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association and I have seen many forms of it since then.
The list itself or the form of the list is not important, the list is merely a trigger for you to come up with ways to visit that are meaningful.
A few key things to remember when doing things with someone with dementia:
Plan extra time. It will take longer than doing the task alone, the point is to spend quality time together.
Choose simple but meaningful activities. A task that has a purpose is a blessing to the person with dementia. With Dementia there is a constant struggle to feel a sense of purpose in the midst of the confusion. However there is a warning with this if you are pretending to have a purpose with whatever task you are engaging them in be sure you follow through with the pretense.
An example of what not to do: Many years ago I saw an Activity Director in the Dementia Unit give a resident a bowl full of mixed dried beans and ask her to separate them by type of bean “for soup”. After sitting at a table separating these beans into 4 different bowls and being quite proud of her accomplishment the Activity Director thanked her and promptly dumped them all back together into the original bowl right in front of the resident! That one act without thinking cost the Activity Director this resident’s trust. Yes the resident remembered! She didn’t remember the beans but she remembered the Activity Director and that she could not be trusted!
Choose activities geared towards the person’s interests. If they never cooked now is not the time to start however if cooking is something you need to do and you want to visit at the same time you can ask them to be your taster, “all good chefs have a taster”, and along the way they can maybe help wash dishes, or chop things up or measure and stir something. Be creative. Remember breaking things into smaller tasks may provide opportunity for them to really help you.
Something to do can give life purpose. Not every activity works for everybody. Use your baseline knowledge of your loved one and choose things they would enjoy doing.