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Dementia Activities and Routines

Scott Silknitter
By Scott SilknitterSeptember 11, 2015

Dementia activities and routines are not just playing a game of Bingo. It can be many things, like having a conversation, playing cards, watching a movie, or taking a walk. No matter how far our loved one’s dementia has progressed, there is still an opportunity to engage them.

Learn more about dementia activities and routines, and about using the Four Pillars of Activities to help families get there.

Dementia Activities and Routines

As we know, Individuals vary in the activities they prefer, reflecting unique personalities, interests religious and cultural backgrounds. The First Pillar of Activities — Knowing your Loved One — is the first step toward engaging.

Using a personal history form to look at our loved ones interests and preferences over their entire life is critically important. The Second Pillar of Activities — Learning to Communicate with Your Loved One — is just as important. No matter how far the dementia has progressed, there are ways to communicate.

We now move to the Third Pillar of Activities and Engagement — Activities, Routines and Preferences. Activities can occur all day, every day, but we must take care to have a routine and program in place as a guide.

Let us look at the simple routine of a Sunday morning cup of coffee. For years, your loved one woke up, made a cup of coffee, and sat down to read the newspaper. They took their coffee with two teaspoons of sugar and sat at the head of the kitchen table to read the paper before heading to church to sing in the choir.

If the disease has progressed to the point that they cannot enjoy their Sunday morning coffee on their own or read the paper or even speak let alone sing, what can you or other caregivers do to help them maintain that routine?

Can a warm beverage be prepared and offered with a straw to drink out of? Yes, it can. Can you read the stories of the newspaper out loud to your loved one? Yes, you can. Can you play your loved ones favorite gospel hymns on some type of device? Yes, you can.

Your loved one may have diminished capacities based on how far their dementia has progressed, but the elements of what they enjoyed throughout their lives on a Sunday morning can still be enjoyed. Not accommodating your loved one’s lifestyle preferences and routine can contribute to a depressed mood and increased behavioral symptoms. When a person feels that their preferences are not respected, it can be demoralizing.

As we know, activities are a way for individuals to establish meaning in their lives. The need for enjoyable activities does not change based on age or health needs. The only thing that changes is the level of assistance someone may need to engage in those pursuits.

For those of us who are caregivers, we all know the thought and prayer of wishing it could be easier. We as family caregivers have a great opportunity to empower a loved one to see that they possess talents and abilities and reduce our stress at the same time. They did not choose to have dementia and we did not choose to be a caregiver, but here we both are.

By modifying or adapting an activity to allow your loved one to engage as independently as possible, you can help restore their self-esteem and self-worth and maybe help keep a good day from turning into a bad one.

For more information, see any of the R.O.S. Family Caregiver books:

About the Authors

Alisa Tagg, BA, ACC/EDU, AC-BC, CDP, is the President of the National Association of Activity Professionals which has been the training and education authority for quality of life and leisure engagement in senior care since 1982. Scott Silknitter, inventor, author, and speaker, is the founder of R.O.S. Therapy Systems which began as a 2010 project to help his mother and father in a 25-year battle with Parkinson’s disease and dementia.

For more information about Alisa, Scott or the R.O.S. family of companies, or contact (888) 352-9788.

What dementia activities and routines have you and your loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia established? Do you have any suggestions for us? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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