For Alzheimer’s caregivers, parents and senior loved ones living with the disease, social engagement is key to finding balance and promoting wellness. Engaging in social activities promotes a strong sense of belonging and gives people with Alzheimer’s a sense of purpose when it feels like their world is shrinking.
Learn how to keep your loved ones engaged in the world around them while still having fun together.
Alzheimer’s caregivers and their loved ones deserve the chance to make the most every day, to develop new and meaningful relationships, and enjoy each other’s presence.
Self Magazine recently asked Alzheimer’s caregivers how they found ways to keep their loved ones active and engaged. Here is what they said:
If the activities your parent or senior loved one enjoys are no longer safe after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, think through possible adaptations that you can make so that they become something your loved one can continue. For example, if your loved one enjoys fishing, maybe now they never go fishing alone. Or, if your loved one has a strong golf game, seek out a golf camp for people with neurological disorders that can adapt the game for physical limitations.
It’s important for caregivers to see their loved ones as the individuals they are. Instead of seeing a person as a patient, continue to engage them in their hobbies and interests before their diagnosis. Be sure and give your loved one ample opportunities to continue their interests, as long as those activities are safe to continue doing.
Going on walks together is a great way to stay engaged and can improve communication. Walking increases mobility, flexibility and strength, and can also fight anxiety and depression. Walk slow and together, breathing in the fresh air to reset a challenging day.
Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disease that progresses in stages. Look for the areas of cognition that have not been impacted and celebrate those. Maybe your loved one still loves to write so encourage him or her to write about their journey. Maybe they have excellent photography skills or love to read. Celebrate small victories and encourage your loved one to use cognitive skills even as the disease progresses.
Remember that your loved one is more than a diagnosis and respect his or her wishes. Don’t try to force activities on days that neither of you are up for it. Choose your battles and err on the side of letting things go instead of forcing your reality on your loved one. Choose to be okay with where your loved one is as the disease progresses.
Having your loved one help with household chores that are safe can contribute to a sense of meaning and purpose for people living with Alzheimer’s. Folding clothes and putting away dishes are two examples of safe and productive chores that people with the disease can help accomplish safely.
For people with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers, finding others who are going through the same thing can be life-changing. Creating a unique support system, these groups can help caregivers and people with dementia cope with the difficulties of the disease and can even help you find humor in certain situations. If getting out and meeting with an in-person group seems overwhelming, learn more about finding online support groups.
Pick a favorite book, or one that will connect your loved one with his or her past and read it out loud together. Not only is it good bonding time, but it can also help get your loved one mentally engaged with the present while enjoying beloved stories.
Set attainable goals and work on accomplishing them together. This can give meaning and a new sense of purpose to your loved one. Plan a family reunion or take a trip. Whatever your loved one wants to do, consider what it would take to make it happen and work together to make that goal a reality.
Just because something works for a friend who is also a caregiver, does not mean it will work for you and your loved one. Keep trying different activities until you find one that you both enjoy and that works for your loved one’s capabilities and interests.
Are you an Alzheimer’s caregiver? What fun activities do you do with your loved one? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
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