Dementia is not a specific condition—it is a group of symptoms closely related to changes in the brain. The brain’s cognitive decline affects a person’s intellectual abilities, memory and ability to function. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease; however, vascular disorders, infections of the central nervous system and even depression cause dementia, states The Cleveland Clinic. Activities promote self esteem and increase quality of life for dementia patients. Planned activities should focus on positivity and what the dementia patient can accomplish. Divide dementia activities into simple, realistic steps.
Fill a basin with warm water and add a soft washcloth. Wash each patient’s hands and arms. Pat skin dry with a clean towel. Apply scented lotion or essential oils and give a hand massage. Essential oils, such as lavender, are recommended because they cross the blood/brain barrier, similar to medication according to the book “The Fragrant Mind: Aromatherapy for Personality, Mind, Mood, and Emotion” by Valerie Ann Worwood. Lavender oils promote relaxation and decrease stress, while citrus oils are invigorating and promote energy. The University of Maryland Medical Center suggests aromatherapy and use of essential oils in coordination with massage therapy may benefit dementia patients. Speak softly and ask permission to give a hand massage before starting. While giving the massage, orient the person to the time of day and upcoming activities. Wash your hands or use antimicrobial cleanser between patients to decrease the spread of germs.
Include dementia patients in household chores. Helping with chores gives a dementia patient a sense of belonging and pride. Have patients help sort or polish silverware, set the dining room table or even help make a dessert. Many older dementia and Alzheimer’s patients enjoy helping to sort or fold laundry. Set aside a basket of old clothes to fold. Additional options include stuffing envelopes, polishing shoes, vacuuming or watering plants. Create a safe environment by supervising patients carefully.
Discussing the past with dementia patients helps preserve memories that still exist. Talk about meaningful, fun events, such as a first kiss or first date. Ask patients to talk about their first dance or where they met their spouses. Go around in a circle to share and discuss stories. Serve coffee and snacks to create a relaxing atmosphere. Invite family members; have someone write down the stories to share with loved ones not present.