Many of us look forward to the summer months, when the days are longer, time seems to slow down, and more time is enjoyed with family. If you’re a caregiver for a loved one living with dementia, though, the disruption in the regular schedule may leave everyone feeling frustrated or overwhelmed. Planning ahead and providing your loved one with opportunities to engage in meaningful and stimulating activities will ensure that their needs are being met and provide you both with some daily structure. Purposeful engagement, or offering activities to a person living with dementia based on their likes and strengths, has been shown to increase self-esteem, encourage independence, decrease depression, and support memory.
The summer is the perfect time to try something new with your loved one and for all the generations in your family to spend time together.
Visit a Local Museum
Museums are great options on hot summer days when spending too much time outside could be dangerous or uncomfortable for your loved one. Research has shown that visiting museums can reduce stress levels and improve cognition in those living with dementia. Before heading out, check to see if your local museum offers a senior discount or senior-friendly visiting hours. Plan your parking and mealtimes ahead of time to ensure the day goes smoothly.
Cooking is an excellent way to connect with your loved one, reminisce about family traditions and recipes, and stimulate their memory. It’s also the perfect activity for getting family members of all ages involved and working together. To limit frustration and set your loved one up for success, pre-measure your ingredients and encourage them to help with simpler tasks like pouring and mixing.
Start a Garden
Gardening has been shown to slow the progression of dementia, lower stress levels, improve mood, and aid in vitamin D production. If you don’t have outdoor space to build a garden, or if your loved one prefers to be indoors, consider purchasing pots and seeds that can be grown and tended for on a sunny windowsill.
Gather some watercolors, acrylics, brushes, and canvases and head out to a local park, lake, or beach to paint the scenery. Bring along chairs to sit on and some lunch to make a day out of it. Painting is a fun and relaxing hobby and helps to strengthen the mind while delivering numerous health benefits.
Make Some Music
Music therapy is an effective method for helping seniors with dementia relax, relieve stress, improve memory, and even restore lost speech. Set time aside during your week to play music from your loved one’s younger days and talk about how the music makes them feel. You may also want to have your loved one experiment with instruments. If they have experience, help them to rediscover their former talent by purchasing a second-hand instrument. Otherwise, start with fun and simple instruments like a small drum, a triangle, or a keyboard.
Consider your loved one’s abilities, mobility, and interests before embarking on any outing or introducing a new activity. With a bit of planning and preparation, you and your loved ones should have a fantastic summer!