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7 Creative Approaches to Dementia Care

August 9, 2016

 

About 47.5 million people are living with dementia worldwide, and this number is expected to triple by 2050. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, and while there is no cure for dementia, creative approaches can help to manage symptoms and slow progression of the disease.
 
The good news is that treatment for dementia has advanced over the past few decades. Caregivers do a great job focusing on basic caregiving needs, like food, hygiene, and physical therapy. These primary needs are important and due to time and financial constraints, it’s not always possible for caregivers to give more than those basic needs. That said, there are some creative approaches home caregivers can follow that can become part of the daily routine that will not only make the life easier for seniors in dementia care, but also for the caregiver.
 
Since people who have dementia lose their memories, they often become fearful as they have no idea where they are, what’s happening around them, and why. When they’re in a state of uncertainty, their behaviors often become challenging, or they will withdraw from their environment. When employing creative therapy alternatives, their daily routine can be made more fun and the need for antipsychotic drugs can decrease.
 
These creative treatments may take a significant amount of time and attention in the short term, but over time the results can be magnificent. Here are a few great ideas of how home caregivers can incorporate creative treatments into the daily life of someone who has dementia:
 
1.    Dancing
 
Seniors who have dementia have a greater risk of falling due to poor balance, muscular weakness, and cognitive impairment. Activities like dancing improve their balance and muscle strength, and make them more mobile, which helps to prevent falls and to manage pain.
 
The best part about dancing is that it is fun. When seniors with dementia have a good time, it will take their mind off their surroundings and help them connect with the people around them.
 
2.    Painting and Building Puzzles
 
Painting and building puzzles help people who have dementia to reconnect with their surroundings. The images often invoke memories and encourage conversation, which are particularly beneficial to helping seniors maintain their identities. There are special puzzles and art books available for seniors with dementia which are both easy to do and age appropriate.
 
3.    Incorporate Hobbies
 
People who have dementia enjoy doing the hobbies they always loved to do. When caregivers include their hobbies into their daily lives, they often find that the seniors in their care are not only willing to participate in the activity, but it also makes them calm and relaxed. Family and friends are a great place to start to enquire about their past hobbies or the kinds of activities they are likely to take pleasure in.
 
4.    Improv Theatre
 
Improv or improvisation is a form of live theater where the story, characters, and dialogue are made up in the moment. One person will start with a statement, and the next person will elaborate on the story. Everybody will take turns and develop the story on the spot, often resulting in a hilarious storyline.
 
The principles that guide improv theater can be incorporated into the daily caregiving activities and treatment. The principles are as follows:
 
Say yes: If the patient makes a statement, no matter how far-fetched it sounds, the caregiver can agree with the statement and accept it as if it’s true. For instance, the person may say he went to a baseball game today, and even though he didn’t, the caregiver can say yes.


Encourage the story: In improv theater, the next person will usually say “yes, and.” In our example above the caregiver can say “yes, and who scored?” This will encourage the person with dementia to use their imagination in order to keep the conversation going. The discussions will be fun and interactive.


Go with the flow: No matter how silly the story, when the caregiver shows genuine interest, the imagination of the person who has dementia will run wild and will give them an escape from their immediate environment.
 
5.    Humor Therapy
 
Having fun should be part of daily living, and that counts for people who have dementia as well. The ability to laugh remains intact even when all other abilities have diminished. A weekly session of humor can have the same effect as a daily dose of antipsychotic medication.
 
Sometimes an entertaining show or movie will do the trick, but jokes can also be incorporated into everything the caregiver and client do together. This will bring fun and laughter to both the client and caregiver.
 
6.    Music and Drumming
 
When people who have dementia participate in group activities like singing and drumming, the person inside is reached, and a feeling of togetherness is created. For example, a school choir can become involved in this activity which will also help the children get a better understanding of what dementia is all about and learn how to connect with people who have dementia.
 
7.    Art Appreciation
 
Art appreciation is a fun activity that can encourage deep conversations. When discussing a painting, the following questions can be asked:
 

  • What was artist thinking?

  • What kind of person is the artist?

  • Is he happy or sad, rich or poor?

  • What was he doing at the time of painting the artwork?

 
Listen how the story unfolds and accept their opinions as correct. Their answers will often give you a glimpse of what they’re thinking themselves and bring out their own memories.
 
Trying New, Creative Approaches When Treating Dementia
 
These creative approaches are best when the home caregiver is supportive, spontaneous, and fun. Valuable moments and cherished memories will sprout from creative treatment and will make it easier for both the person who has dementia and the caregiver.
 
If you need any assistance employing creative approaches into your daily routine, contact Alegre Home Care for ideas and actionable tips.


 

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