Memory Care and the Importance of Engagement
Updated: May 23, 2021
Memory care is meant to provide people with Alzheimer’s or dementia the special support they need. This includes ensuring residents are eating three meals a day, receiving medicine or prescriptions they should be taking, and any other personal day-to-day tasks they have. An important part of any memory care facility is a structured environment, a core part of this environment being activities. Having scheduled and specialized activities can positively impact cognitive function and help with engagement amongst residents diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Music Therapy and Alzheimer’s and Dementia
Music therapy has become increasingly popular with Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, studies have shown that people who have Alzheimer’s, even in the later stages, can remember lyrics or beats to songs from as early as their childhood. It has also shown to help with frustration and agitation.
Different music is used for different situations. To help stimulate memory, it is important to try and play music that could be familiar, such as old hymns or popular songs on the radio when they were younger. To help with behavioral issues, playing tranquil music can create a calm, peaceful environment. It is also important to try and reduce background noises that can be confusing or overwhelming.
The Impact of Art
The Alzheimer’s Association recommends art because it gives loved ones a sense of accomplishment and purpose. It can also be a form of self-expression!
These projects should be fairly basic but not childlike. Residents might need some help along the way, especially when getting started. Encouraging words and asking about the art they’re creating can also be a key part of the project, especially if the art is reflecting something of the past.
Time is not of the essence when it comes to arts and crafts. Creating their art can last a multitude of days, and it is important to allow them to have that space to be creative and feel proud of what they have created.
Getting outside and being active is especially important for those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia. It is proven that exercise can sharpen memory and thinking skills. In a study published by the US National Library of Medicine, patients with Alzheimer’s had improved cognitive function after participating in long-term exercise.
Some ways to get outside and be active with your loved ones are gardening, taking a walk, going to a park, or even playing catch or any other games they might like.
Going outside can also be a great mood enhancement. For those in later stages of Alzheimer’s, the desire to go outside can start to diminish. But it is important to not give up on encouraging them to get outside as much as possible. Being outside can lower stress levels and is a crucial source of vitamin D, a vitamin that keeps our bones, muscles, and teeth healthy. The Dementia Centre reports that people who regularly spend even 15 minutes outside experience an increase in self-esteem and the ability to communicate.
Playing Games Together
Because Alzheimer’s and dementia can cause loved ones to isolate themselves and not interact in activities, finding ways to get them engaged and interact with others is very valuable. And what better way to do that than with games?
First, try to find something they may have enjoyed in the past, like a simple card game or even a puzzle. The process of the activity is much more important than the results, so it is okay if the rules to the game aren’t followed to a T. This time spent together is meant to help foster an emotional connection, stimulate memories and cognitive function, and improve their mood!
Finally, even your normal everyday activities can positively impact loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Things such as cooking together (safely), doing dishes, brushing their hair, looking at pictures, or reading from one of their favorite books can be beneficial. As mentioned earlier, it is the process that matters. Spending time and being intentional with that time with loved ones and residents is crucial to their health.
Encouraging and getting loved ones diagnosed with these diseases to be active and engaged has shown to improve their communication skills and memory. Remember to be patient with them during these activities but enjoy the time together!
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