Activities for people with Dementia …

When talking about sharing or encouraging activities with elderly people or people who are living with dementia, an activity doesn’t have to be as energetic as a Welly Throwing competition, a Flower Arranging class or complex celebration Card Making extravaganza [although it very well could be depending on your participants]. An activity can be something as simple as conversation, just having a chat or watching birds in a garden from a comfortable chair by a window. Reports have shown that ADL’s [assisted daily living tasks] don’t fulfil a person who requires extra care. As conversation doesn’t come easily to all of us, and conversation for and with people with dementia can become difficult, I have developed a range of handy resources to help carers provide enriched care by enriching social moments in time.

The idea behind Happy Days resources is that of ‘moments in time’ –  prompts to help carers to initiate or share conversation with residents or people they care for at home or in day centres. Conversation prompts aren’t complicated, don’t come packaged in store-away boxes with stiff lids. They are exactly what they say they are; handy sized picture and text conversation prompts. Although prompts can be used for a shared activity, for example, spreading out and sharing around a table with residents to help prompt long term memories, recollections, stories and encourage participation, they can also be used on a one-to-one basis.

Although some people find it easy to create conversation, others might find it more problematic. During research and from carer feed-back, it became apparent that many carers, apart from feeling over-stretched with daily tasks, found it awkward, tricky or too difficult to initiate conversation[s]. Repeated everyday living tasks could also be responsible for numbing creative topics for conversation. There are other things that might affect the carer too: Imagine if you were a very organised carer, gentle and thoughtful but were terribly shy. Imagine if you were experiencing problems in your private life which were impacting your daily thoughts. You might not feel like creating a new and cheery conversation with Mrs. Jones, Fred or Mavis about the garden, what’s for lunch or what they did during the 1960s. This is where the ‘Time to Chat’ prompt cards can benefit the carer and the resident – both people are prompted and both people can share and enjoy the outcome. Sometimes,  the conversation generated provides the carer with interesting resident social history. Sharing conversation topics with other carers can help to ensure meaningful interaction is provided to enrich personal and social care and support resident well-being.

Carers are busy enough and can’t be expected to have a complete creative agenda to suit all capabilities – That’s why Happy Days resources and activities are designed to require very little preparation and take up smaller amounts of time. ‘Picture Bingo’ is a prime example. Again this can be used in small groups on on a one-to-one basis. Large images are shown to residents which can be matched to their A4 laminated picture bingo card. [counters included]. For residents who may not be able to play the game or who may have dementia, the cards also act as conversation prompts. The product is laminated and can be wiped clean. Yes, residents can win a game of Picture Bingo but it is also designed to be a non-competitive activity to encourage conversation and movement.

‘Not all residents want to take part in a two hour card making extravaganza.’ Every time I state this at an exhibition, presentation or dementia workshop, most heads nod in agreement. Especially for residents living with dementia, a two hour creative session would most likely be impossible. For the two or three residents who are found sat alone at the side or appear disinterested, what can we do? These residents may enjoy something simpler; looking at images related to the activity being presented, participating in one basic part of the activity – even if the action is repeated. Don’t underestimate the simplicity of a task – simple tasks often calm agitations. Even the act of winding a bobbin, rolling wool, sanding a piece of wood or turning a rotary whisk have proved to be beneficial for people with dementia

It’s good to see that some residential care groups are participating in integrated care – where residents who wish to or who are able, join in with everyday tasks – folding laundry, laying the table, gardening, setting up or clearing away for creative activities. Helping to maintain skills is one way to keep active and engaged. Many of the Happy Days materials are based on everyday tasks and incorporate recognisable images and themes to help prompt memory and conversation.

Happy Days has developed a recipe book for carers, packed with ‘moments in time’ activities to share with elderly people, people who need extra care or people who have dementia – so please check out the shop or call me for more information about licensed materials which can be edited to your organisation’s requirements, photocopied or printed from included flash drive.

After extensive market research, finding out what would be most beneficial to residents, easy to use for the carer and cost effective for the care home owners and managers, Happy Days Dementia Workshop now has a wide range of products available. The One-stop shop is designed to help you share more time with residents rather than using it on internet or catalogue searches.

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Gillian Hesketh