Meaningful Activity Programming

One of the most beneficial things we can do for someone with dementia is to provide them with meaningful activities. It is not uncommon that we forget how important the most simple of activities are to everyday life.

We often take for granted our ability to perform basic daily tasks such as getting dressed, vacuuming , doing dishes, taking care of our own personal hygiene, reading a treasured book, or watching our favorite tv shows. To empathize with someone with dementia that no longer can or is not allowed to decide their activities, imagine what it would be like to wake up and have someone else pick out your clothes, hygiene products, and schedule your day without asking for your input. It would be frustrating and sometimes that is what happens to individuals with dementia. Though caretakers feel they might be making life easier for someone with dementia, they could actually be taking away their self-worth by excluding those with dementia from taking part in basic, meaningful daily activities.

Keeping older adults with dementia engaged in tasks that they find meaningful is beneficial to their well-being both physically and emotionally. At Willowbrook, much of what we do for activities is based on the Montessori School formed by Maria Montessori. She was an innovator in education and opened the first Montessori school in 1907. The basis for her schools was that if children were able to take ownership of their learning process, they would learn more efficiently. She taught them to learn through “doing” using hands-on activities. Essentially, she had her students running the school in all aspects ranging from preparing for meal times, classroom preparation, and even teaching themselves new lessons. At Willowbrook, we apply her theories of learning and engagement to the programming we provide for older adults with dementia by remembering that what we do for our residents in regard to their activities actually takes away from their abilities.

Willowbrook activities are designed to meet the unique needs of each one of our residents. We take time to get know everyone and work with families to find out as much as we can about our residents. We use what we know to create activities that our residents will enjoy. For example, we plant gardens and flowers during the warmer months. We take art classes, and residents help with serving meals and lead activities daily. We don’t let the disease process of dementia stop of us from enjoying everyday life and taking joy in the moments.

Willowbrook offers a wide variety of services including home evaluation to help improve the quality of life for those living at home with dementia. This service includes educating caregivers on the best ways to provide activities at home. Listed below are some tips to get started in planning meaningful activities.

  • Don’t assume that someone with dementia can’t play a card game because they have forgotten the rules or won’t be able to learn something new. You truly can teach “old dog new tricks”! Besides, the importance of the activity is not on following all the rules; it is about engagement and a sense of purpose for the person with dementia.
  • Understand that interests change. Someone with dementia might not have been very artistic prior to the disease. Don’t assume they would not enjoy a painting class or evening experimenting with watercolors or various forms of art. Embrace the person and their interests for who they are in the present.
  • Encourage someone with dementia to do as much as they can for themselves. It is caregiver instinct to help them but it doesn’t really help them in the long run. The most basic activities of daily living like dressing and brushing teeth engage the brain!
  • Involve someone with dementia continuously! Ask them to help set the table or to fold their own laundry. Initially, the person might say they don’t know how to do what you are asking. However, if you demonstrate for them what you want them to do; you might be surprised what the hands remember!

If you are reading this and would like more information about scheduling a free home assessment or getting more information about providing meaningful activities, please contact us.

“Those with dementia are still people, and they still have stories, and they still have character and they are all individuals, and they are all unique, and they just need to be interacted with on a human level”. ~Carrie Mulligan