5 Ways to Engage a Senior with Alzheimer’s

Get expert advice on how to connect with a person who has dementia.

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- Posted on May 24, 2019

An adult daughter comforts her father who is dealing with dementia

Studies have shown what Linda Odom found: Art and music can help you connect with someone even after dementia has progressed. Activities that keep the person engaged can create positive experiences and help alleviate the behavioral symptoms of Alzheimer’s or other dementias. Here are tips from the experts at Home Instead Senior Care, who have been providing personalized care, support and education to enhance the lives of aging adults and their families for more than 25 years:

Look to the person’s life story. What did they enjoy doing pre-dementia? Find things to do now that speak to those interests and meet their needs. Physical activities might include walking outside, putting golf balls and sorting photos. Puzzles and needlecraft stimulate the mind. Sporting events and religious services provide social interaction.

Capture their interest. Some people will say no to an activity or might be unable to initiate or complete it. To encourage engagement, start the activity on your own and let them follow your lead. Break an activity into smaller tasks, and give positive reinforcement for each task. Or ask the person to help you; even an everyday task such as folding laundry can turn into something enjoyable to do together.

Let the music play. Though the brain’s language and memory centers are compromised by dementia, the part of the brain that responds to music remains functional. Play favorite songs, particularly from the person’s youth, which they are more likely to recall. Let them choose the music or make selections from their collection. Encourage them to sing along and move to the music.

Get creative. Painting, drawing and doing other art projects give people with dementia a chance to express themselves. An artistic background isn’t required. Research indicates that the visual side of the brain stops being inhibited by the verbal side in people experiencing language loss, allowing them to be more visually creative.

Focus on the five senses. This helps engage someone with late-stage dementia. Let them pet a friendly dog or touch a cool stone. Listen to the birds. Smell flowers or a fresh-baked pie. Taste family recipes. Watch nature videos. Look at photos.

As Linda Odom discovered, acts of kindness and caring can make a big difference in the lives of older adults. With millions of seniors in the U.S. who are lonely or isolated, it’s more important than ever to reach out to older adults in your community. For tips on simple ways to help seniors, visit imreadytocare.com.

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