Engaging Residents with Memory Issues

One of the most important aspects of any Memory Care unit is the activities program.  The various programs are designed to keep the residents engaged but also provide the opportunity for success, an avenue to development social relationships, and the comfort of a daily routine.

A number of things should be considered when engaging residents with memory issues.  First, the activities should be meaningful.  What were the hobbies or interests of the person prior to the onset of dementia?  What was the person’s occupation?  What gave the person the most personal satisfaction throughout his or her life?  For a homemaker, activities could include baking, washing dishes, folding laundry.  For a former office worker, activities could include clipping and sorting coupons, alphabetizing “office” items, or delivering mail.

Second, the activities should be of short duration.  Most people with Alzheimer’s disease or other form of dementia develop shortened attention spans.  Having an activity that last longer than half an hour will result in a loss of interest.

Third, the task should not be so simple as to be childlike but should be difficult enough to provide  success for the person involved.  Baking a batch of cookies would be too much for someone with dementia but measuring the flour could be an accomplishment.  Doing trivia may be outside the person’s abilities but finishing song lyrics or famous proverbs may delve into a deeper memory.

With any activities program, knowing the person’s past habits, hobbies, and preferences is key to engaging them in thoughtful, meaningful tasks to provide as much joy as possible within the confines of dementia.

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