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60 Fun Activities for Dementia Patients and Their Caregivers

Monday , October 12 , 2020

60 Fun Activities for Dementia Patients and Their Caregivers

Being a family caregiver is a highly rewarding experience, but it can be challenging at times. Caregivers of dementia patients, especially, can feel like they work and work and work and don’t make a difference.

That doesn’t have to be the case.

Part of being a great caregiver is learning about activities that will help engage someone who has been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s, regardless of the level of the disease. Staying active and engaged is beneficial for both physical and cognitive health and can help ease anxious or aggressive behaviors. On top of that, activities done together can help form a bond of trust and security between the caregiver and their loved one.

Of course, many caregivers are thrown into the role by chance and have no formal training or education.

If you’re like the millions of other adults unexpectedly caring for an older friend or family member, you likely have no idea which activities are appropriate for a dementia patient and which are not.

To help keep you and your loved one busy and engaged, we’ve rounded up a list of 60 meaningful activities you can take part in together. Keep reading to learn more:

 

Planning Dementia Friendly Activities 

Where is a good place to begin when planning activities for a loved one with dementia? A good rule is to meet them where they are. Some good guidelines include:

  • Avoid pointing out what they can no longer do. Focus on options that compensate for skills they may have lost. For example, if your loved one can no longer read, try browsing together for audio books that they might enjoy. Use a computer or phone?
  • Keep track of skills and abilities. Keeping track of the skills and abilities as they deteriorate is vital. Can your loved one able to go to the grocery store and shop? Can they plan and cook a simple meal?
  • Be aware of physical limitations. Many older adults, not just those with dementia, suffer from changes to hearing, eyesight, flexibility, and more. Some physical limitations may require modifications to activities so they are still suitable.
  • Plan appropriate social events. People with dementia often feel anxious or overwhelmed in large gatherings or an unfamiliar environment. Try to set up gatherings with smaller groups or in a 1-to-1 setting to keep things comfortable.
  • Focus on enjoyment not success. What does your loved one find entertaining? Find activities that they naturally enjoy and lose your preconceived notions of how it “should” be done to alleviate stress.

5 Fun Activities for Someone with Dementia 

Keeping in mind that every dementia patient has different preferences and abilities, there are some activities that will likely be enjoyed by all. Some accommodation may be required, but here are some of our favorites:

  • Teach the Caregiver: Ask your loved one to teach you something he/she loves to do and/or an activity he/she has known or done for such a long time that they still remember it. Have them demonstrate a skill he/she can still do through “muscle memory,” such as tell you about what life was like in the past or something he/she is passionate about. Your loved one may need to show you, versus tell you, a story, depending upon their language abilities. Encourage this method of storytelling.
  • Read a Book Together: Read a book to your loved one. Let them pick the topic area. Pick one with emotional and sensory content to help with comprehension. Short chapters and a great plot help, too.
  • Hand Massage: Reduces anxiety, perception of pain and difficult behaviors. Begin by covering your loved one’s hands with a wet, warm washcloth for a minute. Massage using a scented cream or lotion they enjoy. Lavender is a good scent as it is both stimulating and relaxing. Always be gentle – older adults’ skin can bruise easily. Follow this protocol: http://www.ecarediary.com/viewblog.aspx?BlogID=620
  • Sniff the Spices: Select up to five herbs and spices from your loved one’s kitchen and ask, “I want to learn more about these spices. Can you teach me? Let’s smell them together.” Smell them one at a time. Imagine together what kinds of foods they would go with. Ask if they remember using these spices in dishes served during holidays and family gatherings.
  • I Made a Difference: In what way has your loved one made a difference to others such as his/her spouse, children, parents, siblings, friends, community, co-workers? How did they contribute to their field of work? This is an important part of life review and can help self-esteem and life satisfaction. Share the ways you’ve made a difference, too, if this is helpful and acceptable to both of you.

By being aware of your loved one’s interests and capabilities, you can build a list of activities that will keep them engaged and encouraged. For our full list of 60 Meaningful Activities to do With Dementia Patients, please contact us at (908) 927-0500 or email us here.

Posted in: Dementia

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What is an Ethical Will and Do You Need One?

Monday , October 5 , 2020

What is an Ethical Will and Do You Need One?

Have you ever heard someone mention their “ethical will” and wondered what in the world they were talking about? We’re here to tell you what you need to know.

First, an “ethical will” or “legacy letter” is not legally binding. They don’t bequeath assets or spell out your last wishes.

Ethical wills are documents that communicate values and life experiences to your family or loved ones. They express your thoughts and feelings about what’s most important to you to those you care about. They can be created by a person of any faith – or of no faith at all.

And many people find that writing down their personal history eases the existential pain about the end of life.

Keep reading to learn more:

How do I Write an Ethical Will? 

Unlike a Last Will and Testament, ethical wills can take many forms. Because they are not a legal document, you are free to be as creative as you want.

Many people choose to simply write up a document, often just a single page. Others create slideshows, photo albums, recipe collections, or a gathering of favorite quotes.

The document (or collection) can be a one-time creation, something you add to at each of life’s milestones (retirement, the birth of a grandchild, etc.), or something you work on throughout your life. It can be intended for your children, grandchildren, spouse or partner, best friend, and more.

There really are no rules!

How do I Create My Ethical Will? 

According to AARP, you should begin your ethical will by “jotting down notes about your beliefs, life lessons and hopes for the future. You might include details about your family history. You also may want to express gratitude toward family and friends or request forgiveness for past actions.”

If you plan on creating a multi-media project, you might also start gathering photos, collecting favorite quotes, filming video, and more.

Ask yourself, “What have I learned during my lifetime that I’d like to share?”

Here are some topics that others have chosen to include in their ethical wills. Feel free to use these questions as you wish, skip some, or add your own:

Values

  • What values are important to me?
  • What are my spiritual beliefs?
  • Are there any special sayings, traditions, or rituals that have been passed down through the family?

Thoughts

  • What would I like to pass down to my grandchildren or other loved ones?
  • What books and movies influenced me and in what way?

Words of Wisdom

  • What advice can I offer to others about living their lives? Do I have any wisdom to pass on to the next generation?
  • What has life taught me?
  • What have I learned from my parents or grandparents that I want to pass on?
  • If I could change one thing in the world, what would I change and why?

Life Experiences

  • What do I want my family to know about me that they might not already be aware of?
  • Have I ever had a life-altering experience? How did this affect me?
  • What was the most significant/meaningful moment in my life?
  • What made my life worth living? A special relationship? Work? Children? Hobbies?
  • Did I fulfill all the dreams of my youth?
  • Who is or was the most important person in my life? What did I learn from them?
  • Were there any others who greatly impacted my life? Who?
  • What am I most proud of?

Decisions

  • What was the most difficult decision I ever made?
  • Is there anything in life I wish I had done differently? Do I need to request forgiveness or make amends with anyone?
  • If I knew I only had one year left to live, what would I do?
  • How did I choose the recipients for my charitable gifts and financial inheritance?

Creating an ethical will is simple, fun, and FREE. Why not start on your own project today and give your loved ones something to cherish for years to come?

Posted in: Aging

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Remembering Maggie Kuhn, Founder of the Gray Panthers

Monday , September 21 , 2020

Remembering Maggie Kuhn, Founder of the Gray Panthers

Fifty years ago, Maggie Kuhn founded the Gray Panthers, a radical movement to encourage activism among America’s older population. 

 

Inspired by the political environment at the time, such as Vietnam War protests and racial equality demonstrations, Kuhn believed that issues affecting older people should also be on the radar. More than anything, she wanted to destroy every single stereotype surrounding older adults – especially older women. 

 

Please keep reading to learn more about Maggie and the movement she started and find out where the Gray Panthers are today. 

 

Who was Maggie Kuhn? 

 

Maggie Kuhn was born in 1905 to parents who grew up in the segregated South. Determined to give their daughter a different life, they raised Maggie in the North, where she graduated college and organized a chapter of the League of Women Voters. 

 

Throughout her adult life, Maggie worked towards change and demonstrated a powerful interest in social reform on many fronts. 

 

In 1970, at just 65 years old, Maggie was forced into retirement. At the time, this wasn’t out of the ordinary. Senior citizens were expected to fade into the background and disappear from everyday life. Maggie, however, was infuriated. 

 

Even more irksome? Her parting gift was a sewing machine. 

 

“Old age is not a disease. [Old age] is strength and survivorship, triumph over all kinds of vicissitudes and disappointments, trials and illnesses.”

 

Sexism and ageism were two things this petite, gray-haired lady couldn’t stand for. Maggie took it upon herself to make sure other older adults didn’t face the same fate as her. 

 

With the help of a few other seniors forced out of the workplace, Kuhn quickly founded the “Consultation of Older and Younger Adults for Social Change,” dubbed the “Gray Panthers” by the press. The group was “lively, quick-witted, controversial and action-oriented.” 

 

Maggie’s legacy was so impactful that political activist Ralph Nader once called her retirement “the most significant retirement in modern American history.”

 

Conjuring the Power of Older Adults

 

The Gray Panthers identified as a militant, though nonviolent group and their tactics included public protests, political lobbying, and grassroots organizing. They forced their way into the diplomatic sphere and demanded action. 

 

According to the AARP, in their first full year of operation, the Gray Panthers stormed the White House and requested access to the presidential conference on aging. Kuhn even called out President Gerald Ford when she found his remarks “patronizing.” 

 

Throughout the years, the organization successfully lobbied against mandatory retirement age, pushed for nursing home reform and creation of a government-subsidized single-payer national health insurance program, fought for accessibility in mass transportation and against proposed cuts to Social Security, and much more. 

 

Most of all, Kuhn fought against the rampant ageism in America – especially the negative stereotypes about older adults in the media. The Panthers routinely monitored how seniors were portrayed on television and rallied against networks that insisted upon depicting them as “dependent, powerless, wrinkled babies.” 

 

The Gray Panthers Today

 

Today, it seems as though the Panthers have been largely forgotten. In part, that can be attributed to Kuhn’s death in 1995. According to a recent article in the New York Times, Maggie was “such a charismatic leader that once she died, the organization began to drift.” 

 

But despite their challenges since Kuhn’s death, the Gray Panther’s mission continues to this day. With a series of local advocacy networks throughout the United States, the group fights ageism and other social justice issues every day.

 

Interested in helping? You can contact the NYC chapter here or visit the National Council of Gray Panthers Networks on Facebook.

Posted in: Aging

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