Cognitive decline is often difficult for family members of those suffering from dementia to understand and accept. Each day may look different, and the slow and progressive decline means that there really is no “normal.” It can be easy to overlook the need for meaningful physical and mental stimulation, but it is as vital to survival as sleeping and eating! Leaving the mind unengaged can worsen dementia symptoms and create new and challenging behaviors, not to mention leads to physical decline. At Serenity Gardens, we specialize in memory care and have spent years developing a robust activity plan to keep our seniors actively engaged. Some ways we incorporate meaningful activities into our residents’ lives include:

  • Establishing daily rhythms
  • Reading daily moods and shifts in cognition
  • Meeting basic needs before attempting involvement in activities
  • Redirection and relaxation
  • Re-establishing old roles
  • Providing a variety of activities
  • Focusing on the activity, not the outcome
  • Planning for modifications

Effective memory care activity plans should include:

Artistic Expression – allows residents to express their feelings, personality, and creativity. This can include music, crafts, or any artistic hobby.
Physical Activity – supports strength, balance, coordination, and optimal oxygen intake as well as reduces agitation and supports healthy sleep patterns. Physical exercise has been shown to slow physical decline and reduce the risk of falls.
Spiritual Support – meets the psychological and emotional needs of residents. We provide times of meditation, song, and prayer to meet diverse spiritual needs.
Community Connections – encourages social interaction and provides purpose. By participating in community activities and continuing to serve others, we encourage community involvement.

Establishing a routine and encouraging independence.

One of the easiest and most simple ways to encourage activities and both cognitive and physical stimulation is to establish healthy routines. Routine is something that helps develop muscle memory and gives residents expectations that are calming and reassuring in a cognitively chaotic world. Additionally, dementia may mean that your loved one requires some help and additional support, it does not mean they are not capable. By letting them do as much as they can for themselves, it helps to challenge dementia and offers them something to focus on. Self-care, toileting, and hygiene “chores” should be encouraged, and based on cognitive and physical abilities, household chores should be too. At Serenity Gardens, we allow our residents to do what they are able, and our staff fills in the gaps, offering patience and encouraging support. Performing simple tasks such as wiping counters or folding towels are familiar and can be very calming to a person suffering from dementia.

Sensory play.

This may sound child-like, and in some aspects, it is. However, sensory play is important for cognitive stimulation and can be very engaging for the confused resident. Board games and cards with colors and images are much more stimulating and easy to focus on than something like reading a book. Talking, singing, and music can all be very engaging and relaxing. Sensory activities that include buttons, zippers, and buckles that allow the resident to explore different things and use their tactile skills gives them something to do and focus on and can be incredibly calming.
More traditional assisted living center activities including bingo, movies, and social games are also used at Serenity Gardens, and participation is encouraged at whatever level the resident is able. We also understand that each day may be different and while one day your loved one may be able to win a hand of gin rummy, the next day they may have difficulty deciding what to do with cards dealt in front of them, and that’s okay. We plan a variety of activities and can read our residents well. This allows us to swap out activities as a moment’s notice or simply modify activities to fit the mood of the day. We make a concerted effort to keep activities brief and schedule plenty of various activities throughout the day walk the fine line of preventing overstimulation and boredom.

Getting plenty of fresh air.

Sunshine and fresh Texas air are good for the mind and the soul! At Serenity Gardens memory care assisted living, we encourage our residents to get plenty of time out of doors, enjoying the Texas sun and take advantage of our comfortable temperatures year-round. We have pets on the property and an active garden that our residents help tend to. Swinging on the porch, walking along the paths, watching the kids play tag, or throwing the ball for the on-site pets are all great ways we keep our residents engaged, relaxed, and dosed with the appropriate amount of vitamin D.
In addition to getting outside on our facility property, we plan regular outings into the community for a change of scenery.

Exercise and Physical Activity

Physical activity is important for brain support as well as helps keep balance, coordination, and strength. We offer a variety of exercise opportunities and physical activities to meet all needs and abilities. Whether your loved one does better with long walks or can participate in a short exercise class, we encourage physical activity at any skill level. We regularly incorporate walking, resistance bands, weighted balls, and stretching into our activities.

Substituting activities for behaviors.

As cognitive disease progresses, changes in behavior may be noted. Common movements that may be noted in the restless dementia resident include wringing of the hands, tapping of the feet, pacing, or picking. Channeling these behaviors into an activity, such as folding clothes, wiping the table, sweeping, or something that mimics the behavior can be calming and provide purpose, thereby avoiding escalating agitation.

If you have activity ideas for your loved one or the entire facility or you are part of an organization that would like to host an activity, contact us today!

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