When an individual is diagnosed with dementia, their mental and physical capacities are often observed in order to judge what they are capable of. Often, social interaction of any kind can be quite beneficial over the course of the disease. Many times, nursing facilities will keep track of participation as a bellwether for how an individual is doing in the program. Make sure to ask the staff about how the patient spends their days. This way you will know if they are being encouraged to get involved in activities and how much they are being included.
Some of the best activities for people can come from places you would not expect. Music can play a key role, especially if you play music that people remember. It should be noted that individuals with dementia recall their past better than anything else. Therefore, things like music act as memory outlets that allow them to feel at ease and, in many cases, quite happy.
A tried and trusted activity/interaction that brings smiles to faces is animals. Often this can mean therapy dogs that are used to being petted and doted over. “Dogs have a calming and therapeutic effect. They… offer physical contact with another living creature, something that is often missing in an elder’s life.” (source) That being said, there are always friends with pets and even places like zoos where people with dementia can interact with animals as a change of pace.
An activity that will always be inclusive and beneficial can be as simple as a cup of coffee. Families will often schedule time in the morning or afternoon when they can come together with their loved ones and just have a nice, calming hour or so without any real stakes. As much as activities are encouraged, there is something to be said for quiet reflection. It should not be rushed, and it can be a time when caregivers may want to read them some good news from around the world just to make them feel more at home.
When it comes to the subject of memory, there are other great activities for those in the early stages of the disease. Some people will have photo albums that can be used in a 1-to-1 interaction. Even in a group, the person can be asked to talk about the photos and the stories they remember. Memory sharing creates a strong bond. If the photo is of their wedding, others can share their own wedding experiences. All people with dementia need is a little guidance and encouragement.