The holidays are fast approaching and many people are preparing to gather with close family and friends. For many, this is a time to reminisce and think of fond memories from past holidays. It is also an opportunity to see a family member with dementia. Here are some tips and ideas for planning meaningful activities for your loved ones:
Ideas for holiday activities:
- Smell different holiday scents such as pumpkin, cinnamon, and pine. Ask your loved one how it makes them feel when they smell each scent.
- Watch holiday movies or listen to holiday music.
- Look through old family photos from previous holidays. Talk about how these photos make them feel.
- Do a simple holiday art project.
- Drive or walk around a neighborhood and look at holiday lights. Talk about which types of holiday decorations are your favorite.
- Bake cookies and decorate cookies together. Provide your loved one with simple instructions as they assist with the baking. You can always buy premade cookies to decorate to simplify the activity.
- Take a walk outside, talk about different things that you see while walking.
Tips for communicating with your loved ones:
- Speak clearly. Use short and simple sentences.
- Ask your loved one how they are feeling instead of asking them direct of factual questions.
- Provide your loved one with choices when they need to make decisions.
- When talking to your loved ones, stand directly in front of them so they can clearly see you.
- If you are unsure what your loved one is talking about, be sure to clarify with them gently. They may be saying one thing and meaning something else.
- Use gestures or visual aids to support communication.
Washington University Occupational Therapy offers services for patients with mild to moderate dementia to help stimulate cognition through individual cognitive stimulation therapy. iCST is a research-based program (and standard of care for dementia patients in the UK http://www.cstdementia.com/ ) that promotes prompting memories and thoughts to stimulate working memory for assimilation and manipulation of thought. In the program, an OT guides individuals with dementia and their loved ones through activities to help improve the individuals’ cognition and quality of life. Learn more about our program and how to make an appointment.