If you are thinking about putting on a Group for those who are living with dementia and their carers you may feel at a bit of a loss when you come to think about what sort of activities may be good to do. We all know that keeping our minds and bodies active is important and this is particularly true in people with Dementia. Studies are increasingly showing that there may be a direct correlation between brain stimulation and the slowing down of the progression of the disease.
For those in church who might be thinking of setting up a dementia friendly group here are our pick of 10 activities that you could do to make a real difference and the bonus is they don’t have to be just done for those living with dementia:
1) Puzzles, jigsaws and games are good activities to keep the brain stimulated. Simple large-print word searches and crossword books are readily available as are a wide range of jigsaw puzzles with large pieces that are easy to grip for older hands. Many hours of fun can be had in this way, or why not have a game of bingo or a game of Beetle.
2) Watch a film together, choose a sing-along DVD, or maybe choose an old comedy like Laurel and Hardy to laugh along to together. Make an event of it and have tea coffee and cake and have a discussion afterwards around memories invoked by the film. When it was first watched, where you were, what you were doing at that time in life, have you been to any of the film locations etc. etc.
3) Listen to some favourite songs from the past to jog memories, perhaps sing along by preparing song sheets in advance (the lyrics to most songs are easily copied from the internet). You could even go as far as having a dance (providing you think the attendees would be capable). You could make this in to a discussion about where the song was first heard and what other music was enjoyed at the time. Find out if they had seen any bands live or if they used to go to dances. You could even do some simple armchair stretching exercises in time to the music.
4) If you have a large enough church kitchen you could do some baking together. Rolling out and cutting out biscuits is a great activity with quick results for anyone who has a short attention span. You could also try making sandwiches or buttering toast which use fine motor skills. Following all the kitchen activity you could all sit down together and enjoy the fruits of your labour.
5) In the summer, if your church has a garden area, you could enjoy some gardening projects such as planting tubs or hanging baskets together. Or you could have a go at arranging flowers together. These displays could then be displayed in the following Sunday service.
6) Do some simple cleaning around the church. It might seem odd but some people may really enjoy this as an activity of normality and involvement in church life. Sweep the floors, polish the furniture, clean the church silver together.
7) Enjoy some art or craft work, such as painting, colouring books, needlework or knitting. Try and use past skills where possible and try and make any modifications that may be necessary according to the person’s abilities (such as bamboo lightweight knitting needles, larger-holed tapestry canvas with a blunt-end needle, water colour paints, painting books with bold, simple outlines to colour)
8) How about looking through the weeks newspapers and magazines together and discuss any items that stand out. Maybe look for some dramatic pictures or even better see if you can get hold of any vintage newspapers and see if they evoke any memories.
9) Start a book club to encourage reading (you could even do a bible study). Choose a book available in large print or use an electronic device that enables the user to enlarge the print. Maybe encourage reading and discussing together the themes, the stories, whether they have any experience of the topic etc.
10) Activities that use ordinary household items that encourage both thought and co-ordination can be good. Maybe collect lots of buttons and spend time together sorting them into various colours and sizes, or try doing the same with screws, nuts and bolts. How about emptying a cutlery drawer and repacking or folld tea towels, sheets and pillowcases etc. While doing these activities, talk about how that person did household chores in the past, products used and how effective they were. You could even use a baby doll and use it to change nappies, feed etc. to evoke past childcare and stimulate discussion (this can be particularly good for those who are in the later stages of dementia).
Remember if the activity is met with resistance try again at another time or try and approach it differently. Why not ask the group what could be altered to make it more fun.
Try and remember that what is important is that people are there, participating and having fun. It is so important that when people leave they leave happy and knowing they have had fun. They may forget what they have been doing but the emotions will stay around much longer.