In 2017, the Alzheimer’s Association found that out of the 10 leading causes of death in the United States, Alzheimer’s Disease is the only one that cannot be prevented, slowed or cured. Now imagine being diagnosed with dementia and trying to grapple with this cold, hard truth.
In a society that often values people for what they do, not who they are, Persons with Dementia are haunted by feelings of being discarded and abandoned. As caregivers, it often falls to us to right that misconception and help PwD believe that they still can live rich, happy and meaningful lives. Here are a few simple ways we can lift their spirits and brighten their day.
Take Them Out For A Meal
It is easy to take the simple things for granted, like going out for a meal with your favourite people. Food and social interaction are deeply entwined in the human psyche, the simple act of enjoying food and drink with a group can make you feel a sense of belonging. As dementia can be a lonely road to walk, it is important for PwD to have social interactions and continue with normal activities outside of the home. Choose a comfortable family restaurant, not a fancy one with a severe atmosphere. Try going when the restaurant is less crowded and choose a nice and quiet corner (booths are preferable). Once your PwD gets used to the place, try going back every week. This will help PwD get into the swing of things. Who knows, they might befriend the service staff and give them additional social interaction.
Put On Some Tunes
They say music is the universal language of mankind, and it is also a powerful key that unlock parts of a damaged brain in ways other cannot. The power of music can provoke distant memories and feelings no matter how fleeting. While the disease robs PwDs of their memories and other brain functions, the right tune can spark loving memories, lift their spirits, or help them express their emotions. Whether its sixties soul, feel-good country or uplifting Broadway tunes, the right playlist of personalised tracks can reduce stress in PwD and put them in positive mood, in turn leading to better cognitive function.
Go With The Flow
Conversations with PwD can take on an interesting turn from time to time. You may find them bringing up a random topic (maybe they were lost in the past). Even if the conversation doesn’t make much sense to you, just let it flow. Give eye contact and make effort to give a friendly touch of the hand to signify your understanding. Don’t worry too much about the content of the conversation. As far as your loved-one is concerned, you’re being a good listener, and that alone is enough to make them feel a sense of contentment.
Enlist The Help Of Furry Pals
Even on terrible day, it is impossible not to smile at the sight of a happy pooch. Anyone who owns a pupper can attest to their unconditional love. Dogs don’t care if you have dementia, they just want to love and be loved. Research has long identified that pets offer us a multitude of health benefits. They lower blood pressure and heart rate, reduce cortisol and boost serotonin. So it stands to reason that pets have wonderful things to offer PwD. By nature, animals are non-judgmental and compassionate, making them excellent companions of PwD. Pets can provide them with a source of social and emotional support, as well as motivate them to get involved in physical activities. A furry friend can also help with anxiety and depression, especially if pets trigger pleasant memories.
Bring Them Closer To Nature
Staying cooped up indoors for too long can drive anyone a little stir crazy, let alone a PwD. The restorative powers of mother nature heal emotionally, mentally and physiologically. The exposure to natural light alone can resulting in improved sleep, mood and behaviour. Being outdoors helps relieve stress, tension, and satisfies the human need to be free. Even resting among the greenery of a garden can provide therapeutic benefits. Studies have also documented tremendous results of community gardens. Not only does it offer physical exercise, it has been shown to improve mental health and can reduce feelings of isolation.