Autumn Activities for Those with Dementia

Autumn Activities for Those with Dementia

Dementia is a very common and frightening condition that affects 3 million Americans and is characterized by impairment of at least two brain functions such as memory loss and confusion.  It is not a specific disease, but a group of thinking and social symptoms that can severely hinder daily functioning.  There is currently no cure and the average person lives four to eight years after receiving the diagnosis. (1) 

Having seen my own grandfather’s decline after his diagnosis of Lewy Body Dementia, I empathize with those whose loved ones are going through similar experiences.  Unfortunately, my grandfather only lived a few years after his diagnosis, but it did make me aware of how important it was to cherish the time we had together.  I urge anyone going through this with a loved one to try not to focus on the condition itself, but to focus on making the best of what time is left.  Quality of life should be the focus.

To improve quality of life, those with dementia should be as active as possible.  According to Alzheimer’s.net, activities-- even something as simple as conversations-- have many benefits to those suffering from dementia such as decreased depression, improved self-esteem, better sleep, increased mental and social stimulation, minimized behavioral changes, and reduced stress.  Even one activity per day will have an impact.  Now that we are entrenched in the autumn season, here are some ideas to keep you, your loved one, or your client entertained and active.

Early and Middle Stage Dementia Activities

 1. Bake with a Loved One – I am sure many of us can remember a time spent with our grandparents enjoying the enticing aroma of pies baking on an autumn afternoon.  I know I loved the smell of cinnamon and apples that hung in the air when my grandmother let her pies cool in the pantry.  Use such seasonal and brain-healthy foods such as pumpkins or apples and create a tasty treat.

2. Go for a Walk – Take to the crisp air and enjoy the colors of nature’s lovely transition.  If you go it alone, consider a mobile fall detection device with built-in GPS.  According to NHS inform, people with dementia are at higher risk of depression, which can make people less active, affect sleep and diet, and lead to an increased risk of falls.  Also, be sure to notify someone of your intended walking path just to further protect yourself.

3. Do Simple Yard Work – For some good exercise and a breath of fresh air, consider doing some easy yard work like casually raking leaves into piles.  Be sure to wear a fall detection device.  Protect yourself by wearing this showerproof pendant anywhere on your property within 600 feet of its base unit.

4. Visit a Farmer’s Market – Make plans with a friend, neighbor, or family member to visit the market to browse or buy some fresh seasonal produce.

5. Color a Picture – Coloring is not just an activity for children.  This simple and peaceful activity has a psychological benefit.  According to The Cleveland Clinic, coloring relieves stress similar to meditation.  Any coloring book would do, but it would be more in keeping with the season if you, a family member, or a caregiver has access to a computer to print off hundreds of free coloring pages with images of pumpkins, leaves and trees, and animals such as birds or squirrels.

6. Scrap Book – Get a blank scrapbook, find some magazines, newspapers, and some old photos, get some scissors and glue, and begin cutting, pasting, and writing about your personal or family history.  If you are a caregiver, try doing this activity with your client.  Spending quality time together is rewarding and comforting to seniors. (2)

7. Watch Fall Movies – Watch a good fall classic like “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” or my personal favorite for this time of year, “The Wizard of Oz,” to spark some memories of good times in the past.  You can also choose a genre of film that you, your client or loved one enjoyed throughout life such as westerns and have a movie marathon. 

8. Look Through Old Photo Albums – Sit down with your photo albums and reminisce on the past.  Looking at pictures of your young adulthood or childhood can bring back favorite memories.  I enjoy thumbing through photo albums to this day, looking at pictures of family and friends, especially during holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas because it truly does transport a person back in time and jog fond memories.

Late Stage Dementia Activities

 1. Bake or Cook for Your Loved One or ClientSpend time preparing brain-healthy meals to enjoy with your loved ones.  Something like butternut squash soup has always been a hit in my house.  Break out the slow-cooker and prepare a hearty, cold-weather dish such as beef and noodles. I recently dined on baked squash stuffed with apples and it was delicious.

2. Make Potpourri – Prepare homemade potpourri out of such fall seasonings as cinnamon and cloves.  Just add to a pan of water and cook on low heat, adding lemon peel and apples so that the room smells like fall.  Be creative and try different citrus peelings for a variety of scents.

3. Experiment With Sounds – This activity can be conducted during any season.  If your loved one is a musician or loves music, you can introduce simple instruments or try sing-alongs to keep the mind active.  If the person is in the last stages of impairment, you can try simple rhymes or instruments such as the tambourine to allow for creative expression.  For an easier approach, try playing some music.  If you want to keep to the fall theme, try a YouTube channel such as 1 Hour of Vintage Autumn Music.

4. Paint – Go for bright, autumnal colors and prepare a big surface to for creative self-expression.  Smaller surfaces can give those with dementia the feeling of confinement.

5. Stimulate with Tactile Crafts – Create a sensory experience by having your loved one or client work with play dough or clay, molding or kneading them into various shapes.  In fact, feeling a variety of objects of various shapes, sizes, and textures stimulates the mind and fosters a sense of creativity.

Dementia with Limited Mobility Activities

 1. Watch for Wildlife – If you, your client, or loved one lives in a remote rural area, find a good vantage point from the comfort of home to watch out the window for deer, squirrel, and birds.  Even in the city, a bird feeder can attract a variety of birds to create a nature show. 

2. Reading – As the weather grows colder, what better way to improve cognitive function than for a person to pick up and read one’s favorite book?  Reading has been long known to maintain and improve cognitive function.  (3)  A fall-themed story such as “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving would be a great choice for the season.  Caregivers and family can also participate by reading to those with dementia, especially if the person is in the later stages or if they have impaired vision.  Interactions such as this can strengthen relationships for those involved.

3. Do a Puzzle – Fun at any age, choose a puzzle with larger tactile pieces that are easier to handle but still a challenge on the mind.

Dementia and Emergency Medical Alerts

While it is important for those suffering with dementia to remain active, it is equally important to ensure that as the symptoms progress through the various stages, there are safety measures in place.  According to The Alzheimer’s Association, six in 10 people living with dementia will wander at least once.  At Alert 1, we have On-the-Go Medical Alerts that could fit anyone’s needs.  At the press of a button, you will be quickly connected to our US-based command center where professionals are on standby at all times.  Our friendly agents will stay on the line until you receive the level of help needed, and you will never be alone.  Our devices have GPS capability to pinpoint one’s location and you can receive help anywhere in the nation. This could be very helpful if someone were lost.   For added protection, since those suffering from dementia are at an increased fall risk, fall protection technology can be added to most of our mobile devices.

For those with dementia that are confined primarily to home, we have home alert systems with medical alert pendants or wristbands.  A person can wear these buttons in the shower and within a range of 600 feet from the base unit.  Home systems are also upgradeable to include fall protection as well, so even those in the late stages of dementia can be protected, giving peace of mind and heart to you and your loved ones.

 

 

1 Reed-Guy, Lauren.  Sept. 2019.  The Stages of Dementia.  Healthline.com. The Stages of Dementia

2 Schumacher, Patricia.  Nov. 2015.  The Benefits of Scrapbooking for Seniors with Dementia.  Home Care Assistance.  The Benefits of Scrapbooking for Seniors with Dementia.

3 Northcentral University Staff.  Sept. 2015.  Reading Improves Memory, Concentration and Stress.  Northcentral University.  Reading Improves Memory, Concentration and Stress.