Kate Legg is an Associate Practitioner with Dementia Carers Count. Kate is an Occupational Therapist working in Older Persons Mental Health services in Portsmouth. She has a master’s degree in dementia studies and is particularly interested in supporting people with dementia to do meaningful activities.
For many of you this time of self-isolation must seem daunting, especially if you are at home with the person with dementia. I wanted to share some general tips for managing your time and some suggestions for activities.
- Routine – try and establish a daily routine and keep to it each day to help orientate your family member. For example, get up at the same time, have breakfast, lunch and dinner at the same time. Maybe do a particular activity at the same time each day such as a walk in the morning, watch a film after lunch, hot chocolate before bed. Routines will help keep a structure and help you feel that you have some control over your day.
- Try and avoid sleeping during the day; the occasional nap won’t hurt, but try not to sleep for any length of time, as it will make it more difficult to sleep at night.
- If you can, try and sit in different rooms to fit with the activities. i.e, only go to your bedroom at night when you want to sleep. If you can sit in a kitchen or dining room to eat, then do. If you only have one room then try to vary the activities in it. E.g Have the radio or music on in the morning and only put the TV on in the evening.
- Don’t pressure yourself to fill the whole day with lots of activities. Take time to rest as well. The person you care for may only have a short attention span, so a variety of short activities is enough. Doing day to day tasks can be exhausting in themselves so allow breaks and rest time.
- Allow time for yourself as a carer to do things for you by doing things that you enjoy. Your well-being is as important as the person you care for.
- Stay connected – make regular contact with family and friends by telephone. If you can video call this may be easier for the person you are caring for to recognise who is calling.
Suggestions for activities
Familiar tasks or activities – encourage the person you care for to be involved in as many activities of daily living as they can even if they need supervision and prompting.
We generally encourage people to consider the senses and try and do a variety of activities that stimulate the senses.
Sight – what can you see?
look outside, get into the garden if you can, have a look at pictures/photos, artwork, books, watch nature programs.
Sound – What can you hear?
Relaxing music, sounds of nature, music that you love, if you have YouTube or internet access on your TV you can search for beach scenes or aquariums that then play on a loop.
Smell – What can you smell?
Flowers, herbs, baking smells such as ginger biscuits or fruit cake. It should also stimulate the appetite too!
Taste – What different things can you taste?
This could be a time to try new flavours – you may find that the person you care for may prefer different things now, often people like stronger flavours like curry or things that are very sweet.
Touch – What can you feel?
Activities that involve different textures. Do you have any lovely sensory materials or cushions that someone could snuggle up with? Any pets that you can stroke or cuddly toys etc.
There are lots of different things to do, try and vary them and remember a few minutes at a time is enough.