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6 Engaging Activities for Loved Ones in Dementia Care

By Beverly Sanborn, L.C.S.W., Gerontologist and Vice President of Program Development, Belmont Village Senior Living

The Elements of Successful Aging

Successful aging means living the fullest, most satisfying life possible by nurturing the mind, body, and spirit each day. Research has shown that there are many lifestyle elements that contribute to successful aging—even for seniors showing signs of cognitive decline, including:

  • Aerobic and strength exercise
  • Strong social networks
  • Mental workouts
  • Sense of purpose
  • Lifelong learning
  • Heart-healthy diet
  • Spirituality
  • Reduced stress

While all of these elements promote Whole Brain Fitness, leading research has shown that the most essential factor to maintain high quality of life is physical activity. Engaging in aerobic and strength training 5 to 7 days per week builds bone density, improves muscle strength, reduces anxiety and, most importantly, oxygenates blood to the brain to keep it healthy and vital. Caregivers and family members can encourage movement and activity through virtual fitness, outdoor games, and walks. And, when it comes to mental fitness, there are many fun ways to exercise the brain and build cognitive function.

Belmont Village Senior Living promotes successful aging for all residents through physical and mental healthcare activities modified for each individual and each stage of dementia. Our innovative Circle of Friends® program combines a wellness model with structured, evidence-based mental fitness activities specially designed for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

 

6 Domains of Mental Fitness for Dementia Care

It can be difficult for caregivers to keep a loved one with dementia engaged. But it’s important to know that there are ways you can help maintain—and in some cases improve—their cognitive function, memory, and thinking skills.

The goal of a mental workout for seniors in long-term dementia care is to enhance short- and long-term memory, judgment, sequencing skills, problem-solving skills, speed of processing and verbal skills. In order to be successful, the activities must be fun and interactive while expressing two key principles: it must be something new and challenging to the brain. Here are some engaging activity ideas within each domain of mental fitness.

  1. Critical thinking
    It’s important for a person living with Alzheimer’s or cognitive decline to practice organizing ideas. Dissecting proverbs and idioms together is a great way to build critical thinking skills. For example, “What does ‘a rolling stone gathers no moss’ mean to you?”
  2. New learning
    Engage your loved one by learning new words together. Find a word neither of you know and read the definition together. Or take turns guessing the meaning of the word through context clues.
  3. Memory games
    Challenge your brains by listing items within specific categories. For example, list animals in the animal kingdom, including birds, beasts, and one-celled creatures, whose name begins with B.
  4. Long-term memory
    Recall long-term learning through trivia. Quiz each other with fun questions and answers across various topics. To add to the challenge, practice visual/spatial skills by drawings things, such as the outline of the USA, from memory.
  5. Analytical thinking
    Practice your problem-solving skills with analytical brainteasers. For example, what is the one thing in common in the following set? Artists, automobiles, cooks
  6. Memory-body movement
    Engage your loved one with simultaneous mind/memory/body movement. For example, take a look at a picture for a brief time and then try to draw it.