Staying Mentally Active in Spite of Dementia

If your mom has dementia, keeping her mind engaged will support her cognitive health. Brain-stimulating activities have been proven to slow the progression of memory loss and reduce sleep problems, which contribute to mental clarity.

Focus on Interests

Use your dad’s hobbies to improve his attention span. Here are a few examples:

Reinvent their jobs: Help your dad use his carpentry skills by suggesting that he build birdhouses. If your mom was an artist, give her paint supplies or sculpting materials, and let her go to work. Incorporating your parents’ previous careers or interests in their activities will help trigger memories and skills.

Play music: Singing and dancing are instant mood-boosters. Different melodies have the power to energize or soothe those with cognitive impairments.

Learn a new skill: Build upon your mom’s abilities by introducing her to new activities that improve her cognitive function. Learning to play an instrument, taking up knitting or studying a foreign language are great ways to develop new cognitive skills.

Trigger Memories

Sights, sounds and smells from your dad’s past will help him remember treasured memories and keep his mind active.

  • Compile a scrapbook of old photos and talk about the stories behind each one.
  • Take your mom to her favorite park, shop or museum if she’s mobile.
  • Make a memory bag filled with perfumes, trinkets, jewelry and other personal belongings.
  • Cook or bake your parents’ favorite meal.

Doing Chores

Including activities with a goal provides structure and will help your mom feel helpful and productive and improve her gross and fine motor skills.

Help your loved one complete household chores, including:

  • Dusting
  • Washing dishes
  • Folding laundry
  • Setting and clearing the table
  • Sweeping
  • Preparing meals

Those tasks need to be challenging but not too difficult, so break chores down into single tasks to avoid overwhelming your senior. You want to stimulate your loved one with activities that are engaging, not childish or tedious.

Incorporate Exercise

Physical activity offers a wealth of benefits, from improving circulation, to boosting endorphins to providing entertainment. Exercise also supports mobility and flexibility.

  • Try chair exercises, dancing or yoga. Sit across from your mom and practice mirroring each other’s movements.
  • Chair boxing with punching patterns encourages your dad to challenge his mind and body.
  • Toss a ball to engage your dad’s muscles and improve his reaction time.
  • March in place to practice balancing. Your loved one may need to place their hands on a chair for support.
  • Participate in water therapy or aerobics for low-impact exercise.
  • Take a walk to get fresh air and sunshine.

How Pets Can Help

Interacting with animals is a great way to relieve stress and anxiety. Pets can bring your parent out of their shell and make them feel at ease. Caring for animals is another way to encourage your dad to stay mentally and socially engaged. Let him brush and walk the dog or give the cat treats.

Kemper House Worthington offers specialized services to support the cognitive health of our residents. Contact us or schedule a tour to learn about our unique memory care program.