Memory Care Activities to Help Keep Seniors Healthy
Everyone has those occasional slips of memory–the moments where you can’t find a word that’s at the tip of your tongue or your glasses aren’t where you swear you left them.
As your loved ones get older, this kind of memory loss may become more frequent.
Alzheimer’s disease affects over 5.3 million Americans and accounts for 60-80% of dementia cases. While memory loss may be mild in the early stages, it can worsen over time.
Whether they have dementia, Alzheimer’s, or memory impairments that come with age, it’s vital that seniors have the opportunity to live healthy and meaningful lives.
Seniors and their caregivers can work together to create a schedule of activities that can promote cognitive functions and bring joy to their day to day life.
Let’s run through some of the benefits of memory care activities.
How Activities Can Help
Preserving memory and cognitive function is all about exercising your brain just like you might exercise your muscles. Keeping your loved one active with interests, hobbies, and activities that give them pleasure is an important part of helping them stay healthy, both physically and mentally.
Stimulating memory care activities for seniors can help:
- Bring seniors joy and help them stay engaged
- Encourage independence and self-expression
- Build emotional connections with others
- Spark memories
- Minimize any emotional agitation
Don’t just pick activities that you think will fill time–focus on what your loved one used to enjoy, what habits they prefer, and activities that you may have previously done together.
Pick meaningful interests and activities, although keep in mind that some may have to be modified depending on the limitations of your loved one. Activities that a senior may have once enjoyed can feel difficult or overwhelming to them now.
Don’t be discouraged–it might take some time to adopt a schedule that fits the lifestyle and preferences of your loved one.
Be patient and work with them to find out what you need to do to enrich their lives at every step of the process.
Memory Care Activities
There is a wide range of activities that can be enjoyable and valuable for seniors suffering from memory loss.
Keeping your loved ones engaged is a great way to keep them healthy, active, and happy–both physically and mentally. Some benefits include stress relief, stirring positive memories, building social connections with others, and bringing up moments of greater clarity.
Check out this list of memory care activities to try with your loved one.
Physical activity is an essential part of any wellness plan, but it’s also associated with better cognitive performance. Exercise can improve mood, memory, and quality of life for all seniors, regardless of the stage of memory loss.
Here are some examples of some simple exercises you can do with your loved one.
- Walking. Whether it’s going for a walk or just getting up and moving around the house or care facility, walking is an easy mood booster and a good way to get exercise every day. It can also encourage independence–your loved one can take walks alone or with family and friends.
- Dance. Not only does this get your loved one moving, but it can be a more social and enjoyable way to get exercise. Playing familiar music with a beat that encourages movement can make this a fun way to stay active.
- Swimming. This is one of the more calming types of physical exercise, and it can help keep all the muscles moving. It’s best to make sure that any swimming activities are closely supervised.
- Gardening. Taking the time to get outdoors and contribute to a garden or vegetable patch is a simple way to get some exercise. It can also become a community activity where they can engage with others.
Keep exercises simple and the sessions short, and always be on the lookout for signs of fatigue. Be sure to check that your loved one is always staying hydrated and wearing proper clothing for exercise.
Once you find what exercises work best for your loved one, make sure you keep physical activity on a regular and consistent schedule. Make minor alterations to the routine just to keep it interesting–and always check in to make sure they’re enjoying the activity.
Putting energy, creativity, and effort towards an art project can provide a sense of accomplishment and boost mood. Art also allows for seniors to express themselves without using words.
Art therapy can help stimulate the brain and has been shown to produce improvement in verbal skills and mobility.
Here are some examples of memory care activities that use art:
- Watercolor painting
- Modeling with clay
- Making (and flying) kites
- Painting pots for gardening
- Making paper flowers
- Creative coloring
- Handmade cards
- Jigsaw puzzles
You can set up your own art crafts at home or seek out an art program where caregivers can participate with the care recipient.
Music can be an active or passive activity.
Seniors may enjoy creating music, whether it’s singing or playing an instrument, or they may enjoy sitting back and listening to their favorite tunes.
In most types of memory loss, the senior tends to remember the music they played or listened to throughout their life. Music is deeply embedded in the brain because of its blend of memory, emotion, physical movement, and rhythm.
Take advantage of this natural memory stimulant and give your loved one the chance to perform music, sing songs, or listen to the music from their past.
Music is known to release dopamine, which is a chemical in the brain associated with pleasure. Listening to music is great for awakening memories and giving your loved one a sense of stability and calm.
4) Social Activity
Memory loss doesn’t mean that your loved one has to be socially isolated. Seniors with memory loss still have a desire to engage with others and meaningfully contribute to a community.
Maintaining relationships with family, friends, and other people their age can improve cognitive functioning and lead to a better quality of life.
Living in a care facility can allow for natural interactions with other care recipients. But if your loved one lives at home, there are other ways they can get involved.
Seek out social programs that bring seniors together for crafts, activities, games, or exercise. They could also start volunteering outside the home to get more involved with the community.
When dealing with memory loss, it can be easy to focus on the loss or decline.
Don’t think about these activities as fighting memory loss–but rather as a means of helping your loved one stay healthy and gain a sense of control and dignity over their lives.
Remember to focus on the process of these memory care activities. It doesn’t matter what the outcome is–what matters is that your loved one enjoyed the time you spent on it.
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