Regency Charlotte Blog

If you’ve spent time with someone suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia, you know from experience that communication can be a challenge. Long term memories go hazy, words aren’t always on the tip of the tongue, and you might be getting used to a shift in roles, such as child to caretaker. But with creative expression, you can ease some of the communication frustrations that come with the types of dementia. Creative expression is as simple as drawing images while listening to music, storytelling, dancing, and many more!  Artistic expressions can have a major impact, not only on quality time spent with loved ones, but on their overall mood and communication skills.

Charlotte dementia care activities

Studies have shown that giving seniors the opportunity to express themselves in this way can have a major benefit for their cognitive function, mental health, and quality of life. After all, just because they don’t discuss the same subjects and memories they used to doesn’t mean they don’t have something to say. Creative expression is a great opportunity to tap into feelings, observations, humor, and knowledge. The healing powers of art and other forms of creative expression, can likewise enhance memory and the ability to reminisce.

Those who have facilitated storytelling workshops and other narrative activities for seniors have noted that even those who are usually quiet and reluctant to speak become more engaged after participating in creative projects. In groups, memory care patients find new ways to relate and relay information. All that matters is that the seniors are invited to share in a positive environment. These exercises have been clinically shown to not only benefits patients, but caregivers, too. By focusing on what empowers and delights seniors, in return friends, family, and professionals have a more rounded view of those with dementia and Alzheimer’s and their capabilities.

One 2009 study revealed that the creative storytelling method can foster meaningful engagement between patients with dementia and their caregivers by encouraging seniors to rediscover their imaginations. In other words, by focusing on what memory care residents are good at and what they enjoy, the focus is put on the individual, rather than their condition.

The activity itself is pretty simple. Take photos of humans, animals, or even illustrations and ask residents what they think. Show another image, and ask how that impacts the narrative. For example, you could show a man on a plane, followed by an image of the same man on the beach. What do participants think he is doing? Is he on vacation? A scientist? A father in search of his long lost children? The possibilities are endless, as is the fun you might have when discussing them with the assisted living resident in your life.

Written by: Meghan O’Dea

According to Richard C. Mohs, vice chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine,  “In many cases, an older person's brain may be less effective not because of a structural or organic problem but simply as a result of lack of use.” That’s great for those who are concerned about reduced memory function as they age. If you want to use it instead of lose it, here are our recommended steps towards a fitter memory:

  • Dial back distractions. Studies show that “as we get older, our ability to filter out distracting influences actually decreases, making it all the more important to concentrate on the task at hand.” It can take a lot of effort to break the multi-tasking habit after years of cramming so much work into busy days and using electronic devices, but it’s well worth it.
  • Clear up clutter. Not only do you need to reduce mental distractions, it’s important to get rid of environmental ones as well. It will reduce your stress level and make it easier to remember where things are and what you need to be doing if everything is organized. Pick up office products to help you keep your paperwork tidy, create a day planner to know what tasks lie ahead, and spend some time each day tidying up small messes. Anything you can do to simplify will keep your memory clearer as well.
  • Emphasize exercise and nutrition. By treating your body right, you’re helping it support your mind. After years of diet habits dictated by a tight schedule or what was near work or your children’s activities, it’s time to form new ones. Eating right and getting in daily physical activity can reduce other health conditions, offers an opportunity to socialize, reduces stress, and can mean learning a fun new skill like cooking or tennis, baking or biking.
  • Love learning. Learning is one of the things that helps your mind grow when you’re younger, and that doesn’t change with age. Giving your mind new things to process and store helps keep those skills sharp, just like continuing to work your muscles helps them stay strong. Now is the time to study French like you always wanted to, or maybe take a Tango class. Pick up classic literature you always meant to read, or give yourself over to an interest in music.
  • Rev up remembering. Memory isn’t only a matter of ability or health, it’s also a matter of practice. Rev up your ability to remember information by practicing memorization techniques. Pick up new vocabulary words using flash cards or word games. Study famous speeches using memory palaces or acting techniques. Learn a new religious or poetry verse each day. Make remembering routine.

These steps can make a big difference in your memory function, while also improving other areas of your life. Try them today and see the difference it makes it helping you stay on top of day to day life.

Published in Retirement Communities

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