There can be a lot of uncertainty when a loved one goes into memory care assisted living, for both the resident and their family. Encouraging seniors to stay healthy – physically and mentally – is a major priority for senior living communities, residents and family members.
A new environment coupled with memory issues can lead to discomfort and confusion for the resident. Family members, along with our exceptionally trained staff at Windsor Estates, can help ease that burden through creative and fun ways to incorporate brain health into everyday activities.
Here are five creative ways to improve a resident’s quality of life while in memory care, and stay tuned to the end for four brain activities you can do today to help improve cognitive health for someone with dementia.
1. Personalize their environment
One of the best ways to familiarize a senior citizen with a new setting is to bring in notable items from their life and past experiences. Favorite books, pieces of art, and photos of friends and family are just a few things that you can add to their residence to make your loved one feel more at home and comfortable in their surroundings.
Tap into their favorite hobbies, pastimes and memories. Games such as dominoes and puzzles are easy to play and store in their home, so bring those to help occupy some of their time. Allowing those with dementia to be independent and finish these tasks on their own will improve their self-esteem and self-determination, making them feel even more content in their life.
When thinking about the ease of the resident’s home and how they spend their days, consider sensory gifts such as warm socks, slippers and a favorite lotion to give them a taste of familiarity and relaxation. Heated blankets and bathrobes are also popular choices and provide ultimate comfort for those in memory care.
2. Connect with familiar faces
Along the same lines of personalizing their environment, residents in senior living need to see people that they know and trust to feel comfortable. Whether this is visits from children, grandchildren and friends or a video call, touching base with people who love them is a powerful way to connect and avoid isolation.
A great way to remind your loved one how much they are cherished is by bringing scrapbooks or photo albums. Since Alzheimer’s and dementia tend to affect recent memories before long-term ones, your loved one may be interested in talking about their early life and childhood, sharing stories that you may not have heard before. Take the opportunity to record these anecdotes in a written or digital format so that you will always have those artifacts from their memory.
A digital photo frame is a great gift idea that helps keep seniors in the loop with the family. Many modern digital frames can be loaded remotely, so you can refresh photos weekly and give your loved one something new to look forward to every time they view the frame.
3. Encourage new experiences
In a new community, seniors in memory care can thrive on their favorite routine tasks, such as watching a favorite television show, playing a familiar game or visiting with friends and family. However, Windsor Estates offers a bevy of opportunities to explore new hobbies and pursuits, and much can be said for therapeutic activities that help boost cognitive health for seniors.
Social interactions between senior citizens and those in memory care is paramount to improve the quality of life for those with dementia. This may also be a perfect time to introduce staff-oriented activities within the community.
Keep in mind that not all residents will be active participants right away in group activities, but many people will attend the event for socialization, and some may enjoy a new activity that they have never tried before! With encouragement from staff, many residents will become more comfortable in the community and start to enjoy some of the activities that are presented to them.
Socializing for those with memory issues can be enjoyable, but it can be overwhelming and confusing for those in memory care, so take your time and introduce these activities slowly, one at a time. The resident may be having an exceptionally hard day one day but be willing to participate another day, so always extend an invitation!
4. Provide sensory stimulation
Throughout life, our senses provide comfort in uncertain times, allowing us to feel, hear, see and experience a variety of activities that help us respond to a situation. When working with residents in memory care, we focus on sensory stimulation in ways to help improve daily cognitive functions.
Sensory activities aid learning through problem-solving, curiosity and creativity. Their use facilitates new and existing nerve connections in the brain and eases communication and motor skills. These activities help residents feel safe and calm and can improve mood and overall wellness. Often, it can encourage increased participation in social interactions with neighbors, staff, friends and family.
Some of these activities include:
- Playing your loved one’s favorite music or movie
- Reading a book or magazine out loud to your loved one
- Hygiene care and pampering, such as manicures, hand massages, brushing hair
- Focusing on familiar scents with a safe wax warmer or essential oil diffuser
5. Try these brain activities
Exercising a senior’s brain during the day can have tremendous effects on their overall well-being. Both physical and mental activity during the day can help improve sleep and decrease agitation, leading to more content and comfortable individuals.
Engaging your loved one in your activities helps them feel engaged in their daily work and time.
Here are four creative ideas to stimulate your loved one’s brain!
It has long been recognized that music has an emotional and cognitive effect on our bodies and minds. When someone has dementia, it may be hard for them to recall something that happened yesterday, but they may be able to recall music and memories from decades ago when listening to a song.
When you put on familiar music for someone with dementia, they can dance, laugh or even move their arms and legs, if they are less mobile. Listening to familiar music also brings up memories that they can share after the music has ended, facilitating conversations that you wouldn’t have had elsewhere.
Start by asking your family members what kind of music they enjoy. What was their favorite era of music, and what are some of their favorite songs? Which songs remind them of being a child or a teenager, or a young adult? Start formulating a playlist of these songs, and play them for your loved one. This can be as simple as playing the music when you are with them in person or creating a playlist on a portable music player for them to enjoy on their own time.
Puzzles or building games
Utilizing larger puzzle pieces, such as an 8- or 16-piece set, can help work the muscles in the brain and encourage problem-solving for seniors with memory issues. You can find puzzles with imagery that they enjoy – such as animals, landscapes, words or more. Wooden puzzles with blocks and knobs can be easier to grab and maneuver as they complete the puzzle.
Building games – such as Jenga – can help inspire creativity. Ask your loved one to build basic sculptures like houses, which can be tailored to their activity and interest level.
Nothing is easier than a balloon toss! Blow up and tie a balloon, and work with your loved one on how to pass it back and forth to each other. The balloon is so light that it will allow enough time between passes to make the mental and physical connection required to send it back. This is a low-impact activity that works the brain and hand-eye coordination, as well as an element of physical movement with reaching and stretching.
We love this idea from Daily Caring – encouraging your loved one to help you sort your loose change into small bowls. This activity focuses on memory, dexterity, problem-solving and makes them feel good about helping you with a chore! This sense of purpose goes a long way to confidence for those in memory care.
At Windsor Estates, we know that the brain is a muscle, and we work to incorporate brain activities into our residents’ lives at our community. For our memory care residents, we offer extensive support in cognitive and physical care, catering to their special needs and ensuring that they live a full and content life at our community.
We encourage you to schedule a tour, meet our compassionate staff and hear about how we work to build and maintain our relationships with our residents during long-term care.