Connecting With The Heart When Dementia Has The Mind

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Anyone who is a caregiver of a person with dementia has been faced with challenging behaviours that may occur. Often a major contributing factor to this is lack of stimulation leading to boredom. There can be many benefits to engaging the minds of individuals with dementia and there are defineate benefits for their overall health, physical and mental wellbeing by keeping the individual active.

Unfortunately with dementia many of the skills an individual had are lost or become frustrating and impossible to still perform at the level once enjoyed. This doesn’t mean the hobbies and passions have disappeared…they just need to be fulfilled in a different way.

Someone who was a concert violinist may no longer be able to hold their beloved violin or even tell you what it is when placed in front of them some days. They may feel their love for the instrument while listening to a beautiful sonata you found on youtube or one of their old records in the closet. They may hold the bow and tell you of the time they lost their favourite one or when they got their first violin. They may just sit quietly and listen with their eyes closed and a smile on their face. Comfortably loving the music that has entered their often deafeningly silent world

Someone who created meals for their families and baked for all the gatherings in town with pride, winning ribbons for their jam may not remember the recipe or be able to work at the stove now, but they may love seeing the pictures of her prizing winning jam memories, or sit and drink tea and stirring ingredients while you make scones like she used to make.

An artist who created sculptures and painted masterpeices may no longer remember the techniques they practised for years, but they may find joy in working with clay again, just feeling it between their fingers as they mold it once again. Perhaps she’ll remember the story of their favourite creation and share it with you.

Limiting boredom and engaging in activities with those with dementia can help them in numerous ways.

  • It can reduce behavioural symptoms such as irritablility, frustration, pacing, isolation, depression and anxiety.

  • It can help social interaction and keep thought and conversation abilities exercised.

  • It can improve sleep at night and limit sleep and boredom during the day.

  • It can improve the self esteem, mood and quality of life for the individual with dementia and their caregivers.

Sometimes it will take many attempts to find a way to connect with the person with dementia, and what works one day may not be as helpful the next. Your loved one with dementia has a lot to teach you too. You can no longer communicate with them on your level…you must find a way to reach them where they are. It is not about bringing them out of their dementia, it is about connecting with them in it.

Patience, Resilience, thinking outside the box, flexibility, improvisation and adaptation. It will be worth it to take the time to find a way to connect and to create a world that is comfortable, interesting and beneficial for your client or loved one with dementia.

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