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Top 5 Tips – Engaging Activities for Alzheimer’s and Dementia Patients

Helping family and friends, both those with dementia and their carers.

Top Tip 1: Don’t forget the power of the printed photograph

More than ever during the pandemic we keep in touch with friends and family electronically, using Face-time, Zoom and Whatsapp (to name but a few great resources). We are able to have a conversation at the same time as seeing our loved ones on screen. Its lovely to receive photos and short videos of the latest grandchild, the new puppy, the birthday tea or any of the other joyous events we try hard to make sure our loved ones can share in, albeit remotely.

For family members with dementia, these can be enjoyed, but generally only when a carer brings out their mobile phone in order to share them. My mother has Alzheimer’s and undoubtedly enjoys seeing photos and videos of her first great grandchild. However, even a short 15 second video doesn’t hold her attention to the end. A Face-time chat can see her struggling to follow what’s happening. The call might come at a time when she’s not up to it emotionally.

Even when the call has been enjoyed, or the video has raised a smile, it is extremely fleeting. There may be no memory of it after it has finished. Hence, the person with dementia may remark that they haven’t heard from a particular family member or friend for ages, when in fact they had a call from them that very day.

Nowadays we very rarely print off our photographs. It seems very ‘old school’. What I have found very useful however, and my first Top Tip, is to print off a selection of photos on to A4 paper (or card for greater durability). Mum can then sit on the settee or at the table with a selection of photos in easy sight. She can be literally surrounded by happiness. She might not remember whether the grandchild is a boy or girl but the sight of his (yes, it’s a boy) smile never fails to lift her spirits.

Put a couple of photos in the post and let family and friends receive some happy mail.

On the subject of mail…

Top Tip No 2: Send Something in the Post

Not much of what we receive in the post nowadays is ‘happy’ post. Unless it’s a birthday card, or Christmas, we generally receive only bills, catalogues etc, which although they are addressed to us, we might categorise as impersonal. Not much of it warms the heart. Why not send something for no reason at all? A lovely card to bring them up to date with a few items of news will remind them that they are important to you.

Mum still has her 80th birthday cards displayed within reach nearly six months after the event. She reads and re-reads the best wishes in each card as if they are new. They might get put away at Christmas when they will be replaced by a new set of cards, but how lovely it would be to receive messages in the post in between these two events.

Top Tip No 3: Keeping Mobile

We all know the difficulty of keeping motivated to keep fit. We’ve got the trainers, but the effort of putting them on and getting going often defeats us. There’s always tomorrow….

As people with dementia become more housebound, especially during the pandemic, mobility may become an issue. A short walk may be all that can be managed. Certainly, with Mum the time taken to put on her shoes and coat and take them off again afterwards, takes longer than the actual, very short walk she is able to manage. It’s easy, especially as the weather gets colder and wetter, to decide it’s not worth the effort. However, the temptation should be ignored. Look at it as a chance to get your own step count up! (Every little helps.) Getting out of the house is as essential for the carer as much as for the person with dementia. It’s possible that its more important, especially if it’s the only opportunity to see anyone else….

Top Tip No 4: Staying Connected

Whilst out on your (possibly) very short walk around the block, don’t forget to greet those you pass. Exchanging just a brief ‘Hello’ or smile gives everyone a lift. Mum is always delighted to see children in pushchairs, dogs walking their owners or neighbours out gardening. We can take notice of the seasons, the leaves on the ground for example. Yes, they were there yesterday as well, but treat every experience as if it’s being enjoyed for the first time!

Novelty is not all it’s cracked up to be…..

Top Tip No 5: Novelty Isn’t important - Don’t Forget the Old Favourites.

As far as keeping mobile is concerned, Mum really enjoys exercising along with Mr Motivator. Or the Green Goddess might be who you best remember from the 1980s. Alternatively, you can create your own moves and singalong to your favourite music. Tune into Music for Dementia at

07396 157903

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