St. Paul’s Senior Services knows how difficult it can be to care for a loved one with dementia at home. It takes creativity, patience and understanding of each individual and their unique experience. To provide some expert help and tips, we sat down with Andrea Rojas, St. Paul’s Plaza Reflections Memory Care Activity Coordinator, who specializes in dementia care. She provides her best tips for helping caregivers stay connected and engaged with their loved ones living with dementia.
1) Step into their world and reality
Coming to terms with a loved one’s memory loss can be difficult, and it can be even more difficult to know where to start. One of the most helpful ways a caregiver can connect with someone who has dementia is to accept that they are living in a different reality. The ability to enter their world is one way to truly make it easier for them to feel understood and at ease.
2) Get outside
Getting outside and breathing fresh air can be very helpful for the health and wellbeing of your loved one. Go for walks, take a drive or just sit outside. Being outdoors is an excellent way to stimulate hearing, sight, smell and touch, which may help lift your loved one’s spirits and allow you to form a deeper connection with them.
3) Have them help out around the house
Another great opportunity to connect with a person living with dementia is by making them feel valued. Ask them to help with folding clothes, washing dishes or other household tasks, depending on their capabilities. This keeps their hands busy and gives them a sense of purpose, which can be very empowering.
4) Adapt activities they used to love to meet their new abilities
The key to creating moments that will enhance your loved one’s life is pinpointing the activities that are naturally enjoyable for them. For example, if they grew up dancing, you could incorporate this into their life by watching “Dancing with the Stars” re-runs or by teaching them adaptive dance moves. For example, at St. Paul’s Villa, one of our residents leads an adaptive ballet class for the other seniors.
5) Make activities purposeful
When introducing a new dementia-friendly activity, try to frame it in a way that sounds like you are asking for help, rather than calling it an activity. Framing it as “needing help” encourages participation and gives the senior a sense of dignity. Be open to dementia activities that create a realistic scenario and preserve their abilities, like cooking or folding laundry.
6) Use non-verbal communication
Communicating with a smile, making eye contact or a holding hands can speak louder than words. These are simple ways to trigger moments of joy and connection with your loved one who is living with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
7) Remember that you are not alone
Being a caregiver can be challenging and emotionally exhausting. Whether you are just starting this journey or have been at it for years, there are resources available for you to get support. You are not alone and you are not the only one going through this. There are local Alzheimer’s support groups you can join to share your experience, discover resources and find community. It is so important for you to take care of yourself as a caretaker and develop a support circle.
We hope these tips help you engage and connect with your loved one who is experiencing dementia. If you have any questions about St. Paul’s Senior Services and our Reflections Memory Care Program, please do not hesitate to reach out. From St. Paul’s PACE to St. Paul’s Villa and St. Paul’s Plaza, we are here to support the senior community!
About the Author: Leah Nagel
Leah Nagel is a marketing intern at St. Paul’s Senior Services. She is a rising senior at Point Loma Nazarene University, studying marketing. She has had a life-long interest in this work, having spent much time volunteering with seniors. Leah loves spending time with older adults, hearing their stories and learning how senior care can become more accessible. She is thrilled to be combining her passion for marketing with her compassion for working with aging adults.