Participating in activities and having opportunities to socialize with others is particularly important for residents with dementia! This is because as dementia progresses, one’s ability to engage in the world around them becomes threatened and contributes greatly to a lower quality of life.

Although some activities will become too difficult for those with dementia to participate in, research points to the promise of art-based activities.1-31. Lokon, E., Sauer, P. E., & Li, Y. (2016). Activities in dementia care: A comparative assessment of activity types. Dementia, 1471301216680890.
2. Beard, R. L. (2012). Art therapies and dementia care: A systematic review. Dementia, 11, 633–656.
3. Cohen, D. G. (2006). Research on creativity and aging: The positive impact of the arts on health and illness. Generations, 30, 7–15.
Engaging in all types of arts (music, dance, visual arts, drama, movement-based, writing, drawing, painting) provides positive clinical outcomes, including physiological and psychological health benefits. Creative stimulation has been shown to lower blood pressure, slow down heartbeat, balance blood flow, improve the immune system, and decrease dysfunctional behaviors such as agitation and anxiety.2-42. Beard, R. L. (2012). Art therapies and dementia care: A systematic review. Dementia, 11, 633–656.
3. Cohen, D. G. (2006). Research on creativity and aging: The positive impact of the arts on health and illness. Generations, 30, 7–15.
4. Kent, M., & Li, R. (2013). The arts and aging: Building the science. Washington. DC: National Endowment for the Arts Office of Research and Analysis.
Overall, art-based activities can lead people to be more relaxed and comfortable in their environment.11. Lokon, E., Sauer, P. E., & Li, Y. (2016). Activities in dementia care: A comparative assessment of activity types. Dementia, 1471301216680890.

Here are 5 suggestions to improve engagement and increase activity participation:

  • Allow plenty of time for the creative process, rather than focusing on the end product. Creative activities allow people with dementia to participate without judgment because there are no right or wrong answers.
  • Pay attention to triggers, or environmental causes that lead to dysfunctional behavior. These vary from individual to individual. Common triggers may be the result of the inability to hear, visual impairment, social isolation, hunger, or any other basic need.
  • Rather than focus on gender-specific craft activities, provide men and women the opportunity to engage in more open-ended, authentic creative activities together. This will provide more opportunities for both male and female residents to engage, and will mitigate risks for social isolation and loneliness.
  • Play music to elevate mood before the activity begins and encourage movement such as clapping and dancing.
  • Encourage conversation by asking open-ended questions. Open-ended questions stimulate cognitive processing, in which the individual must think about the question and how to formulate an answer. Be patient! It will take them a longer amount of time to answer than an individual without dementia.

Engaging in meaningful activities is a critical component of dementia care. Besides facilitating feelings of enjoyment and pleasure, there is a strong correlation between engagement and health, well-being, and quality of life. By creating additional opportunities for residents with dementia to socialize and participate in events, activities professionals and other care staff can preserve resident health, deliver greater quality care, and enhance physical mobility and activities of daily living.

References

  1. Lokon, E., Sauer, P. E., & Li, Y. (2016). Activities in dementia care: A comparative assessment of activity types. Dementia, 1471301216680890.
  2. Beard, R. L. (2012). Art therapies and dementia care: A systematic review. Dementia, 11, 633–656.
  3. Cohen, D. G. (2006). Research on creativity and aging: The positive impact of the arts on health and illness. Generations, 30, 7–15.
  4. Kent, M., & Li, R. (2013). The arts and aging: Building the science. Washington. DC: National Endowment for the Arts Office of Research and Analysis.
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