Tips for keeping loved ones with dementia engaged this winter

Press Staff Writer

        While many families are caring for their loved ones at home, finding ways to stay engaged and active indoors during the cold winter months can be hard. It can be particularly challenging for the millions of people living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. Alzheimer’s Association statistics show that more than 220,000 individuals are living with Alzheimer’s in Ohio.
        Individuals at any stage of dementia can benefit from stimulating activities. Many activities can be modified to the person’s ability. In addition to enhancing quality of life, activities can reduce common dementia-related behaviors like wandering or agitation.
        “It is important you take your cue from the person living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia,” said Pam Myers, program director for the Alzheimer’s Association Northwest Ohio Chapter. “What they like to do, what they able to do and what their mood is on any given day need to be considered when offering an activity.”
        To help families enjoy quality time with their loved ones with dementia this winter, the Alzheimer’s Association is offering a list of engaging indoor activities that all family members can enjoy.
        • Have a game day. For some early- to mid-stage individuals living with dementia,  completing a puzzle, playing a card game or even a game of checkers or dominos can be a stimulating and fun way to spend time indoors.
        • Reminisce. People living with dementia, even late stages, can enjoy listening to their favorite music. A person may be able to tap a beat or sing lyrics to a song from childhood. Also, consider looking through family photo albums and ask questions about their childhood, such as where they went to school, what pets they had or about their first car. Photos and conversations can bring back favorite childhood memories.
        • Do something in the kitchen. Studies suggest smells can trigger more vivid emotional memories. Prepare a favorite meal or bake a favorite dessert. Engage the person in appropriate tasks, keeping safety top of mind. You can also ask the person to wash and dry dishes or for help setting the table.
        • Be creative. For many people living in mid- to late-stage dementia, communication can be challenging. Consider painting or drawing activities that can allow the person with the disease to express their feelings safely. Also, consider using modeling clay or Play-Doh to benefit from tactile stimulation and creativity. Cut out photos from magazines to create happy memories in a collage.
        “If you notice a person’s attention span waning or frustration level increasing, it’s likely time to end or modify the activity,” Myers said. “Concentrate on the process, not the result. It’s really about spending time with the person in ways that are meaningful. If an activity doesn’t work, you can always try something else.”
        For more tips on activities families can do with their loved ones and other support services, contact Myers at 419-537-1999 or email


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