Alzheimer’s Awareness Month
January is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and The County of Lambton Long-Term Care Division is proud to provide services and supports for people living with all types of dementia, including Alzheimer Disease, through our three Long-Term Care Homes and four Adult Day Program locations. Part of supporting people living with dementia is ensuring access to activities and opportunities for engagement and to develop social relationships. Staff in the Homes and Adult Day Programs work hard to find fun, stimulating and interesting activities for people living with dementia. Families and friends can also engage their loved one and do things together to keep them physically and mentally active and socially engaged.
Exercise is a great activity for everyone. It helps burn adrenaline produced by stress and frustration, and produces endorphins, which can promote feelings of happiness. Exercise helps develop a healthy appetite, increases energy levels, and promotes a better night’s sleep and can be as simple as going for a walk.
Reminiscing can also be enjoyed by many. People living with dementia often remember the distant past more than recent events, so triggering more distant, pleasant memories, may be more engaging. This can be done by looking at old family photos, listening to music from an era that was a positive time in their life or making a memory/rummage box of items the person might be interested in. Talking about the past can trigger strong emotions, so it’s important to listen, comfort and reassure the person. Avoid specific questions that require factual responses and never ‘test’ a person about their knowledge or memory. For example, instead of showing them a photo and saying, “tell me who these people are”, say, “that’s you and your sister at the beach. It must have been fun.”
Many people continue to enjoy listening to the radio or watching television, however some people living with dementia lose the ability to differentiate between what is real and what is on the screen. It could be due to problems with their vision or problems with another part of the visual system and the brain. This can cause distress and confusion. Watching television together and choosing the right type of programs for each person is important.
People living with dementia may enjoy social situations or may find them overwhelming and stressful. When asked about joining a social situation, people will sometimes say “no” as the safest option or as an automatic response when there is a lack of understanding. Rather than asking direct questions, try saying “It’s a beautiful day outside so I thought we could sit on the patio and visit with some friends.” You can then watch for non-verbal cues and see how they respond.
People living with dementia can retain the ability to do many activities and household tasks, however some modifications may be required. The result may not be perfect, but it can give an important sense of purpose and achievement. Even when other abilities are severely affected, many people still enjoy singing and listening to music.
All people living with dementia have the right to make choices and be treated with respect. It’s important that people living with dementia have access to activities and services to help ensure they have meaningful, active lives for as long as possible.
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