One of the most crucial ingredients when caring for someone with dementia is meaningful engagement, which is proven to have a powerful positive impact for people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia. But many families wonder what engagement really is and how they can use it to the benefit their loved ones.
Engagement means supporting those living with dementia so they are cognitively, emotionally and physically involved in life on a daily basis. It’s not a matter of entertaining them, although enjoyment is certainly part of it. The focus is on keeping those living with dementia participating in the world around them to the fullest extent possible. Caring for someone with dementia goes beyond ensuring they are comfortable, clean, safe, well-fed and hydrated.
Because there is no cure for the disease, a primary goal of quality treatment is on delaying symptoms and improving the daily life experience. Engagement can improve mood, reduce depression and behavioral expressions and may even slow dementia’s progression.
Here are five tips for engaging someone with dementia:
- Help those with dementia actively carry out day-to-day living routines to the best of their abilities. Offering a failure-free choice of two outfits in the morning and asking them to decide which they will wear; supporting the person to continue to help with getting a meal together – these are just two examples of how to sustain connection in day-to-day life.
- Resist the urge to perform tasks for your loved one without offering the opportunity to them to continue to participate. When people aren’t actively involved to the level they could be, it can hasten the decline of their capabilities. It can also cause boredom and contribute to feelings of worthlessness and depression.
- Social, emotional, physical and spiritual connection are vital engagement components, as well. We must also make it possible for them to continue their meaningful relationships with other people, express their creativity, fulfill interests and have the sense their presence in the world matters. The feeling of no longer having value can aggravate dementia’s symptoms, eroding the ability to communicate and leading to what seems to be withdrawal from everything around them.
- Consistently encouraging participation in daily life tasks. Make sure each day includes time to foster physical, cognitive and social connections. Examples include taking a walk, having a friend over to share coffee, enjoying music together or drawing.
- Activities related to a loved one’s longtime work and other interests are also significant. For someone who had an office career, sorting paperwork could be relevant; a passionate gardener could look through seed catalogues and make recommendations. What’s important is their involvement in the task, rather than the outcome. It’s about using remaining skills to participate to their highest level of capability and really experiencing it.
Promoting engagement can seem a tall order for family caregivers already stretched thin from handling basic care needs, but even simple measures can make a big difference.