Activity in dementia as part of the whole day
As a care worker, you have an opportunity to change a routine task into a positive experience, depending on how you approach the person and the activity.
When helping someone to get up in the morning, the following ideas give examples of putting ‘activity’ into ‘care’:
Taking someone out into the garden or involving them with making their own bed should be recorded as a core component of care.
- drawing the curtains with the person to check out the weather and having a chat about the weather
- supporting the person to continue their preferred routine when they wake up, for example, turning on the radio, having a drink, or looking at the newspaper
- offering visual choices of what to wear and a chance to talk about preferences, for example of trousers versus skirts or different colours.
Often, it’s not what you do but the way that you do it that matters most. In one care home the domestic worker takes a puppet around with her as she is doing the dusting which provides lots of moments of fun and interaction.
Look around you
If you are working in a person’s own home, look out for the things that might offer you ideas about what interests that person. A photograph, a piece of furniture or an ornament might all provide starting points for a conversation or an activity such as dusting or polishing.
If you are in a care home, have a look at the lounges and corridors to see what is there to stimulate the senses. An overly tidy environment offers nothing for people to look at, pick up, touch or even tidy themselves.
Stimulating the senses
Over time, as dementia progresses, it is important to think about activities that are less reliant on words and intellect and find things that can stimulate all five key senses. These are: sight, sound, touch, taste and smell.
Starting to skip in the middle of the living room with a real skipping rope, for example, is more likely to engage a person with dementia than simply asking them what games they used to play as a child. The skipping rope and the actions are likely to trigger memories much more immediately than using verbal questions.
When planning an activity – whether for an individual or a group – think about having something physical to get the body moving, something mental to engage the brain, and something sensory to stimulate the senses.
Activity and care planning
Care planning usually focuses on physical and clinical aspects of care, and tends to emphasise problems. A good care plan will place as much emphasis on whether someone’s social and emotional needs are being met as on whether a person’s bowels have opened or their medication has been administered.
All staff will need some support and possibly training to recognise that taking someone out into the garden or involving them with making their own bed should be recorded as a core component of care. For care homes, this will also assist when providing evidence of good activity provision to inspecting authorities. Good assessment tools such as the Pool Activity Level (PAL) Instrument and the Cardiff Lifestyle Improvement Profile for People in Extended Residential Care (CLIPPER) can help guide care staff on how to integrate activity elements into personal care tasks.
Become a butterfly: change the moment
The dementia training consultancy Dementia Care Matters promotes the idea of care staff ‘being a butterfly’ as it is possible for a butterfly to change the moment in an instant when it chooses to rest on a flower, if only for a moment. There are many things care staff can do in under a minute that can lift the mood of an individual or a whole room of people, such as:
- wear something colourful or unusual which will catch the eye
- skip or dance through a room rather than walk
- give someone a compliment
- split a satsuma orange in half and share with a person.
All too often staff say that they don’t have enough time ‘to do activities’ but if there are lots of care staff providing ‘butterfly moments’, this can really enhance the social interaction levels in a day.
Access and download additional resources
Further reading and resources Open
Knocker, S. (2013) Taking part: Activities for people with dementia. London: Alzheimer’s Society. Originally published in 2002 as The Alzheimer’s Society book of activities.
National Association for Providers of Activities for Older People, ‘Developing team spirit: activity, everybody’s job’, London: NAPA.
National Association for Providers of Activities for older people, ‘Activity allsorts’, London: NAPA.
Pool, J. (2007) The Pool Activity Level (PAL) Instrument for occupational profiling: A practical resource for carers of people with dementia (3rd edition), London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Powell, J. (2007) Care to communicate: Helping the older person with dementia (2nd edition), London: Hawker. This book includes the CLIPPER assessment tool with forms to photocopy.
Sonas aPc: This organisation promotes structured group sessions which focus on sensory, social and cognitive stimulation for people with dementia, and trains care staff in how to run these sessions. Session leaders use a CD to guide the group through a familiar process incorporating introductions, songs, use of objects and so on – leaving them free to focus on communication with the individuals present.
Useful links Open
The Alzheimer’s Society produces over 80 factsheets on all sorts of topics related to dementia, including Staying involved and active (505), Exercise and physical activity (529), and Mobility strategies. The Society’s website also includes Dementia Connect, a webpage for searching for information about local services and support groups for people with dementia and carers.
Arts 4 Dementia
This charity works with arts organisations around the UK to develop opportunities for people with dementia and their carers to participate in a wide range of arts activities. Arts 4 Dementia offers training for arts facilitators, advice, online resources and seminars.
As easy as ABC: Care UK’s top 100 hints and tips for activity-based care
Care UK’s activity teams share what they have found to be helpful when supporting people with dementia in everyday activities, arts and crafts, maintaining independence, special occasions, health and wellbeing, and reminiscence.
Living well through activity in care homes
This free online resource from the College of Occupational Therapists sets out a wide range of practical ideas on how to support care home residents to continue day-to-day activities that are important to them. The resource includes free training materials and audit tools to review and evidence aspects of care such as personalisation and choice.
Using technology to support people with dementia
Technology has so much to offer people living with dementia and their carers; access to information, advice and entertainment as well as reassurance for a carer who does not live near a loved one. Used sensitively and thoughtfully, technology enhances rather than replaces human relationships and interactions.
Related pages from this section Open