How to Engage Someone with Dementia 

Are You Ready to Create Joyful Moments This Christmas?

Christmas is a time of joy and family gatherings. But, when caring for a loved one with dementia, how can you make this season special for them too?

0:01:34 Tips for Engaging Persons with Dementia during Christmas

0:01:48 Engaging in Different Activities and Hobbies

0:03:06 Misconception: People with Dementia Don't Want to Do Things

0:06:06 Initiating Activities and Helping Loved Ones with Dementia Engage

0:08:16 Engaging in Activities with Dementia Caregiving

0:09:15 The Importance of Engaging in Meaningful Tasks

0:10:54 Taking Responsibility for the Outcome and Simplifying Tasks

0:11:19 Focusing on the Process and Outcome

0:13:41 Art vs Craft: Allowing Freedom in Expression

0:17:15 Misconception about People Living with Dementia

0:18:23 Join Dementia Caregiving for Families Facebook Group

Understanding Dementia and Engagement

It's a common myth that people with dementia don't want to engage in activities. The truth is, they often lose the ability to initiate tasks, not the desire to participate. Recognizing this can transform how we approach activities with them.

Simplifying Activities for Success

One key strategy is simplification. Break down tasks into manageable parts. This approach allows individuals with dementia to contribute in their own way, fostering a sense of accomplishment and involvement.

Creating a Supportive Environment

It's crucial to create a failure-free environment. This means adapting activities to suit their abilities and ensuring they feel successful, regardless of the outcome. Remember, it's the process, not perfection, that matters.

Building Memories Together

Engaging in activities, whether it's folding laundry or singing carols, is more than just keeping busy. It's about creating moments of connection and lasting memories.

This holiday season, let's focus on what is still possible and cherish these moments together.

Remember, the essence of care is not just in the tasks we perform but in the love and memories we create. Let's make this Christmas a memorable one for our loved ones with dementia.

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An elderly person in white garment holding some Christmas tree pine leaves with a static video thumbnail

Introduction: Tips for How to Engage Someone with Dementia during Christmas

[0:01] It is hard to believe it is December 21st and we are hitting episode 67.

Today's topic is three tips on how to engage a person with dementia in activities during this Christmas time where I keep telling everybody and asking people to really concentrate on on creating moments of joy and making lasting memories during this Christmas period.

And see you on the other side of the intro and enjoy today's episode.

[0:38] Hey there, success seeker. Welcome to Dementia Caregiving for Families.

Do you feel overwhelmed with the daily struggle of dementia caregiving?

Looking for an easier path?

You're in the right place. On this podcast, we teach you the skills to simplify caregiving.

We unravel the mystery of dementia and guide you through the often difficult behaviors.

Lizette's Background and Purpose of the Podcast

[1:07] I'm Lizette, your host and fellow family caregiver.

As an occupational therapist, I bring my professional and personal experience to this community. community.

Here we speak the truth, but without the verbal vomit.

I know you will find value in today's program, so buckle up while this flight takes off.

Tips for How to Engage Someone with Dementia

[1:34] Today's episode, we are going to talk about three tips on how to engage a person with dementia in activities during the Christmas holidays.

Now, I don't know about you, but.

Engaging in Different Activities and Hobbies

[1:48] I like to do things. I like to do different things.

I like to do, I like to read. I like to go to the movies.

I love watching my chickens. That's probably my biggest fun thing that I enjoy doing.

They are super, super funny and I enjoy watching them.

I like taking care of them. They're fun and they have personalities.

I want you to think about everything that you did this past weekend.

Right? Today is December 21st, so the weekend before, think about everything that you did. Could be anything.

It could be for fun. Like, do you have hobbies?

Do you like to read? Do you like to hike? Do you like to play with the dog?

What kind of activities do you like to do?

Anything. anything, cooking, going and exercising.

Just think about all of the different things that we do every single day to engage in activities throughout the day.

We do a lot of things that we do not even think about that are meaningful activities.

And there is a common common misconception.

Misconception: People with Dementia Don't Want to Do Things

[3:06] People have a very big misconception that people living with dementia don't want to do things, right?

So I want to ask you back to my previous question about everything that you did over the weekend.

What if you woke up tomorrow morning and I told you, never again can you do any of those things.

[3:28] You just can't do them. You're not allowed to. you may not do them, you cannot do them, you just cannot do them.

How do you feel? I don't know about you, but I don't feel super good.

I might be a little depressed. I might be a little angry.

I might just sit there and not do anything because I cannot do the things that I used to do that I enjoy doing.

[3:59] So the common misconception is that people living with dementia don't want to do things.

I hear that all the time. Mom doesn't want to do X, Y, Z.

Mom isn't participating in X, Y, Z, whatever it is.

It could be mom doesn't read anymore or mom doesn't, I'll use my mom as an example, mom doesn't paint anymore, mom doesn't go for a walk anymore, whatever. whatever.

[4:29] And there's this belief that they don't want to do things.

And that is not necessarily true.

Now, sometimes it is a person doesn't want to do something because it's become difficult for them to do.

But it's more frequently because of the changes in the person's brain that they actually have lost what we call the higher level thinking skills, right?

The things that we need in order to be able to do certain things, like any activity, right?

The ability to plan, the ability to organize, and most importantly, the ability to actually initiate doing it, right?

So sometimes the person has the desire to do something.

They want to still participate. They've just lost the ability to actually initiate doing the task.

They cannot come up with it on their own that they want to get up and go do something.

That's actually a very higher level skill ability that we develop over time as our executive functions develop.

[5:45] But for us, when we're helping somebody living with dementia, it is up to us to be the one to bring them along, to help initiate the activities for them, to give them meaningful things to do, to help them participate in activities.

Initiating Activities and Helping Loved Ones with Dementia Engage

[6:06] And there's a variety of ways that we can do it.

It may not be realistic anymore to expect mom to get up and go set the table, but maybe mom can still help you set the table if you engage with her and do it with her and kind of model to her what it is that she needs to do.

So you do it together, right? You walk alongside her.

So it is up to us to start to initiate activities and to help the person that we're loving with dementia be able to engage in activities.

So how do we do this, right? A few ways that we can do this.

The first thing I want you to realize is it is up to me to control the environment.

[6:56] What do I mean by that? I mean that activities typically have an outcome, a result that we want it to look a certain way.

So if we want the outcome and the result to look a certain way, then I as the person who is helping them I assume the responsibility for ensuring that that activity turns out the way I want it to turn out I don't expect the person who has difficulty with their thinking to be able to come up with the end result to look the way I want it to be so how that looks is sometimes that means I am will we'll use a cooking activity, right?

I may have somebody who is further along in their dementia caregiving journey, and I'm not going to give them a recipe and say, here, follow this recipe and make the apple pie.

But I might be the person who is there with them and saying, here, mom, throw this in that and let's mix it.

So I've taken the decision making away and I just have.

Engaging in Activities with Dementia Caregiving

[8:16] At that moment in time, and so I'm quality control.

I'm the one that makes it failure-free, but I'm facilitating and I'm helping that person be able to still engage in an activity.

I'll use a very common activity as an example. A person who's in a situation where they're in a situation, Folding laundry. Folding laundry is a great activity to do with any person because it is a very routine and familiar thing, especially later on in their dementia caregiving journey.

But the problem that we often have as family caregivers is we want to get the task done.

We want to get the laundry put away because we've got laundry to put away.

I've got food to make. I've got laundry to put away. I've got to feed the cats and the dogs and chickens and everything that I got to do.

And then we do it. We do it because it's easier for us to do it than it is to engage the person that's going to take a lot longer to do the task.

The Importance of Engaging in Meaningful Tasks

[9:15] I would ask you to consider it this way around, though.

[9:20] Anything that they do that is a task that is engaging them in the world means they're in the world.

They're not sitting there and just not living anymore.

So who cares if they fold a towel the wrong way, if it doesn't look like it needs to for a hotel, right? It doesn't matter.

They were engaged in that task.

[9:47] It doesn't matter if they fold and unfold the same t-shirt 17 times.

It doesn't matter. That is not what it's about.

It's about engaging them in an activity that they can still do that's meaningful because we are creatures that are meant to engage in our environment.

So you stand there and you do the laundry and you have them help you as best they can with whatever it is.

And if you really need to refold it, do not fold it in front of them again. Wait until they go away.

Go put it up, put it in another room and then go refold it.

It it's okay we want to give them a sense of accomplishment a sense that they are still engaging in the world around them what greater gift do we have than to than to truly engage with the people that we love that we want to have live the best quality life that they can so it's my job to make it failure free so we take responsibly that's the first point we take responsibility for the outcome.

Taking Responsibility for the Outcome and Simplifying Tasks

[10:54] We don't expect that the outcome, that the responsibility for what it looks like is theirs to have.

I'm responsible for the outcome.

[11:03] The second thing that we do is we try to simplify it as much as we can and only give them one part of the task.

We don't necessarily have to have them do the whole thing.

We can just have them do one part, break an egg.

Showing them how to make meals in minutes.

Focusing on the Process and Outcome

[11:19] Mix it, right? You break the egg, you give them the hand mixer and tell them what to do.

Stand close by, keep supervision, and help them with the task.

And then we focus on the process.

We make the, you know, the third step is we focus on the process for them, and we let them do steps of the process, and we focus on the outcome.

So we're taking responsibility for the outcome. We're simplifying the task for them.

We are having them focus on the process, but we focus on the outcome.

And then the last thing I want us to consider today is really looking at the environment and making it as supportive as possible for them.

Them because the purpose isn't necessarily the outcome of the activity.

The purpose is the engagement in the activity.

So what are some practical ways that this can look?

Like I said, laundry is a great way, but because this is Christmas, you know, you might be having people come over for a Christmas meal and you want the table to be pretty.

So your job is to have the vision in your head of what you want it to look like.

And then you give them one task at a time to do. Here, mom, go put the forks over here.

Go put the napkins here, one step at a time.

[12:47] Remember, take your time. Make these memories together, right?

What's another activity that we can do around the Christmas time, right?

We can sing carols, right? How to engage them, the end parts of our life, we like to do repetitive things.

So, singing is actually a great activity to engage the person with dementia in.

Singing hymns and psalms and Christmas songs, joy to the world, anything like that.

And it doesn't matter if the words are wrong, just enjoy it. Have fun with it.

So yet again, remember that people living with dementia frequently do not lose the desire to still be actively engaged in things.

They have just lost the ability to necessarily do it by themselves.

Art vs Craft: Allowing Freedom in Expression

[13:41] So the last thing I want to talk about really, and this is a great one, is consider the difference between art and craft, right?

What is the difference between an art and a craft?

Well, a craft has an end outcome that looks the way an example does.

All of the things that you make all look the same. Those are crafts.

[14:02] Crafts become very hard for people living with dementia, especially if the goal or the impetus is on them to create the outcome to look like the example, right? Because they cannot, they cannot do that anymore. If I want to make it failure-free for them and I want them to participate in a craft, I'm the one that's taking responsibility for the outcome and I'm, assisting, not taking away, but assisting to help them make it look as close as possible to the example.

What is an art? Art is what I make.

Art is whatever I make. And so sometimes when we're later on in the journey, give somebody a piece of paper and, you know, crayons or paint or whatever, and just let them make art.

Art can be whatever they make, and it doesn't need to be anything specific.

Just engaging a person in meaningful activities during the Christmas holiday will give you so many benefits.

One of the benefits is it creates memories for you, the person who is is helping them.

[15:14] And I want you to create joyful memories. I don't want us to focus on the doom and gloom and woe is me.

I want us to focus on the what is that we have right now. We still have right now.

You still have the ability to create these memories with the person that you love.

All too soon, this part of the journey will be over and then all you will have remaining are are the memories.

Whenever I talk to people who have helped somebody living with dementia, they always tell me, as difficult as it was to go through this process and watch the person change, the thing that they don't regret afterwards is taking the time during the process to make these memories.

So I beg of you, create these opportunities.

[16:01] These are opportunities that that you as the primary person helping them can create to engage them in activities during this Christmas time.

So I know that this has been super jam-packed with a lot of value for you.

I thank you for being here today. If this resonates with you, please, I invite you to go to forward slash apply.

You can apply to work with me. I only work work with people who are willing to apply and sit down and talk to me about their particular needs because I am very specific with who I work with.

I want this to be a win-win for everybody and not everybody is the right person for me to work with.

But if you do feel like I resonate with you, go to forward slash apply and we'll sit down and have a conversation.

No pressure no um nothing like that i just want to make sure that we are a right fit together so thank you for this uh next episode drops on christmas day and have a happy happy merry christmas and i will see you next week.

Misconception about People Living with Dementia

[17:15] Another jam-packed episode full of value to help you as a family caregiver of somebody living with dementia so that we can have the best quality of life as possible.

We looked at a common misconception today that people living with dementia do not want to do things.

We talked a little bit about the fact that they lose the ability to initiate their own activities.

Thank you for joining me today. If this episode resonated with you, I invite you to subscribe to this podcast.

Please, please, please share this with your family members.

This podcast is for family caregivers.

I want to help families who are struggling with helping somebody living with dementia.

So like and subscribe to this YouTube channel. And please throw me, if you haven't yet, put me a review in Apple Podcasts. I read them every single week.

I'm super excited to serve you, and like and subscribe to this podcast, and I will see you on Christmas Day.

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About the author

“Think Different” Dementia’s owner, Lizette Cloete, OTR/L graduated as an Occupational Therapist from the University of Pretoria in South Africa in 1992. Lizette has almost 30 years of experience as an Occupational Therapist in a variety of settings, the latest being in the home health environment. She enjoys teaching on the topic of dementia, most recently presenting at a national conference on the topic “Dementia Made Simple”.

Disclaimer: These blogs, videos and any work done by Lizette Cloete OT, as a Member of Think Different Dementia, LLC, is given only as educational content and consulting work. This does not create an Occupational Therapist-Patient Relationship. The educational content and consulting work performed should not be considered medical treatment as an Occupational Therapist. The consulting work does not take the place of medical work normally performed by a licensed Occupational Therapist. Please consult a licensed Occupational Therapist for medical advice.

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