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Pursuing a creative hobby or learning a new skill activates both the senses and imagination, which can sharpen the mind and slow the decline of brain function, notes Harvard Health. Creativity enhances focus, builds awareness, stimulates curiosity, and promotes belief and confidence in oneself, Harvard Health continues. As such, arts and crafts and creative pastimes are ideal activities for dementia. 

How to Plan Creative Activities for Dementia 

Caregivers and loved ones of those with dementia need to realize that initiating a creative project requires a unique approach. Kaylynn Evans, our executive director, explains: “Often, those who don’t understand dementia think if they just place materials and supplies in front of a person, they’ll know what to do, similar to how children learn to make crafts in school.” 

However, this is not the case. Those with dementia require special assistance and a delicate attitude. Evans continues: “An individual with dementia needs to be prompted by someone else. They need instructive and interactive projects, and a helper to walk them through each step.”   

Crafting as a “Purposeful Pitstop”  

Hands-on guidance and attention are exactly what informs Vineyard Bluffton’s unique residential memory care programs. In fact, our social spaces feature specific “nooks.” These areas were intentionally built into our building to encourage residents to join in planned activities, rather than wandering aimlessly, a common dementia trait. The Alzheimer’s Association explains that wandering manifests as the “behavioral expression of a basic human need for social contact or a response to environmental, irritants, physical discomforts, or psychological distress.”

Instead of restraining the impulse to wander, it’s actually more useful to “support a resident’s movement,” indicates the Alzheimer’s Association, and point them to a conscious, secure, and mindful direction. This is why we created what we call “purposeful pitstops” to allow residents the freedom, mobility, and expression to wander safely in designated areas with strategically placed activity stations. When a staff member notices that a resident takes an interest in one of these activities, they come over to assist. These interactions not only provide instruction but reinforce the social connection that many of those with dementia need.    

Creative Project Ideas for Seniors With Dementia 

So which creative projects should caregivers choose for their residents or loved ones with dementia? The ideas below are both easy and safe—not to mention, enjoyable—for a person who has dementia to undertake. As an extra bonus, all of these activities are offered on Vineyard Bluffton’s weekly event calendar as well.    

Making Cards

Holiday traditions often change or adapt when a family member has dementia and requires memory care assistance. But you can still form new seasonal traditions such as creating handmade cards. Try using stencils, glitter, construction paper, colored pencils, stickers, or festive trimmings. As a supervised activity, this is a simple craft for someone with dementia to create. Encourage them to DIY holiday cards for their children, grandkids, or friends. You could even print out family pictures to incorporate.

As a precaution, ensure the scissors used have easy-grip handles and blunt ends to maximize safety.  

Gardening

There is something so restorative about the smell of freshly turned soil, the sight of multicolored flowers, and the feeling of an outdoor breeze as your hands sink into the earth. Gardening is a common sensory activity for those with dementia. According to a study by the Psychiatry Investigation Journal, therapeutic gardening has many advantages. It can offer mental and physical benefits, such as anxiety and stress management, increased attention, and pain relief. What’s more, enhanced mobility from this activity lowers the risk of falling. The beauty of nature and the pride of cultivating life can also do wonders for a person’s mood state.     

Learn more about the health benefits of gardening

Baking

One activity that immerses all five senses in the process is baking. Imagine the sound of butter as it warms in a pan, the texture of ingredients, the sweet aroma from the oven, and finally, tasting the finished product. Whether you bake pastries, muffins, bread, or cookies, being in the kitchen is a social experience, and food can evoke comfort and nostalgia, as an article in Time reports. It’s also an ideal way to boost dexterity in the brain and fingers.

Of course, those with dementia need to be supervised and helped while baking. But it’s a great project for caregivers or family members to do together, one step at a time.         

Creating Artworks

Whether it’s a paintbrush on a canvas, a pencil in a sketchbook, or modeling clay on a sculptor’s wheel, all types of artistic hobbies are beneficial to those with dementia. Sometimes with cognitive decline, a person can find it difficult to communicate verbally, but art is a medium through which they can still express thoughts and emotions. The frustration of losing words and fine motor skills can result in anger, sorrow, depression, and restlessness according to recent research. But art and creation make it easier for those with dementia to vent and cope with these feelings.

Caregivers: Try Creative Activities For Dementia Help 

Caregivers at home can use creative activities for dementia help when they need ways to past the time and stay active. Remember, depending on the stage of dementia, you may want to consult a professional or talk to a memory care community about keeping your loved one engaged and healthy.

Vineyard offers many opportunities for residents to engage in craft projects and creative activities each week. From the “Artists Corner” to the “Garden Club” and just about everything in between, this approach to memory care ensures that residents with dementia are able to retain mental sharpness for as long as possible, which can lead to a higher quality of life overall.        

 

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