“Go Ahead, Make My Day” is a famous quote by Clint Eastwood. Clearly, what “makes” Clint’s day is going to be quite different than what might make my day. Or your day. Or the day of a person living with dementia. But, the point is that it’s usually going to be up to someone else – a family member or friend – to plan and provide opportunities for activities that are fun and meaningful for your loved one.
So, what is a “meaningful activity”? An activity is just something that one does. Usually as an action, deed or task. And, it’s meaningful when it provides pleasure. But, people have different interests and preferences for the specific kinds of activities that they deem to be personally enjoyable. For some it might be tasks that allow them to be helpful. Easy chores; like setting the table in steps, folding towels or cloth napkins, making instant pudding, cutting coupons, sorting buttons, beans or coins, enables a person to feel useful while staying busy. However, if something needs to be done in a very exact way, it’s probably not a good choice to delegate as it should never be about the outcome. Again, a caring reminder that we all need purpose in our life.
Some love playing cards, dominoes or other games. Consider this quote from Katherine Hepburn, “If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.” It’s both easier and much more fun when you keep it simple and follow only the house rules. Basically that means that it’s your house, so it’s your rules. It’s best to disregard the book of Hoyle. Consider playing scrabble without the board, Uno® without following the action cards or dominoes without keeping score. Modify as changes occur to ensure ongoing success.
Spelling Bees, jig saw puzzles, Word Search books and adult coloring books are some other great activities. Reading poetry, listening to music or dancing together can re-create some meaningful memories. Putting photos into albums can be both fun and useful. Consider watching a DVD or taped movie together in 20 minute segments with snack breaks in between. Above all, please don’t let the TV be their best friend.
Families should never underestimate the importance of staying socially, cognitively and intellectually stimulated. Very simply, it is just what all of us need to do to maintain a healthy lifestyle and stay happy. It’s all about keeping life in motion.
By Pam Kovacs Johnson