We all know just how important it is to keep a person living with dementia active, engaged, and mentally stimulated. However, coming up with activity ideas can often prove to be challenging. Then, when visual impairment is added to the equation, finding meaningful and engaging activities can become even more complex.
Providing meaningful experiences for individuals with dementia who also have low to no vision requires a tailored approach that takes their specific needs and comfort into consideration. In this blog post, we will outline 4 creative activity ideas designed to spark joy and connection for people living with dementia and visual impairments. Remember, vision is only 1 of the 5 basic senses we as humans have. We also have hearing, smell, taste, and touch, right!? Let's use those other intact senses to help create joyful and meaningful experiences for the people we are caring for.
1. Exploring Aromas
- Setup: Gather a variety of scented items, such as cinnamon sticks, lavender sachets, citrus peels, peppermint candies, and vanilla extract.
- Activity: Place the scented items in separate containers. Invite the person to sit comfortably and explain that you have different scents to explore. Encourage them to smell each item and share their thoughts or memories associated with the scents.
2. Musical Memories
- Setup: Create a playlist of music from the person's past, focusing on songs that might trigger memories. Do you remember any songs they use to listen to or sing all the time?
- Activity: Set up a comfortable space for you both to sit with the playlist ready to play. Gently introduce the activity by saying, "Let's listen to some of your favorite songs from the past. I've prepared a playlist that I think you'll enjoy. Would you like to listen together?" Feel free to pause in between each song to share different memories and experiences.
4. Flavor Exploration
- Setup: Offer a selection of foods with distinct flavors, like a piece of soft chocolate, a chewy peppermint, a slice of apple, and a cracker with cheese or pudding, yogurt, apple sauce, and cottage cheese. For safety, it's best to pick food items that require the same mechanics to consume. For example, don't mix things you need to suck before chewing, like hard candies or lollipops, with things you can chew right away. Also, be careful not to combine things you can swallow without chewing with things that need chewing. Please also keep in mind any dietary restrictions or food dangers for the person your are caring for. For example, crackers may be too crumbly for some people living with dementia making them more susceptible to choking.
- Activity: Sit with the person and explain that you have different foods to taste. Gently say, "Let's explore some flavors together. I'll hand you a piece of food, and you can tell me what you taste. We can chat about how it reminds you of anything."
5. Outdoor Sensations
- Setup: Find a comfortable spot outdoors with a variety of textures, such as grass, leaves, flowers, and tree bark.
- Activity: Lead the person outside and guide their hands to different natural surfaces. You can say, "Let's enjoy the outdoors for a moment and connect with nature. Feel the texture of the grass and the roughness of the tree bark. How does that feel?"
Remember, each person is unique and blindness is on a spectrum. Please adapt these activities based on your partner's abilities, preferences, and comfort level. Also, use gentle language and provide reassurance throughout the activities to ensure a positive experience.