Temperatures are rising quickly, which tells us all that summer is here! With warmer weather and longer days, summer offers the perfect opportunity to create a new routine full of curiosity and inspiration for seniors living with dementia. Although your goal might ultimately be to beat the heat, don’t let the change in season keep you from creating a summer of fun!
Whether you have already planned some outdoor time, have supplies packed for an indoor activity, or maybe are unsure of what to do, consider creating a calendar for the months to come. While those living with dementia might have difficulties with their memory recall, settling into a routine can help with combatting feelings of stress, anxiety, and negative behaviors. In addition, by creating a calendar full of things to do, you give them something positive to look forward to, piquing their curiosity and inspiring their imagination. You could even label the calendar as something special by referring to it as a “Summer Camp!”
As you make your list of things to do, invite your members with dementia to take part in the planning process. Let them pick activities that are of interest to them, such as spending time out in the garden, going for walks, or starting a new project. Together, you can create a calendar that considers their day-to-day needs, such as mealtimes and rest periods, while also lending a sense of inclusion by working through a planner that’s all about them.
Know that creating a Summer Camp doesn’t have to come with any extravagant planning. As long as you focus on incorporating activities and topics into each day that feel meaningful and engaging to your members with dementia, then you’re already doing a fantastic job! Consider music sessions, for example. Not only is it an easily accessible resource with a plethora of genres and tunes to choose from, but music also has a way of imprinting on the brain in a way no other human experience can compare.
Through music, the mind, body, and soul reconnect to memories brought forth by a familiar rhythm. Music evokes a cathartic experience and is a powerful tool at that. For years, scholars, scientists, and musicians alike have researched the impacts of music on the brain, with certain studies finding that brain function and human behavior can be widely improved with the help of a person’s favorite song, even in the late stages of dementia progression.
“Usually in the late stages, Alzheimer’s patients are unresponsive,” neuroscientist Kiminobu Sugaya says. “But once you put on the headphones that play [their favorite] music, their eyes light up. They start moving and sometimes singing. The effect lasts maybe 10 minutes or so even after turning off the music.”
Knowing the resounding positive effects music can have, consider implementing a series of music classes that spotlight some of the greatest generational hits from past summers, like this free Beach Boys activity download from EngAGE EnCOURAGE. Have members who maybe aren’t in the mood to boot, scoot, and Boogey? That’s okay! Consider still setting aside some quiet time to sit down and listen to a few favorite records with your participants. Studies have shown that listening to music can create new neurological pathways, improve cognitive function, increase dopamine, and even reduce heart rate and blood pressure.
Lastly, while we know not every minute of the day can be dedicated to your planned festivities, there is still fun to be had in between the hustle and bustle of the day’s regulated tasks. You can take away the idea of things feeling mundane or chore-like by adding your Summer Camp spin to each routine. Try creating a whole summertime theme for each day by seeing how many nicknames you and your members with dementia can make for every routine activity. For example, instead of saying, “It’s time for a bath,” try saying, “Let’s go take a dip in the indoor pool!”
Summer Camp does not have to be just for the kids. Creating a calendar full of new and familiar activities can give you and those you care for with dementia a sense of routine while also making way for things to look forward to during the hot summer months. Life changes with dementia, but that never means the fun has to stop!
EngAGE EnCOURAGE™ offers an easy-to-use e-learning platform designed for care partners wishing to get people learning, laughing, and creating. This sort of engagement treats people with cognitive impairment as valued individuals and improves their quality of life.
EngAGE EnCOURAGE™ provides a quality curriculum for resident or member programming at assisted living communities, adult day clubs, and memory care providers. Reach us via email or toll-free by phone at (602) 418-5196.