Having dementia or related diseases can make enjoying life a challenge. But even when someone is losing their memory, they can still enjoy the beauty of summer. In fact, getting outdoors, especially after our long Michigan winters, can be good for physical and mental health. And, of course, being out and about in the summer is much safer for people with mobility issues in the ice and snow. So here are 10 ideas for getting your loved one outside to enjoy summer again.
1) Go Sit in the Sunshine
Being indoors deprives us of sunshine, which is the only thing that helps us to naturally generate our own vitamin D. A lack of vitamin D can inhibit bone health, and many adults do not get enough in their diet. Different physical conditions (like celiac disease) and some medications can limit vitamin D absorption. For people with cognitive issues, at least one study has linked the lack of vitamin D to dementia, so getting enough vitamin D is even more important for them.
2) Go to a Game
If your friend or loved one enjoys summer sports like baseball or volleyball, take them to a game. Revisiting the sports and activities they loved in their younger years can help bring back positive memories. Encourage them to tell you how it was when they played and what they enjoyed the most about it.
3) Take in a Concert
Music is a magical tool for helping people with dementia. Few things have the power to soothe and generate memories like tunes from their past. Many cities and towns have free concerts all summer long, featuring an array of musical genres. So, whether your loved one is into jazz, classical, country, or gospel, there’ll be a concert for them. If you don’t know where to find listings of local concerts, try your city’s website or the local convention and visitors bureau website.
4) Enlist Their Help Planning a Picnic
If they were comfortable in the kitchen before dementia, giving them simple jobs to do — like putting a condiment on the sandwich bread or stirring lemonade — will help them feel productive, like they are contributing again. For many elderly, the kitchen was the center of their home lives, so spending a little time in theirs or yours might be a happy experience.
5) Go for a Country Drive
A drive in the country is fun and relaxing for everyone, but it might be extra special to someone raised on a farm or in a rural environment. As you go, try to point out the things they might recall from their own lives, like corn growing in the fields or cows and horses out to pasture; even something as mundane as a barn or silo could make their day. If appropriate, you can try to engage them in a conversation about what life was like when they were growing up. You might even find out something you never knew about them.
6) Paint with Watercolors
An inexpensive set of watercolors, brushes, and paper can make for a fun, creative, and quiet visit. If you can, go outdoors and choose a tree or flower for you both to paint so your loved one doesn’t have to struggle with that decision. Guide them and help them as needed to rinse their brush and try new colors. When you’re finished, don’t forget to sign and date the pictures and find a place to display them in your loved one’s room. Having the pictures visible will be a nice reminder of the day you spent together.
7) Arrange Flowers
This is a simple task your loved one might enjoy if they ever had a passion for flowers, gardening, or other related pastimes. All you need are cut flowers (try your local grocery store), a vase (preferably plastic), and a little patience. As you cut the stems to size, hand them to your loved one and instruct them gently how to arrange each. As the vase fills, it might elicit memories of bouquets gone by.
8) Share a Pet
If you have a gentle dog or cat and a loved one who enjoys animals, sharing cuddle time can benefit both. Spending time with a pet is known to have all kinds of positive effects on the elderly, including lowering blood pressure, reducing depression, and curing loneliness. Petting and cuddling an animal can be therapeutic to someone with dementia who may not get the physical interaction they used to. As a bonus, pets are also a great reason to go for a walk.
9) Sit by the Water
Whether you have access to a lake cottage, a pool, a flowing creek, or a rambling river, find a comfortable place to sit back and relax. Water can be a very calming and soothing element for someone with dementia. You will want to be extra careful not to leave your loved one unattended by water, but the sound of moving water and the reflections cast by the surface of a water body can be comforting and beautiful. If possible, you might even take a little stroll in the sand and let the waves lap at your bare feet.
10) Go for Ice Cream
Who doesn’t love an ice cream cone on a hot summer day? You can even make an adventure of it. Before heading to the shop, try driving past places your loved one used to know and engage them so they can try to recall. Then, you can end your adventure by heading to the ice cream parlor and enjoying a tasty treat.
We know it’s important to spend as much time as possible engaged with your friend or loved one with dementia, so feel free to stop by every chance you get. If you have questions about dementia patients and memory care, we are here to answer them. Just call or email today!