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9 Activities That Stimulate Cognitive Function in Those With Dementia

9 Activities That Stimulate Cognitive Function in Those With Dementia

At Autumn View Gardens in Creve Coeur, we work with residents in our memory care level of service to promote cognitive function and provide stimulating activities and social opportunities. These are important to helping individuals with dementia and other cognitive concerns maintain what memory and function they have.

But stimulating activities also serve a number of other purposes. They help ensure someone stays as mobile as possible to protect other functions in their body. They also encourage socialization, which reduces isolation and can help with depression and anxiety.

If you’re still considering memory care as an option, you can also institute some activities in your own home that encourage a loved one with cognitive decline. Here are some options to consider.

1. Baking and cooking simple recipes.

You should definitely take appropriate precautions to avoid injury, depending on what level your loved one is at with cognitive function and mobility.

In some cases, your loved one may still be able to cook on their own with minimal oversight. For example, you might have to ensure they remembered to turn the stove off when they were done. In other cases, you might need to work alongside your loved one as you would with a younger child.

Sensory stimulation can be good for those with cognitive decline, so consider recipes such as baking, which involve kneading dough and other touch-based tasks.

You can also make family-favorite recipes your loved one might have some ties to. The scents and flavors of the foods might help them engage with old memories.

2. Playing board or card games.

Games are a great way to foster analytical and creative thinking, and they can be good for people of all ages and cognitive levels. Make sure to choose games that are an appropriate level for the loved one in your care. Someone with minor memory loss may still be able to beat the entire family at Scrabble, for example, but if cognitive decline has moved forward to a greater degree, you might want to try simpler games such as Go Fish.

3. Engaging in regular exercise.

Encourage your loved one to join you in exercise as much as possible. Physical movement is good for the entire body, including the brain, and it can also reduce stress and anxiety.

You can invite your loved one on a walk or have them do chair yoga while you do yoga on a mat. Simply fostering regular movement and participation with others is the main goal. Do make sure you talk to a medical provider about what type of exercise programs may be best for your loved one before you start anything new.

4. Looking at pictures or scrapbooks.

Regularly looking through pictures and scrapbooks and talking with your loved one about the memories contained inside can help them keep those memories fresh. It also provides them with an opportunity to continue to engage with others about topics they do remember. Often, memory issues cause people to lose newer memories before they lose older ones.

5. Reading stories.

Reading and talking about stories can also help engage memory and cognitive functions. Read a senior’s favorite stories or books out loud. Even if they have a hard time keeping up with all the details, if the story is familiar and one they have enjoyed for a long time, it might be easier for them to engage with. You can also invest in high-quality picture books with enjoyable stories or poetry and interesting images that people of all ages can enjoy looking at.

6. Running errands.

When you go to the grocery store or out to run errands, take your loved one with you. It can take a bit more effort to do this, but getting out and about regularly can provide a huge benefit. They get some exercise walking around, they see other sights and sounds outside of their home and they may be able to engage with other people for socialization.

7. Exploring outdoors.

You can’t always get to the grocery store or take your loved one when you’re going to a meeting, but you can explore your own yard or neighborhood. You can also make use of greenways and nearby parks to provide loved ones with a different environment for a while and help them get the benefit of being outdoors and in the sun.

8. Engaging with pets.

If you have a family pet, allow your loved one to spend time with it. You can also consider adopting an older and well-behaved shelter pet as a companion for your loved one. Dogs can help ensure people get outside and walk a bit each day, and they can also be quiet and loving companions that help reduce loneliness.

9. Listening to music.

Music can help energize someone, soothe anxiety or even provide stimulation that helps seniors connect with old memories. Create time each day for music, whether it’s singing songs together or playing old favorites on the stereo.

At Autumn View Gardens, we put many of these principles into action when planning activities and services for our residents. Schedule a visit to find out more about how we can help your loved one live a vibrant, enjoyable life.

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