Three tips on building Physical and Social activities as non-pharmacological interventions for dementia.

Last month, we provided three tips to reduce the use of antipsychotics by promoting more Patient centered care. To elaborate more on this series of cutting back the unnecessary usage of the drugs, we are going to discuss more on patient centered care and the positive impact activity programs can have in becoming alternatives in improving behavioral health problems.

When practicing Patient Centered Care through activity programs, it allows residents to be provided with more meaningful engagement in life and offers a stronger sense of dignity and acceptance through participation. Research suggests that physically and socially stimulating recreational activities can decrease problematic behaviors, increase overall functioning, and slow the progression of cognitive decline; likewise, lack of pleasurable activities may further exacerbate the impairment associated with dementia.

The social dimension of wellness has increasing support from research on its contribution to active aging as this 2008/2009 Canadian Community Health Survey―Healthy Aging shows: “Among the 24% of respondents who said they would have liked to participate in more social, recreational or group activities in the prior year, about one-third said the obstacle to participation was a health limitation, followed by being too busy and family or personal responsibilities.”

Research about the physical dimension also shows how exercise can help with dementia as this recent study shows: “About one-quarter of the individuals were classified as having dementia. Poor performance in all the measures was related to an increased risk of dementia.”

Here are three avenues to explore how exercise and social activities can be built as non-pharmacological interventions for dementia:

1.    Create purpose and goal oriented programs:

Purpose and goal oriented programs will help in keeping residents with dementia focused for short periods of time that can result in offering a sense of purpose once the goal is reached. Keep in mind that the goal should be challenging enough to keep their attention, but not too challenging to where their efforts will not have productive results and cause more frustration.

Here are some program examples where this can be accomplished:

  • Mirror movement exercise type programs: Yoga, Thai chi, Simon Says
  • Games played with a partner: Connect Four, Bean Bag Toss
  • Activities that have some sort of collaborative effort such as arts & crafts, ball toss, reminiscing or travel group discussing

2.    Increase the level of enjoyment through encouraging engagement:

Assist in encouraging your residents with Dementia to participate through using descriptive prompts, modifying your communication styles, keeping things simple, and using multi-sensory programs.

Here are some program examples where this can be accomplished:

  • Smells of lavender with a slideshow of flowers and gardens then taking a nature walk.
  • Freestyle dancing to familiar reminiscent types of music.
  • Sensory beach sounds and buckets of sand while sharing summertime stories with a group
  • Folding clothes with smells of fresh clean linen around the room and having a women’s small group.

3.    Provide emotional support:

Emotional support is important for all individual, especially individuals who are diagnosed with different forms of dementia. Emphasizing on their need for empathy will assist in creating trust and establish understanding of one’s frustrations. Be sure that when addressing residents that you address them as the adults that they are, and not in a childlike manor. Respect is always a way of emphasizing support.

Here are some program examples where this can be accomplished:

  • Team or group games where memory and/or other skills can be shared such as creative story telling
  • Reminiscing one on one activities focused on difficult moments of the resident’s life