Coronavirus: 18 Activities for Dementia Care

Coronavirus: 18 Activities for Dementia Care

User Profile By Haley Burress   United States

Found In: Activities Articles Coronavirus: Covid-19

If you are working as an Activity Professional in a memory care neighborhood right now, you are facing even more unique challenges in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Keeping a calm and peaceful atmosphere, including activities, can feel overwhelming. Here are a few ideas to keep you and your residents engaged.
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If you are working as an Activity Professional in a memory care neighborhood right now, you are facing even more unique challenges in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Keeping a calm and peaceful atmosphere, including activities, can feel overwhelming. Here are a few ideas to keep you and your residents engaged.

Challenges for Dementia Neighborhoods

COVID-19 has thrown a wrench in every senior living community’s activity program. However, it can be even more challenging in a dementia care neighborhood. Here are specific challenges you may face or could be currently facing:

  • Worried, stressed out, or confused caregivers
  • Decreased staff due to illness or self-isolation
  • Fewer visits from family members or volunteers
  • More “scary” news programs on throughout the day regarding the pandemic
  • Different dining experiences due to increased infection control policies
  • Fewer group activities
  • Fewer 1:1 or small group interventions

Depending on your community and neighborhood, as well as any precautions your administration may be taking, you may also be trying to encourage isolation for residents. This seems especially difficult, as residents with dementia are always on the move.

Setting the Atmosphere

First and foremost, exceptional dementia care begins with the environment and atmosphere. While you can’t change what is happening around the world and in your city, you can control the atmosphere within the walls of your dementia care neighborhood. Keep things peaceful and calm by:

  • Reminding caregivers and other staff to leave their COVID-19 anxiety outside your dementia care doors
  • Diffusing lavender scents throughout your community
  • Keeping televisions turned off unless they are playing something relaxing or as a part of an activity. Remember, COVID-19 talk is literally everywhere on television right now, including commercials. 
  • Play relaxing music throughout the day
  • Brighten up your halls and doors with festive wreaths, garlands, or other decorations
  • Add some live plants (that are safe)

Focus on Your Staff

You already know that your staff members are doing their very best to meet the needs of residents as well as to meet the complex needs they have right now at home. While you can’t solve everything, you can make a conscious effort to take extra good care of your team right now. They need it, and they’ll be able to give better care if they feel loved and valued.

Encourage and care for your staff members by:

  • Writing a quick note on a post-it a few times per week praising them for their hard work
  • Starting team meetings by checking in on how they are feeling; letting them vent for a few moments in a supportive staff meeting can do wonders for them and for everyone else
  • Making sure they are taking their breaks and their lunches for the full time they are allowed
  • Encouraging them to get outside and breathe some fresh air throughout the day
  • Involving them in the activity planning so they can share their creativity

Creative Dementia Care Interventions

Depending on your community’s infection control and isolation policies right now, you may have to adapt some of these ideas. However, these are a good start for your new normal.

Large Group Activities

Large group programs are extra challenging right now if you are still allowed to have them. Keep your programs safe by keeping everyone at least 6 feet apart and not using shared items.

If you are searching for a special entertainer for an upcoming event, ask your local favorites if they would entertain your residents via Skype or another video chat application. This way, you are supporting your favorites and your residents still get a good show.

6 Small Group Activities

Still allowed in many dementia care neighborhoods, small group activities can include:

  • Drawing to music (don’t share markers; give every participant their own cup of writing utensils to use)
  • Chair exercises (especially helpful for your residents who wander or need to be active)
  • Sing, Sway, and Clap Alongs (make your sing-a-longs more active to keep residents engaged)
  • Hallway Bingo (use bedside tables pulled to the doorway for cards to sit on)
  • Walking groups outside 
  • Gardening groups outside (everyone works on their own pot and with their own materials)

12 Individual or 1:1 Interactions

Ideas can vary by resident needs and interests, but here are a few ideas for keeping residents engaged individually or with a staff member:

  • Smoothie carts (Happy Hour carts, Snack carts, Ice Cream Truck carts, etc. are also a great way to connect with residents individually)
  • Reminiscing Questions of the Day - post these at nursing stations to encourage caregivers to start up conversations during personal care time
  • Busy boxes (choose items that are easy to sanitize, such as matching nuts and bolts, sorting buttons by size, etc.)
  • Laminate drawing starters (like these) and use dry erase markers to have residents finish the drawing. Markers and laminated paper are simple to wipe down so they can be disinfected for others to use next
  • Hang prisms on resident windows - sunny days will bring rainbows
  • Armchair travel programs, but break up the information over the course of a few visits
  • Bird Feeders hanging outside of each window, along with a taped-up list of common birds in your area
  • Guided meditation - keep it short and sweet, and use an app like Headspace if you need the extra support
  • Walking a labyrinth - make your own in a community area of your neighborhood and cue residents how to walk through it
  • Invite family members to email you videos of them saying hello to their loved one or singing a favorite song
  • Read short stories or poems, then create your own together
  • Invite family members to make a short photo book via sites like Shutterfly or Snapfish with old photos their loved one can look at. Encourage participation by sending a direct link to websites in your next communication.

Residents who need to wander will do so, and that’s okay. Just be sure a staff member walks with them to monitor and make sure they aren’t making too many room visits. Remember to be as flexible as possible while still being safe with your infection control policies. Work with your interdisciplinary team to find the balance that works for your neighborhood.

Good Luck!

What challenges and solutions are you finding while working in memory care neighborhoods right now?

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Haley Burress

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Comments   Post a Comment

Tayla 28th Apr 2023 Coordinator
Hi I'm after some ideas for a consumer of mine that has advanced Dementia and comes to my Day Respite Centre.
Susan 2nd May 2023 Activity Director
Liz 3rd Apr 2020 Leisure And Life Style Officer
I ran a Leisure and Life Style department, yesterday we did, Special effect photos with our residents at the Grand Total cost of $4. I went to KMart and brought a $4 string of small LED lights ( Like the kind that you would put in a empty wine bottle to use outdoors )
I put aluminum foil on the wall ( about 2 meters is needed, needs to cover the whole head area in the photo), behind a chair sitting on a 45 degree angle, had our residents sit on the chair in a room with about 1/4 of the normal light level. I gently wrapped the LED lights around their heads and draped around their necks and then took photos with no flash. The low light means that the light from the LED's bounce off the Al foil and gives an awesome effect on the photo. We had a blast doing this and its so cheap! We then emailed the photos to their family members and got some great feed back from them.
Susan 4th Apr 2020 Activity Director
Great idea Liz
Thank you for sharing
Theresa 6th Apr 2020 Recreation Assistant
Liz, what a great idea ! We're gonna try this. Not sure how to " put a chair at 45 degree though. Thoughts ?
Susan 6th Apr 2020 Activity Director
Liz I am hoping you can help Theresa out
Again what a great idea
Susan 7th Apr 2020 Activity Director
Perhaps Liz will reply when she has a chance but what this means to me is that the chair arm is not facing the wall and the chair back is not facing the wall but the chair is sort of halfway between both
Try this out
Thank you Liz
Restvale 3rd Apr 2020 lifestyle & volunteer coordinator
Great ideas. Thanks everyone for them and keep them coming. Remember we are all doing a fantastic job no matter how big or small it is. Keep up the great work.
Lisa 3rd Apr 2020 Diversional Therapist
Great resource thank you.
Susan 3rd Apr 2020 Activity Director
Hi Joyce
I am sure you will find these activities useful
Megahn 3rd Apr 2020 Activities And Program Manager
Great Thank You !
joyce dupree 3rd Apr 2020
I teach Sunday School at our nursing home here in Columbia, Louisiana. I have one class of dementia and they are wonderful. I was wondering if you have any bible activities?
Haley 2nd Apr 2020 Recreation Therapist And Writer
Haley has submitted a new article: Coronavirus: 18 Activities For Dementia Care
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