Enhancing the life of Persons with Dementia

By Nicole Lipinski, RN, MS, ADC-MC, CDP

We have probably all stumbled upon the list of 101 things to do with someone who has dementia. However, do those things really enhance the quality of life of a person with dementia or are they just things to keep them busy? I would guess keeping someone distracted and busy is OK—but let’s talk about how we can enhance the quality of life.

Enhancing the quality of life with art, music, writing, and drama can be a powerful combination. How can we use these or just one to enhance the lives of those with a diagnosis of dementia? First, it is important to know who the person was and who the person is now. Finding out can help you provide something with meaning to a person who deserves it!

Art is a great way to allow a person with dementia to express themselves. There are so many mediums you can choose from—however, choosing a medium that allows the person to feel free is always the best.  Free-flowing watercolor or watercolor pencils are often a great place to start. It is ok to start with just looking at artwork and asking what they see. Interpreting art can be freeing and relaxing. The important part is to allow the mind to wander free.

Music is a wonderful outlet for those with dementia. Music is actually wonderful for anyone. It can calm or it can revitalize you and make you dance. It makes you sad or happy depending on what you listen to. Talk with the resident or family. Getting the genre of music right is very important. It will help to create the perfect mood.

Writing in a journal or writing stories can help someone in an early stage to put their thoughts on paper. Writing poetry in later stages can help jog the mind and work on cognitive tasks. If the person with dementia will write and they enjoy it, allow them to write their thoughts out as long as they can.

Drama you ask? How can this help? Being involved in any activity can be fun. Some persons with dementia may learn lines and forget they can’t remember and others may need to read the lines. Whatever way they can take part in this group program, it is always fun. They get to be social and participate at their highest level of function.

Participating in the arts is a wonderful way for persons with dementia to enhance their quality of life. Yes—those 101 things to do are wonderful, however, we can also try to give persons with dementia something much more!

For more ideas on how to enhance the quality of life, contact Nicole Lipinski, RN, MS, ADC-MC, ADP, Director of Healthy Aging.  Aging Care Partners of the Jewish Home can help! Call 570-344-6177 ext. 1113 or email nlipinski@jhep.org.