A common challenge we hear from families caring for loved ones with dementia is that they can’t get them to do anything other than watch TV. In our experience, this situation really comes down to the person wanting to maintain control.
If the person says no to every suggestion, there is no risk involved, even though they might actually enjoy doing something else. It is hard to lure them away from what is safe and known, even if we know that safe and known thing isn’t good for them.
Here are some ways to help your person feel safe and in control, and move them into an alternate activity:
- Make sure all physical needs are met: bathroom, food, water, pain, etc. (Turn off TV while doing these things)
- Turn on music that they like. Sing along, dance, be a distraction.
- Have an activity ready to go. Be familiar with the activity and have a plan. For example, if you are going to play Uno, have the cards dealt, and know how you will respond if they play incorrectly (let them play however they want). If you are using Connectivities, the instructional videos are a super helpful way to be prepared! Having the written instructions handy is helpful too.
- Make it a problem to solve, a favor, or something you need help with.
- I was just about to start a game of Uno, would you do me a huge favor and play with me?
- Our grandson has a project he needs help with and I told him we would get started, will you sit over here with me and help me figure it out?
- I need an extra hand over here….can you cut this for me? Or can you hold this while I do this?
- Start small. Just having them sit by you and watch you do something gets their brains going more than TV. Baby steps are OK!
- When you plan to do something together, let go of your expectations. We know that this is easier said than done, but if you let go of your expectations, anything that happens will be OK!
- Keep in mind that your loved one may be open to doing things that they wouldn’t have been open to before. Just because something feels to you like something they wouldn’t like or wouldn’t have lived in the past doesn’t mean that they can’t get some satisfaction out of it now.
Every person needs to participate in a variety of activities. Things that give them a feeling of purpose, fun, relaxation and more.
As a care partner, when you are open to the unknown, and let go of expectations, you may feel less overwhelmed and even more positive about the way you are caring for your loved one.