One of the earliest signs of dementia is when a typically well-organized individual begins forgetting or missing appointments. While that might happen to anyone on occasion, individuals with dementia will experience increased difficulty with their sense of time and place.
In the early stages of dementia, a person can create reminder tools themselves and do things like take notes and carry a calendar with them. However, as the disease progresses, they will require additional assistance.
Caregivers can help by providing gentle clues in conversation and around the house. For example, you could say something like, “What should we do on this beautiful Saturday afternoon?” Other ways to help individuals with dementia stay oriented are placing easy-to-read clocks and calendars around the house.
An orientation board that displays the date and any key information about the day’s schedule is also quite helpful. This could include things like the day of the week, a doctor’s appointment, and a photo of a friend who will be visiting for lunch. It should only include activities happening that day and not reminders about future appointments. Be disciplined about updating the board daily so it can be used effectively.
While orientation boards can be purchased, they can also be made as a fun craft project. This has the added benefit of creating an engaging activity for a loved one with dementia. You and your loved one can work together to coordinate your board with the room’s décor.
Do-It-Yourself Orientation Board
What You’ll Need
- Combination dry erase/bulletin board
- Twelve 5”x8” index cards
- Fourteen 3”x5” index cards
- Hole punch
- Colored Tape
- Binder clip
- Safety scissors
- Clear glue or Modge Podge
- Cut out photos from the magazine that represent each month. Glue each photo to a large index card. Leave a half-inch space at the bottom and write the name of the month.
- Punch a hole at one end of the smaller index cards. Write the numbers 0-9 on each card, then repeat with 0-3 to be able to create any date in the month.
- Use the colored tape to decorate the outside frame of the board in your loved one’s favorite colors.
- On the bulletin board side, add a thumbtack to the top of the board. Hook the binder clip on the thumbtack and insert the cards that indicate the month.
- Below this, add two thumbtacks to hold the numbers that will make up the date.
- Hang the orientation board in a place where it can be easily seen.
- Remember – the goal is to have fun while creating a useful orientation tool. The final project doesn’t have to be pretty.
- While doing activities with a loved one with dementia, engage them in conversation. Use the different months or photos in the magazines as a starting point for conversation.
- If your loved one is reluctant to join in, start the activity yourself and then invite them to participate.
- Activities for people with dementia have the best chance of success in the morning between breakfast and lunch when this loved one is well rested. If they don’t want to participate or get frustrated, don’t force it. Try again another time.
- If a person has dementia, a hospice program and hospice care team can provide support for both the patient and family. This added assistance can be key in avoiding caregiver burnout.
Find more ideas for activities for dementia patients here.
For any questions about how Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care’s unique care programs support patients with dementia and their families, please call us at 1-888-564-3405.
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