Enhancing activities, i.e., those that foster positive emotions, are an important part of Responsive Care Partnering. These activities, which are every bit as important as those that foster physical well-being, make a person feel better about themselves and their surroundings, while adding happiness and quality to one's life. These activities include but are not limited to the following:
- Social and mental stimulation
- Music and rhythm
- Positive thinking, humor and gratefulness
- Improv acting
- Support groups
For years, experts have told us that exercise is better dementia care than drugs. Now they say that "socialization is every bit as good as exercise" for maintaining cognitive function. With LBD, this is directly connected to BPSD*...these behaviors are often thinking related!
- A person with LBD can become overwhelmed when faced with more than a few people at a time. Ask family and friends to visit often, but only a few at a time.
- Encourage PlwD to continue to participate in beloved sports, games and hobbies. Adapt rules to simplify as needed.
- Add enjoyable events like going for ice cream to the day, to get the PlwD out with other people.
- Continue going to church or other organizations.
"Use it or lose it," exercise instructors tell us about our muscle tone. Consider the brain a muscle. The more you use it, the better it works. It won't stop the dementia, but it does help the brain to work every bit as well as it can.
- Find puzzles, books and tasks that challenge but don't defeat. You may find that you can adapt a favorite game to be easier as needed.
- Socializing utilizes brain power. You have to think of what to say, how to say it, etc.
- Playing cards, especially with someone else requires mental effort.
Dancing and many other sports have a mental aspect.
For more about social and mental stimulation, see both of our books.
For puzzles, easy-reading adult books and other sources of mental stimulation, go to our store.
Dementia: Effect on Spirituality? A slide show by the Selwyn Foundation.
A need for a spiritual connection doesn't diminish with dementia. It is also quite helpful for care partners.
- Trust in a higher power can lower worry and stress, and combat depression. The practice of spirituality generates gratefulness, joy and awe.
- Include spiritual routines such as saying grace at meals, meditation, prayer and a daily motivational reading in your daily life.
For more: See our books:
Well-behaved, mild-mannered and sociable pets can decrease isolation, stress and depression while increasing companionship, activity and sense of value.
The person with dementia needs to be willing to bond with the pet and the care partner needs to be willing to be to be a facilitator for loved one and pet, and eventually, will need to take care of many of the animal's physical needs.
For more about pet therapy see:
- 4/27/12 Rollercoaster blog - assistance-dogs-and-dementia
- and our books in the LBDtools Shop
Music and Rhythm
The documentary, Alive Inside, tells of how social worker Dan Cohen, founder of Music and Memory, brought music into nursing homes and changed people's lives.
"Alive Inside Official Trailer," from Movieclips Film Festivals & Indie Films
- Music and rhythm have special brain pathways. People can often sing even though they seldom talk, or dance when they have difficulty walking.
- Music is closely connected to emotions, and can be used for calming or energizing.
- Music likes vary with the person and requires an individual playlist to be most effective.
- The effects of music last for long after the music stops. People with dementia who listen to music for an hour in the morning tend to be more alert and less restless for hours afterwards.
For more information about how the vibration and frequencies in music can aid dementia patients, see alternative therapies Music Therapy.
Positive thinking, humor and gratefulness
These all require making a conscious choice (a thinking skill). Responsive Care Partnering is choosing to respond with a caring, positive behavior instead of simply reacting to whatever is happening. A RPC can choose to see things in a positive way, to see the humor in a situation, to find things to be grateful for. Dementia takes away a person's ability to do this and they end up simply reacting. You will have to initiate, but once started, they can follow your lead. These actions are especially helpful when dealing with negative feelings. Moving from feeling to thinking takes a lot of the pain away.
- Laugh every day. You don't need a reason. The brain responds to "made-up" laughter just as it does real laughter. More: 4/8/16 Roller Coaster blog Using Humor and Laughter
Laughter Yoga (LY) at Senior Center in New York, from Dr. Madan Kataria, courtesy of abc news channel 7.
- Choose to see events in a positive way, to use positive words and look for value in even the negative things that occur, even if it only what you learned NOT to do.
- Find something to be grateful for every day. As with laughter, the brain doesn't need a reason. It responds to just searching for something to be grateful for.
- More about choice and gratitude: 4/15/16 Roller Coaster blog
Improv Participants with Early Dementia
Improv and Alzheimer's: Helping patients remember, from CBS News. Like most stories, this video is about using improv with Alzheimer's but it is applicable to any dementia, including LBD.
Improvisational theater, or improv, plays out in the here and now, with no memorized lines, no set story line, and no experience required.
Improv is a great tool for a care partner to use with a PlwD's irrational statements or behavior. (See Care Partnering and Improv Acting.) But it can also be used by the PlwD as a fun way to stimulate the mind while being creative and social. The positive effects of such an activity tend to last for hours after the event is over, leading to a happier, more content, less stressed person--with fewer LBD symptoms, including those difficult BPSD ones.
Research shows that people who participate in cognitively stimulating activities and are socially engaged, have a better quality of life, and suffer less depression.
- Say yes. Accept everything at face value.
- Encourage. Add something that moves the action on.
- Go with the flow.
For more information about using improv as an activity:
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"The Caregivers Guide to Lewy Body Dementia" by Award Winning Authors Jim and Helen Whitworth is the first book to present a thorough picture of what Lewy body dementia really is.
"Managing Cognitive Issues in Parkinson's & Lewy Body Dementia" explores the history that Parkinson's, Mild Cognitive Impairment, Alzheimer's and other neurological disorders share with Lewy body.
This trio pack is rounded out by The Whitworth's training guide,"Riding a Rollercoaster With Lewy Body Dementia." "Rollercoaster" is a comprehensive manual for all caregivers working with Lewy body dementia patients.