For those whose lives have never been touched by dementia, it’s not always easy to recognize the positive impact a class in crafts for dementia patients can have, especially since some of the participants of an art and crafts class don’t remember what they’ve done minutes later. People who haven’t seen what dementia is like up close don’t know the downsides. They also don’t realize how important it is to create as many good moments in the dementia patient’s life as possible.
Dementia is a progressive disease that affects memory. The longer the person has it, the less they remember. They begin to forget how to do things and people they knew. Simple tasks become more difficult and more dangerous. But it isn’t until the end stages of the disease that the person loses their own identity. During the earlier stages, they still need something that gives their day meaning. Sometimes completing a craft and producing a finished product is all it takes to instill a sense of pride.
How Crafts for Dementia Patients Improve Quality of Life
Diminished cognitive function is also a part of dementia. Although a dementia patient’s ability to reason continues to diminish with progression of the disease, ‘exercising’ their brain can slow that process down. Not only are crafts beneficial to dementia patients, many experts say they’re essential to their health and well-being. That isn’t just a fact that comes from research, either. It’s something that caregivers of dementia patients know from their years of experience.
Some ways that crafts help dementia patients include:
- Sensory Stimulation
- Boosts Self-Esteem
- Reduces Depression
- Increases a Sense of Playfulness and Humor
- Gives them a Sense of Control
- Aids in Socialization
Choosing the Best Crafts for Dementia Patients
The best crafts for dementia patients are those that offer physical, emotional, and cognitive stimulation. The craft also needs to meet the level of challenge that is right for the person. Two types of activities are used to meet this goal; person-centered and stage-specific.
Person-centered activities are based on what the patient likes and doesn’t like. The caregiver looks for topics of inspiration that will get the patient’s interest. Stage-specific activities differ in that they are based on the patient’s cognitive abilities and the stage at which their disease has progressed to. Whether the patient lives in their own home with a caregiver or in a living environment that specializes in dementia care, each individual needs to have activities that are tailored to them. To be effective, patients in groups need to share common interests and abilities.
Dementia patients gain even more benefit from socializing with others while doing their crafts. It’s a chance to share similar interests with another person.
Some of the easiest crafts are drawing and painting. People at various stages of dementia and with various skill levels can all benefit from these activities. It is important to provide the right materials and tools to create a safe environment. Don’t allow anyone to use sharp scissors or toxic glue or paint. Take similar precautions that you would with a child, starting with constant supervision. Something as simple as forgetting that there’s paint in a cup and not soda can quickly turn into a dangerous situation.
If they can’t draw their own pictures, try coloring instead. There are some creative adult-level coloring books on the market these days that are more interesting than those made for children. A more cost-effective option is to print pages out for free from any of the many websites available online.
Scrapbooking is a fun hobby that dementia patients find entertaining. All it takes is an inexpensive notebook, a glue stick, safety scissors, and some old magazines and catalogs. It’s a great way for them to create a scrapbook filled with things they like or that fit with their interests. For example, a patient who enjoys gardening might like collecting pictures of flowers.
Many dementia patients enjoy making paper flowers. Not only do they have the fun of being creative and making all kinds of blooms in beautiful colors, but they’re also making something they can share with others.
Food activities often invoke fond memories while allowing the dementia patient to engage in an activity they’ve performed for most of their lives. Simple recipes like no-bake cookies, chocolate covered strawberries, or chocolate spoons are a great choice. You can microwave the chocolate to ensure it isn’t hot enough to burn. Guide them through the remaining steps and they have a tasty treat to eat or share with others.
Follow the Leader
Knowing the patient and their capabilities allows you to choose crafts that are suitable for them. One reason you need easy crafts for dementia patients is to help ensure their success. Another reason is that they can complete easy crafts in a shorter period of time. Consider how long it will take to complete the chosen task. A patient with a shortened attention span could get frustrated before they finish the project if it’s too complex.
Making arts and crafts a regular part of their routine will help. A routine helps them focus on what they are doing without forgetting and getting frustrated.
If possible, link crafts time with something else in their daily routine. For example, right after their morning walk or after lunch. Even though their sense of time has changed, following a routine helps them keep track of what they’re doing.
If you have trouble thinking of something new to do, there are always lots of new ideas online. No matter what you choose to do, always put safety first. Consider the types of tools and materials required, and whether they pose any risk.
Most importantly, provide lots of praise for everyone who participates. Remember, the main idea behind doing crafts for dementia patients is to help them enjoy a sense of accomplishment.
Caring for a dementia patient at home is challenging. Establishing a routine complete with the activities they need for optimal health is nearly impossible for one person. Contact Lakeside Manor to schedule a tour of our facilities. We offer a range of activities that are proven to help dementia patients enjoy a better quality of life and health!
Remember, it isn’t about creating a perfect piece of art. Never criticize or correct the patient’s choices or mistakes. Help them stay focused when noises or other interruptions get their attention. If you work with dementia patients regularly, you know that their abilities change from day to day. As the leader, you need to adjust what you’re doing to fit the needs of the day.