How Celebrating Milestones with Your Loved One with Alzheimer’s Keeps Them Engaged in Life

Exterior North Woods VillageLife offers us many reasons to celebrate: the birth of a baby, a graduation, a marriage, a special anniversary and more. In celebrating life’s special moments, it is important to remember the daily successes of our loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association encourages family caregivers to celebrate special moments and occasions with their loved ones each day. These types of social interactions can lower loved ones’ stress levels, help to reduce symptoms of depression and provide them with moments of pleasure.

Focus on Your Loved One’s Favorite Things in Life

In his article, “Bringing Dementia Patients to Life” Richard Gunderman, MD, PhD, says “We should dwell less on what dementia patients are incapable of and focus more on celebrating what they are capable of doing.”

According to Dr. Gunderman, in reality, dementia can affect emotions and personality as well as memory. He asserts that care needs should be tailored to each person’s personality, life history and stage of the disease. He adds, “When this is done well, new possibilities open up. What might have been an atmosphere of regret and hopelessness centered on the disease’s relentless progress can be transformed into an upbeat outlook that celebrates abilities, rejoices in moments of recognition, and looks to the future with hope.”

Celebrate Each Day’s Special Moments and Possibilities

Shellie Kermin, Community Relations Director of North Woods Village at Edison Lakes, says, “The Mayo Clinic reminds us that loved one’s living with Alzheimer’s lose the ability to begin an activity or find interesting things to do on their own. As a result, the person can spend long days doing nothing, leading to boredom, agitation, anxiety and frustration. Being engaged in interesting and meaningful things in daily life is essential to their overall well-being.”

“People living with Alzheimer’s often can’t think of things to do because of the changes in their brain. This is where caregivers can play a vital role. Think about your loved one’s lifelong interests and interact with them in ways that would be most enjoyable to them. It could be anything from helping you in the kitchen, spending time with a pet, taking a walk together in a favorite place or watching old movies that take them back to their younger days. You’ll be giving them pleasurable moments worth celebrating.”

Create a Personalized List of Activities Based on Their Life Story

Take Dr. Gunderman’s advice to heart and customize your loved one’s daily experience:

  • Develop a list of the activities that connect with the things your loved one enjoyed most in their life and try to include them in your regular care plan.
  • Take a walk or exercise together. It’s another way of having fun and promoting your loved one’s physical and emotional well-being.
  • Try various “holistic therapies” that have been shown to be effective in reconnecting with loved ones and providing them with an opportunity for personal expression. Examples include: listening to favorite music from their younger days; looking through old photo albums together; painting and drawing pictures of favorite things; and visiting with a pet.
  • Include your loved one in important family events, such as the birth of a baby or the wedding of a favorite grandchild. If they are unable to attend the event, you can still create a special occasion around it for them with cake and punch, which enables them to celebrate the moment and feel part of it.
  • For those whose faith has been an integral part of their lives, spiritual activities can also provide calm and positive stimulation. Many people with Alzheimer’s enjoy singing hymns or having scripture read to them, especially when attending church services is not possible. Interestingly, Alzheimer’s research contains documented cases of people who no longer speak, but are able to sing the complete versions of their favorite hymns.

Always encourage your loved one and give them praise for what they still can do. Celebrate their small victories and keep them engaged in life for as long as they are able. Emphasizing the positive has benefits for both of you!

Help Is Available for Caregivers

Today, a variety of resources is available to assist caregivers who are caring for their loved ones at home, including Alzheimer’s Association services, support groups, self-help guides, Respite Care services, in-home support, community-based services and educational programs. Progressive residential Memory Care Communities (MCCs), such as North Woods Village at Edison Lakes, offer a variety of educational programs, support and special events designed to help family caregivers.

Guiding. Caring. Inspiring.

For caregivers who recognize that the needs of their loved one are beyond what they can safely and appropriately provide in the home environment, leading, residential Memory Care Assisted Living Communities (MCALs), such as North Woods Village at Edison Lakes and its “NEW DIRECTIONS”SM  program in Mishawaka, IN, provide the full continuum of services that have been shown to improve health and well-being, support brain health and delay the progression of memory loss from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

At North Woods Village at Edison Lakes, we believe senior adults thrive in an environment that offers an active, vibrant lifestyle with a variety of activities that engage the mind, body and spirit. Our “NEW DIRECTIONS”SM  provides a safe, professional environment and proven, best-practice programs and services specifically designed to address the total physical, emotional and social needs of individuals with Alzheimer’s, dementia or other serious form of memory impairment.