We thought about what would be able to engage her or keep her occupied.
During the daytime, both my parents are at work and if we didn’t find things to engage her with, she would just stare at the tv screen or spend her time sleeping.
One day I brought home the Secret Garden colouring book. She got really intrigued by it.
She spent a long time colouring when we got her the book.
Over the next few days, she stopped staring at the TV screen. She would be colouring all day and night.
To date, she’s gone through many colouring books. We now have stacks and stacks of her coloured books.
Helping her find an activity that she enjoys and keeping her occupied has been one of the best things ever.
Some people have told me that it could be because when i was little, she would be colouring with me.
So, it could be an activity that brings back positive memories.
I’m currently trying to find other ways to engage her so she is continuously exposed to different things and is kept engaged. But,she doesnt seem to be interested in other things. I’ve tried crossword puzzles, drawing etc.
If you’re looking for activities to engage seniors, you can check my games out HERE.
Those were signs that she needed to gain strength in her legs. My mum then found some chair exercises off the internet. We got her to go to the psyiotherapist who directed us to those exercises too.
Getting up from a chair is an exercise that she is supposed to do three sessions a day (10 times at each session).
At first, she really struggled to get up and took quite a few seconds trying to get up from the chair. After doing it regularly, she has progressed quite well. She can now get up without supporting herself with her hands.
The speed at which she gets up from the chair has also increased quite a bit. This shows that she is much stronger in her legs now.
We often have to speak very loudly, slowly and repeat ourselves multiple times for my grandma to hear us.
You can imagine a setting such as dinner – everyone is in the midst of a conversation, but the senior who is hearing impaired is physically present but he or she can’t get involved because they can’t hear.
The need to feel a sense of belonging is the third highest in the Maslow’s hierrachy of needs, after safety and phsyological needs. If they can’t get involved, they can’t feel like they belong.
My mum also gets her to walk around the house everyday after dinner. She always sings and prays with my grandma regularly. We also try to bring her out for walks whenever we can. She’s not very mobile so she cant leave home on her own.
But, she’s very sociable by nature and can strike up a conversation with literally, anyone.
The simple activity of going down to the park gives her much needed sunshine, fresh air and conversations with neighbours.
She also gets to play with pet dogs if the neighbours bring them down.
These are simple everyday things to do. But, many times its really about discipline and commitment. What works for us, may not work for you… I encourage you to just keep trying different things. You may only find something that works on your 99th try.
I started on a Preventing Dementia Mooc and you can read my learnings here and here
This is probably my favourite resource for seniors because it’s really informative. It’s targeted at the family caregiver.
You can subscribe to their mailing list and they will send you weekly (I think) emails. They cover a wide range of topics. In their email, they focus on a topic for the week, and include other recommended readings.
Here are examples of their recommended readings.
4 Tips for Managing Multiple Health Conditions
7 Tips for Helping Seniors at the Doctor’s: Being a Health Advocate
10 Medications Seniors Should Avoid Taking
How to Approach Someone with Dementia: 6 Tips for a Positive Care Experience [Video]
Celebrate Father’s Day with 18 Gifts and Activities for Seniors
Golden Carers offers activities for seniors. They have a list of free activities and there is also a subscription fee where you can pay for more activities. But, many of their activities are quite targeted at the western audience. So, they may or may not be relevant for seniors in Asia.
This is a group created by the people who started the Golden Carers. There seem to be many individuals who work at senior facilities. They share the activities that they organise at their centres. Some of them have really creative activities.
It is also quite interesting to see the effort that goes into creating these experiences for seniors. It is a closed group so you have to request for access into the group.
This is quite a big group of caregivers to loved ones with dementia. Most of the caregivers in the group are from America. They are very open about their sharing and it can get quite emotional. But, many people in the group are also very encouraging and comforting.
Many of them seem to be dealing with loved ones in the moderate to severe stages of dementia. If you’re looking for an outlet to share your struggles, you can consider joining the group.
Caregivers Connect is a Facebook page set up by AWWA. It shares news, stories and tips for caregivers. They share content very regularly. And, much of the content is relevant to the Singapore audience. This is a great page to follow for updates in Singapore related to caregivers.
Project We Forgot shares stories of caregivers to persons with dementia. Many of these stories are inspirational. They depict the dedication and sacrifice that caregivers have to make for their loved ones. They also organise sessions for caregivers in Singapore to come together.
The second module goes abit more indepth into the various prevention measures such as exercise, health foods, smoking etc.
These have been reported and discussed as being good for the brain. They are further validated in the Preventing Dementia Mooc.
After completing the module, the message that I got was one that seems to debunk the benefits of some of these health foods.
The lessons that discusses a particular health food like Coconut Oil or Gingko Biloba conclude with, “There is no conclusive evidence that it would prevent/slow down the progression of dementia.” I understand that it may take a longer time for research to produce comprehensive data.
And, it’s probably important for the professors to advise people against going crazy and swallowing Coconut oil or Gingko by the bottle.
But, Coconut oil has worked incredibly well for my grandma.
What’s good for the brain? And, what’s not?
Type two diabetes is associated with a two fold increase in risk for dementia.
Annually 31% of people with Type 1 Diabetes have low blood sugar episodes. Any more than 4 episodes in a year can be associated with a very high risk of cognitive impairment (slowing of the brain).
Insulin resistance (an effect of Type 1 Diabetes) might be involved in the development of beta-amalyoid plaques( a cause of dementia).
Effects of Type 2 diabetes on the brain can be a result of various causes – vascular disease and neuro degeneration.
It is not clear whether everyone with Type 2 diabetes will get dementia.
There is more evidence to show that physical activity has a positive impact on frontal lobe functions such as processing speed as compared to functions like memory. Findings are more varied in the latter.
The type of activity must be vigorous enough to have increased heart beat and intense breathing to have positive effects on cognitive health.
The combination of aerobic and strength training is the best for cognitive health.
It is unclear if low impact exercise such as balancing, relaxation or yoga help cognitive function.
Physical activity with cognitive tasks like dancing or taichi which requires you to remember steps may have additional benefits
It is never too late to start exercising and see benefits even in individuals with mild cognitive impairment or dementia.
Smoking in older adults increase the risk of dementia by 70%.
In a study on people who went through a smoking cessation programme, they found that people who gave up smoking have less cognitive decline.
People who drink moderate amounts of alcohol have a lower risk of developing dementia compared to those who don’t drink any alcohol at all.
Excessive drinking over many years, and regular episodes of binge drinking, are associated with an increased risk of developing dementia. It’s all about moderation.
Gingko Biloba – Gingko may have anti inflamatory properties and increase blood flow to the brain. But, there is no consistent data that it will help persons with dementia.
Midlife hypertension and midlife obesity is linked to an increased risk of Alzheimers’ disease.
In today’s blog post, I share about a recent activity at home — Drawing with my grandma. I guided my grandma through a Step by Step Drawing activity.
What I’ve learnt is to be less focused on the outcome but more about the process of the activity. In a more cliche phrase, happiness is the journey, and not the destination.
My family is constantly trying to find ways to engage my grandma because we feel that keeping her busy and engaging her is key to her mental health. There’s a common saying – “If you don’t use it, you lose it”. This is why we are always on the look out for different activities to help work different parts of her brain.
My grandma currently spends most of her time at home colouring. Colouring is a great activity. It’s something that keeps her engaged, and helps her exercise hand and eye coordination. It is great also because its something that she enjoys doing.
Beyond colouring, me and my mum have been looking for different activities to engage her and exercise different parts of the brain. One day, when she was colouring, I noticed a simple Step by Step sketch exercise in her colouring book and so, I tried out the activity with her.
While working on this activity, I realised that it’s quite a challenge, it requires seniors to:
1. Understand what is the objective/outcome (e.g. Drawing a cupcake)
2. Identify the differences between each drawing
3. Make a good gauge of where each drawing step starts and ends
4. Understand the textures involved in the drawing (Is it a straight or curved line? Must I draw a jagged ege? etc)
I feel that it was a great activity to practise hand eye coordination and all of these things. If the seniors that you care for can’t draw, maybe, you can ask them to point out the differences between each drawing as an activity.
Because of this, I created a downloadable PDF of Step by Step Drawing exercises for seniors. You can guide your seniors to draw the flower, orange, mushroom, leaf and seashell. These are everyday items that we would have come into contact with.
Hopefully, these can trigger some positive memories.
I tried the activity that I created with my grandma. And, here are some pictures of the session:
Lessons from drawing with my grandma
Depending on the individual’s ability, you may have to hand hold them quite abit or even help them out by guiding them to draw at the specific locations.
Be mentally prepared that your senior’s completed artwork may look very different from the original sketch (haha). It’s totally okay if they draw the lines wrongly or the proportions are all over the place. I believe the process is definitely much more valuable than the outcome.
Even if this activity doesnt work for you, you can always try something else. It’s important to note that just by attempting to try it out, you have engaged your seniors in some way or another.
So… Dont give up!
Some people have told me that seniors enjoy doing things that is in some ways connected to their past. I read of a caregiver whose mum, living with dementia, paints really beautiful rocks. Her mother was an artist when she was younger.
I hope this inspires you to try different things with the seniors that you care for. If you know of any activities that works for your seniors, do let me know, so I can try them out with my grandma too.
If you would like to engage your senior(s) with this activity, do consider getting this downloadable PDF and using it as a simple guide.