When A ‘Crafty’ Resident Loses Their Ability To ‘Craft’…


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What can you do for someone with dementia who has always loved arts and crafts, but can no longer follow simple instructions? I have seen so many residents lose their confidence when it comes to programs that they used to enjoy, and crafts are no exception.

The last thing I want is for a resident to feel anxious or insecure when they attend one of my programs. It’s so important when working in this field to be prepared to accommodate someone who is struggling with the task that you’ve set before them.

On our memory care unit, colouring has been a popular program in the evenings for quite some time. I’m noticing, however, that it is not uncommon for a resident to confidently accept my invitation to this program, and then sit, blankly staring at their paper, while everyone else works away.

When this happens, it’s time to drop whatever you are doing, and sit down next to the resident. I do not ask them if there is a problem, nor do I bring attention to the fact that the resident is visibly struggling with the task.

Instead, I smile, and ask the resident about their day. I may comment on their new hairstyle, or simply pay them a compliment.

I try to casually pick up a coloured pencil and start filling in some of the picture as we chat. On some occasions, the resident will follow my lead, which is great, and other times they will not even notice that I’ve coloured at all.

The benefit of doing this, is that if they notice what I’m doing, it may give the resident a visual cue without having to acknowledge that they had previously been struggling. Not to mention, when I get up to check on someone else, The resident who was feeling insecure will now have a sheet in front of them that is partially filled in. This means that they no longer have to feel insecure about the other participants noticing their lack of progress. Perhaps the resident may even think that they were the one who coloured it, boosting their confidence about picking the pencil up to ‘continue’ their artwork.

It can be very challenging to choose the programs that you schedule for your memory care unit. You certainly don’t want the higher functioning residents to feel unchallenged, however, it can be a struggle to justify taking up a large programing slot for an activity that only a few residents will be able to enjoy.

A few months ago I took a gamble on a product called “Water Wow” that I wanted to trial at my workplace. I had high hopes that it would accommodate some of the residents that struggle to paint with the rest of the group, and it did not disappoint!

“Water Wow”, by Melissa and Doug, is a line of reusable products that allows you to paint with water alone.

The vibrant pictures are hidden behind a white coating that disappears, when it comes in contact with water.

The first time I trialed these products with the residents, they were an immediate hit!

I’ve found that even the residents on our memory care unit that were not struggling to use regular paints seem to prefer to join the lower functioning residents in using these products over the traditional method of painting.

These particular products are made by a company that specializes in children’s products, however they do carry many products that are beneficial to people living with dementia.

If you are uncomfortable with the idea of using the products mentioned above, there are similar products made by “Active Minds” for a slightly higher price point that are specifically designed for use in memory care.

What I love about using water painting on our memory care unit is that no one is at a disadvantage while using the products. As long as you can drag a brush across the page, you will end up with a beautiful, vibrantly coloured image.

The version by “Melissa and Doug” comes with a neat little brush that gradually releases water on its own, however I tend to prefer giving paint brushes to the residents, and water in a container, as it gives the illusion that you are actually painting. You can make this activity more or less challenging based on what size of brush you provide the resident with.

For the water containers, I typically use Melissa and Doug’s ‘spill proof paint cups.” What I really enjoy about these is that I don’t have to worry about a resident getting confused and accidentally taking a sip of the dirty ‘paint water’, because the product has a lip on it that is specifically designed not to allow water to escape easily. The intended use of this product is to put your paint in it to prevent making a mess while painting.

If you do decide to give any of these techniques or products a try, I would love to hear your experiences with them in the comment section.

Happy crafting!


Related Product Links


Disclosure: Products listed on this page are sold through Amazon.com. As an Amazon Associate I will earn a commission from qualifying purchases. Please note that this is at absolutely no additional cost to you, or your organization. Thank you for taking the time to support this blog.

Melissa & Doug Water Wow! Reusable Colors with Pad (3 Pack)


Active Minds – Reusable Water Painting


Melissa & Doug Spill Proof Paint Cups, Set of 4


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