“Can you help?”
It may be a question that you currently dread being asked on a daily basis, but there will come a day when you’ll wish you still felt needed by those around you.
Providing activities that are introduced as ‘tasks’, rather than ‘games’, can significantly increase the chances of a resident being open to giving it a chance, as well as remaining engaged.
Simple activities, such as this DIY sorting task, can assist in reducing feelings of boredom and restlessness, which can often help to prevent challenging behaviours.
When introduced as a task, you can help in building a persons confidence, which is likely to improve their overall mood.
To put things into perspective, what would you think If I were to approach you with this activity and say one of the following:
“Hey (insert your name), would you like to try this new sorting game I made?!”
“Hey (insert your name), I’m trying to organize my things, and I was hoping you could give me a hand getting these back in the right pots. Do you have a few minutes to give me a hand, by any chance?”
I personally enjoy helping people, and I know that I would be much more likely to say yes if I felt that it would be helpful to another person.
Sometimes we feel things on such a miniscule level that we don’t even realise it’s happening.
When someone asks us for a favour, we may not immediately feel like helping. However, hearing that big, grateful “thank you” once you’ve completed the task, truly feels good.
There is a small voice inside you that says “My services are valued, and I am a competent person.”
It may not be loud, but it’s there.
People who are living with dementia, particularly in long term care, are rarely asked for their help anymore.
We often think of this as a luxury.
They have worked hard their whole lives, likely raised several children, done ridiculous amounts of house and yard work, and maybe even volunteered in their spare time.
Now, if you put yourself in their (hard working) shoes, it must be such a shock to move into a long term care facility, where they will never be asked to cook a meal, do laundry, clean, or fix anything, ever again.
Picture never again being asked to cook that special meal your family gets so excited about.
…Never again hearing that little voice inside your head; “My services are valued, and I am a competent person.”
It’s got to be a hard pill to swallow after so many years of valued hard work.
This is why I feel that people tend to respond more positively to being asked for their help, rather than being invited to ‘play.’
Stimulating activities, such as sorting objects, can help to reduce anxiety in seniors with dementia, as well as produce increased feelings of confidence, and purpose.
When a person with dementia, feels confident and valued, they are less likely to have responsive behaviours that accompany feelings of anxiousness and boredom.
This approach, however, does not only work for activities, but can also help to redirect a resident when they are having a challenging time.
For example, If you know that a resident, who is anxiously calling out, enjoys doll therapy, you could swaddle one of the therapy dolls and ask them if they would mind doing you a huge favour by ‘watching the baby’ while you run an errand.
This would hopefully help them to feel less lost, or alone.
The goal would be, at least temporarily, to make them feel as if they have a job to do, and ideally, remain content while focused on that task.
At lunch time, rather than saying “Here, let me show you to the lunch room,” you could ask a resident who is anxiously pacing the halls if they would mind walking you to the lunch room, because you are really hungry, but can’t seem to find it on your own.
Typically the instinct to help someone else who says they are struggling will at least get a persons attention long enough to attempt to redirect them.
This strategy may not work with every resident, but it will almost certainly work for some…
The next time someone asks you to do something for them, and you accept, I suggest you take a moment to really evaluate how you feel when you’ve completed the task, and they gratefully thank you for your help.
If you do so, I’m confident that it will offer any clarity that I may not have been able to in this post.