Three Ways to Improve Mental Health for Those Living with Dementia

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Recreation Therapist Christine Chipman shares her tips on dealing with depression through meaningful activities.

Once depression has been addressed from a medical perspective, it is helpful to consider the overall well-being of the person living with dementia. Engaging with hobbies and activities that bring meaning, joy and social connection to a person’s life can be a way to address both dementia and depression.

Here are three key ways to incorporate recreation and leisure into daily life:

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  1. Increase physical activity. Exercise has a positive impact on both physical and mental health. Creating a fitness plan that is sustainable can be challenging, so consider ways to stay motivated and build exercise into your daily routine. Quick tip: Add purpose to your exercise by picking up litter along your walking route. When visiting with loved ones, rather than sitting for a chat, incorporate physical activity with a game of bean bag toss or by working together in the garden.
  1. Create an “inspiration station.” Apathy—the loss of initiation and motivation—is a common feature of dementia and can be a symptom of depression. Combat apathy by designating an area in your home that can be an inspiring workspace for engaging in leisure activities. Quick tip: Find an uncluttered desk that can be used for watercolour painting or other art projects and leave the supplies accessible as a visual cue to engage in an activity. Try rotating projects over time to see what works best.
  2. Make past hobbies new again. Past interests that generated feelings of pride, identity and accomplishment can be adapted to any stage of the dementia journey. Tap into these positive emotions by re-engaging with familiar hobbies in a new way. Quick tip: A person who enjoys sewing may feel useful while mending loose buttons, and a woodworker may find pleasure while sanding a wooden carving. Music can also stimulate pride and identity.

Adding a recreation therapist to the support network of a person living with dementia can have a positive impact on both their physical and mental health. Seek out these professionals within long-term care homes, adult day programs, and in private practice, such as Time Well Spent Senior Wellness.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Christine Chipman is a certified therapeutic recreation specialist with a focus on supporting healthy aging in older adults. She founded Time Well Spent Senior Wellness to bring exercise and engaging activities into the homes of isolated seniors. She delivers meaningful recreation and leisure programs to support independence and improve her clients’ quality of life.

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