There are many ingredients that make our existence successful. One is having a purpose in life. When we are young, we prepare for a career. Then we engage in our career. As we get older and we retire, the purpose dims. Is it to play golf or tennis? Probably not. Those are just enjoyable activities. One purpose, that we can’t underestimate in value, is family… being a good spouse, parent and grandparent. Another is to volunteer for a position in the school system, health organization, church or other type of organization where you use your skills to benefit the community.
Finding our purpose is easy compared to a person who has developed any form of dementia. They are no longer able to find their purpose in life. Yet when they have a sense of purpose they also thrive. When they don’t, they deteriorate. They will let you know when they constantly tell you they must go to work or pick up their children from school. How do you satisfy their need?
Too often I find that family caregivers use television or food to entertain their loved ones with dementia. Even worse, they allow their loved one to spend too much time in their bedroom sleeping or resting. It feels easier to the family caregiver in the short run, but ends up more difficult for both the patient and the family caregiver in the long run. The patient will show their displeasure by being difficult when asked to bathe, shave, dress, or do anything you’d like them to do. They have no purpose. Their only way to communicate this to you is to be very difficult.
What can you do? Dementia patients need a routine, so it is up to you to provide one. Here is an example: They get up, bathe, dress and eat a nutritional breakfast with your help and assistance. Then they engage in an activity such as exercise, helping with household chores, doing something that stimulates their brain such as puzzles or hobbies. They eat lunch and then continue with other household chores, exercise and intellectual stimulation. For fun, they can listen to meaningful music from their past, dance, laugh, or do an arts and craft project. For many years they can go out and engage in other activities they can still enjoy (rather than feel frustration). It is best to bring forth as many activities they have done in their past. For instance, if a woman had a family she might still want to set the table, even though her family will not be coming, wash dishes. Cooking is more dangerous. However, they can work with you to prepare the food you will cook.
I have found that when loved ones with dementia engage in a meaningful routine daily, they are happier and feel more fulfilled.