Enriching Lives: A Journey through Dementia-Friendly Activities

We are absolutely delighted to announce that Dorothy Cash, Activities Coordinator at Loveday Abbey Road, has been crowned winner of the Great British Care Awards 2023 Activities Organiser of the Year for London and the South East. Dorothy will compete in the national awards in 2024. We could not be prouder of Dorothy for this incredible achievement and we wish her all the very best for the finals!

Dorothy is a hugely accomplished Activity Coordinator with over 15 years of experience in the care industry. With a passion for dementia care, Dorothy’s expertise lies in curating enjoyable, enriching activities that resonate with each individual. She prides herself on fostering meaningful engagement and inclusivity. Dorothy shares her favourite activities to do with the Members at Loveday:

My favourite dementia-friendly activities

Dorothy Cash, Activities Coordinator at Loveday Abbey Road

Providing a diverse programme of activities for our Members is an absolute passion for me. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing a smile on somebody’s face after they have done something they have really enjoyed.

Engaging activities play a pivotal role in enhancing the quality of life for individuals with dementia. These activities stimulate cognitive function, evoke positive emotions, and provide a sense of purpose. Physical, social, and creative pursuits can reduce anxiety, improve communication, and foster a supportive environment, promoting overall well-being and dignity.

Below are some of my favourite activities which are all really easy for anybody to incorporate into their routines.

 

Gardening is a wonderful activity to do with Members and we are so fortunate to have such an amazing sensory garden at Loveday Abbey Road. It offers everything you could possibly want from a garden for the elderly, from raised garden beds, a calming water feature and comfortable seating to potting sheds and there’s even a herb garden. Gardening fosters physical activity, boosting mobility and coordination. The calming influence of nature reduces stress and anxiety which is evident after an afternoon spent weeding! The tactile experience of soil and plants enhances cognitive function and the sense of pride and accomplishment Members have after a gardening activity is remarkable. Gardening is something everyone can do – all you need is a few pots, seasonal plants (or herbs are even better), soil, water and a sprinkle of sunshine. Or, for those who aren’t green-fingered – a stroll through parks and gardens to enjoy the beautiful flora and fauna is hugely rewarding.

Cooking, or Culinary Masterclasses as we call the programme at Loveday, brings immense joy and enrichment to our Members and to me as a caregiver. Whether kneading dough, cutting cookies or decorating cupcakes, the process of baking engages the senses, enhances cognitive abilities and delivers a sense of accomplishment. It can also stimulate reminiscence, especially the smell of baking bread or cake wafting from the oven. Sharing these moments in the kitchen and stories of yesteryear is a wonderful thing for all (especially the tasting after baking!)

Art – our Loveday Arts programme is a tremendous activity and something our Members respond really well to. Watching emotions being expressed onto canvas and the pure joy when Members admire their work is priceless. Even Members who have previously expressed no interest in art immerse themselves in the activities, often becoming art critics. I also love taking Members on art excursions to galleries – the V&A Museum is a favourite and we have enjoyed so many fantastic exhibitions and experiences. Over the summer we turned our garden into an art studio and had the most magical time painting canvases alfresco.

Walks around the neighbourhood is a great way for Members to get to know the local community. Fresh air, sunlight and a lovely walk is hugely restorative. Hunting for blue plaques and learning about all of the influential people who have lived in our neighbourhood is also a favourite for me and the Members.

We love to support local businesses also and take delight in dining in nearby restaurants and cafes, and enjoying a spot of shopping in the lovely gift shops and boutiques. It’s a great way to keep everyone connected.

I love talking to Members about their lives and exploring their hobbies and interests, there is nothing more meaningful than listening to stories and childhood memories; reminiscing about the good old days. Our Members have enjoyed fulfilling careers, many have lived all over the world and have had the most remarkable experiences. Talking about their lives brings familiarity, giving a sense of comfort provides a sense of purpose and stability. It also helps improve confidence, fosters connections and improves communication. Most importantly, it makes the Members feel really valued and brings happiness.

Music is a very powerful activity and such an easy and important activity to include in everyday life. It’s my go-to activity if any spirits need lifting! I always find out the favourite songs of our Members so I have the perfect playlist for parties and celebrations or in times when moods need boosting. There is nothing more joyful than seeing Members sing and dance along to their favourite songs and especially give their song requests. We are also huge fans of karaoke. I absolutely love inviting musicians to perform in our homes, ensuring there is a genre to accommodate every Member’s musical taste- we have a very diverse repertoire from jazz and classical to rock, pop, blues and country. (Elvis impersonators are also a huge hit!)

Once a month we take our Members on an extraordinary day out – an exciting excursion which is personalised around the hobbies and interests of our Members and following our monthly themes. These day excursions have included boat trips up the Thames, private cinema screenings, Wimbledon tennis tours, day trips to Brighton and private tours of the British Library, to name but a few. Each has a delicious culinary experience attached with favourites including the Ritz, the Rosewood and Fortnum and Mason’s Diamond Jubilee Salon, the Ivy and Millie’s Lounge at the Ned. 

Additionally, I love taking Members to sporting events to watch their favourite teams and players which is really meaningful for them. This has included rugby matches, horse racing boxing, tennis and football.

I love flower arranging with Members, it’s such a happy activity that brings joy, colour and lots of pride! and so easy for everyone to do – all you need is vases and a few bunches of flowers from the local shops. However, I love this activity most when we pick our own flowers from the garden, although I am not sure the gardeners enjoy us picking too many beautiful blooms!

I absolutely love taking Members swimming, it’s one of the most meaningful activities. Many people stop swimming as they age and lose confidence due to medical issues which is so sad, particularly for those who have always loved the water. Water is so therapeutic and it’s great for both physical and mental health, I love being able to reintroduce this back into their lives. Seeing the joy and smiles on Members’ faces after a session is priceless and there is nothing more rewarding than watching the confidence grow with each session.

Games are a brilliant way to engage, promote connections and help with communication, whether it’s card games, board games or bridge – we all love playing! One of my favourite games to play with Members is Bingo – it’s always guaranteed to bring laughter and the competition amongst the Members (and staff members) gets fierce.

Published: 5th of December 2023 by Loveday & Co

Tagged: Loveday, News, Loveday Abbey Road, Dementia

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