By Beth Britton
If you are anything like me, the lockdown days all seem to merge into one. The differentiation our usual routines used to provide has all gone, and the main milestones of the day now seem to be mealtimes in my house.
Of course, if you are living with dementia – or supporting someone who is – routine is often very important, and this big change in our lifestyles is something many people with cognitive difficulties may well be struggling with.
Remotely supporting care home staff
Before lockdown, I was regularly visiting care homes to support staff in my freelance consultancy role and as lockdown began I was asked to continue to provide some support remotely, which in one form has meant being part of a WhatsApp group with staff from a small care home group.
This has involved me sending regular links to numerous ideas that can fill the periods between breakfast, lunch and tea in a more productive way than I often manage at home. Some of the most popular ideas have involved getting outside, which is fantastic since the link between nature and improved wellbeing is well-known.
Ideas and activities to try
A notable example of an activity to try is the Nature Scavenger Hunt, which one lady who is living with dementia has completed more than once around her care home garden because she loves the sense of achievement it is giving her. I have now found another fantastic resource to build on the scavenging idea – A Colour Scavenger Hunt. This can be used indoors or outdoors and is all about taking notice of the world around us. This is one of the recognised ways to improve our mental health through the Five Ways to Wellbeing framework https://www.mind.org.uk/workplace/mental-health-at-work/taking-care-of-yourself/five-ways-to-wellbeing/
Other ideas I’ve shared include:
• Digital resources, including numerous virtual tours of landmarks in the UK and abroad (this recommendation https://kateswaffer.com/2020/05/01/take-a-virtual-tour-of-hollands-keukenhof-gardens-2020/ from Kate Swaffer, a lady living with dementia, is one example) and web cams (including lamb cam https://www.walbyfarmpark.co.uk/lamb-cam/ and osprey cam https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/osprey-cam/
• Craft ideas, including willow paper lanterns https://www.edenprojectcommunities.com/stuff-to-do/make-willow-lanterns and pressed flower collages https://www.active-minds.org/news/at-home-activities-pressed-flower-collage/
One care home made bird feeders – for anyone else wanting to try this, there is a ‘how to’ guide here: https://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/for-the-birds-feeder/6e2cec7f-2744-49ea-90c2-1e5cfb9a835e
• Art ideas, including these adult-style colourings after staff talked about a virtual zoo morning they’d had with residents http://www.supercoloring.com/coloring-pages/tags/african-animals
• Musical activities, including joining in with the Sofa Singers https://www.thesofasingers.com and watching professional performances like those provided by the Royal Opera House: https://www.roh.org.uk
• Sporting links, including resources from the Sporting Memories Network https://www.sportingmemoriesnetwork.com/listing/category/lets-talk-sport
• Innovative gardening ideas, including planting seeds in eggshells https://www.countryfile.com/how-to/outdoor-skills/sow-seeds-in-eggshells/ and propagating plants https://www.lovethegarden.com/uk-en/article/propagate-new-plants-free .
• Sensory activities, including this one from a healthcare equipment provider https://www.clhgroup.co.uk/news-article/2017/10/31/play-dough-a-recipe-for-sensory-success/266 .
• My recent D4Dementia blog http://d4dementia.blogspot.com/2020/04/coronavirus-and-being-isolated-from_20.html for staff to share with the families of their residents. It includes tips for how relatives can help remotely with making a playlist and creating life story resources.
As you can see it’s an eclectic mix of activities, and this really is just a small selection of the ideas we’ve exchanged as a group. For me, discovering so many fantastic resources has opened my eyes to what is available to experiment with and enjoy, giving me hope that when this lockdown finally ends we may all have learnt some new skills and had some fun in these otherwise exceptionally difficult times.
About the author:
Beth Britton is an award-winning content creator, consultant, trainer, mentor, campaigner and speaker who is an expert in ageing, health and social care https://www.bethbritton.com. Beth is a former carer to her father who had vascular dementia for nineteen years, spending the last nine years of his life in care homes.