Group activities for dementia patients provides stimulation and socialisation that help to slow physical and cognitive deterioration. Early-stage Alzheimer's patients can still retain the comprehension ability to enjoy board games and the physical strength for gentle walks, while suitable group activities for late-stage patients may include listening to music or stroking pet visitors. Even in dementia's advanced stages, caregivers have to remember that the patient still responds to kindness and human contact and feels rejection and pain if neglected or treated poorly.
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The Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation finds that participating in group activities reduces the incidences of angry outbursts, agitation and depression among Alzheimer's patients. Groups receive the most benefit from activities tailored to individual members' interests, so if your group includes former golfers, setting up a putting green would provide an appropriate group activity. Caregivers should provide a variety of activities for their groups to increase the range of stimulation patients experience and ensure that everyone in the group gets to do something they enjoy.
Cognitive therapy sessions can help Alzheimer's patients cope with debilitating thoughts and beliefs, helping them fend off the depression and anxiety that accompany dementia. Leisure activities that help slow cognitive decline include having group members tell stories about events in their lives, assisted with photo albums or scrapbooks. Group members receive mental stimulation through socialisation and the activity strengthens memory retention. A study published in the "Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry" indicates that groups who play interactive computer games experience cognitive benefits even if they're in an advanced stage of dementia.
Music offers sensory stimulation to groups of Alzheimer's patients, particularly popular music from their young adulthoods. Dr. Concetta Tomiano of the Institute for Music and Neurological Function notes that music stimulates memory and encourages socialising through dancing or singing along to the music, activities that may help preserve some cognitive functions. Art therapy gives the patient an outlet to express feelings they may not be able to articulate while providing visual and mental stimulation. Caregivers can emphasise the social aspect of group art activities by prompting the patients to talk about their works as they're being created and presented.
Video game systems that incorporate players' motion into the games, such as the Wii and Kinect, allow even wheelchair-bound patients to exercise in a fun, social atmosphere. Dementia patients respond well to physical activities that carry responsibility, gaining self-esteem from the feeling of being needed. The Fisher Center suggests that facilities establish a therapy garden that patients can maintain, noting that outdoor activities such as gardening physically refreshes patients, increasing their vitamin D intake from sunlight and helping patients maintain their circadian rhythms.
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