Activities or opportunities?
Those of you who've been following this blog for a while may have noticed that I used to work with children. Now I support childcare providers and spend a lot of time advising practitioners that it really is better to provide learning opportunities rather than teaching activities. An activity for teaching might be showing a group of children how to connect pieces of a train track and then move the trains around that track. The children will watch and they may play with it for a while but I doubt it will stimulate them. An opportunity for learning with the same resources might be to put out all the components of the train track and then leave the children to their own devices. I can almost guarantee you won't get what you expect and probably won't even get a train track. They might be set up to create a domino run, laid end to end to see who can make the longest line, stacked to see who can build the highest tower ..... It won't be what you think but it will keep them occupied for far longer than the train track you built earlier and will be far more stimulating for their brains. Some children may also decide to have nothing to do with your activity/opportunity but instead choose to sit quietly gathering their thoughts. My point here is that we often think people with dementia need to be kept busy and stimulated and that is a great idea but it might not always be what they want. I have tried many ideas with Ash from jigsaws showing the area where he grew up to getting the keyboard out of the loft (he used to play the piano very well) to suggesting he mows the churchyard (which he used to take such pride in) and on and on. All of these would have kept him busy on a daily basis but most of the time if I suggest things he definitely doesn't want to do them. Instead I now start doing something and then realise it's too complicated/heavy/a 'boy' job (private joke). When I abandon the task telling him I just can't manage it I often come back to find him busy finishing off what I've messed up. This does wonders for his confidence, keeps him busy and allows him to feel superior. Not only that but the job gets done. This seems to me to be a better idea than me coming up with an 'activity' which he always resists anyway. Some days he just sits and does nothing which is also ok as, if there's one thing that dementia has taught me, it's that nothing is urgent.