A person living with dementia may experience changes in their ability to participate in daily activities and concerns for their safety can also contribute to limitations in their lives.
Yet despite changes in memory, problem-solving and other thinking skills, a person who is living with dementia can still enjoy life and experience the world around them—even in ways that might enhance their changing communication abilities. With over 47 million people worldwide now living with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, there is a growing need to create inclusive and stimulating environments.
There are examples popping up around the world of innovative ways that people living with dementia can still feel joy, even after a diagnosis:
- A Dutch retirement home built a model ship for its residents who are living with dementia. This is no ship in a bottle; this is a full-size ship designed to awaken all of the senses with music, sounds and even smells associated with time spent on boats. “We tried to combine as many of these sensory experiences as possible,” said Bas Van Oerle, the Dutch artist behind this project. This includes the sounds of seagulls, waves crashing, and the smell of the wood used to make the boat. “For a lot of people there it’s a personal connection.”
- Memory Cafes are now found in countries around the globe, including the United States. A memory café is a designated public place—a coffee shop, library, church, or similar type of location—where people who are living with dementia and their caregivers are welcomed to spend time together socializing as they listen to music or play games. This is not the same as adult day care and dropping off a “patient” is not permitted. A memory café is run by a nurse, social worker or certified dementia practitioner. In these safe environments, people who are living with dementia are likely to experience joyful moments playing, talking, laughing, even reminiscing, as their caregivers get some support from others who are also providing care to a loved one. Find a memory café near you at the memorycafedirectory.com.
- Laughter on Call may not make it out of Hollywood, but it’s putting plenty of smiles on the faces of people in California for now. When Dani Klein Modisett saw her mother sliding into a depression after a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, she hired a stand-up comic to come in and put a smile back on her face. It worked so well that she built a team and now they work regularly with people who are living with dementia in “one-on-one comedy care,” “laughter workshops,” and “interactive storytelling shows” which can all be customized. They cite the “healing power of humor” to explain the benefits of this unusual and humorous type of care.
- Speaking of humor, it might be necessary if you are in Tokyo and order a meal at the Restaurant of Mistaken Orders, where all servers are people who are living with dementia. The website explains, “All of our servers are people living with dementia. They may, or may not, get your order right. However, rest assured that even if your order is mistaken, everything on our menu is delicious and one of a kind.” The idea for this pop-up restaurant was to dispel the belief that someone who is living with dementia is helpless and should remain isolated from society. The restaurant reported that, “37% of our orders were mistaken, but 99% of our customers said they were happy.”
- While not limited to people living with dementia, Cycle Without Age, is a program that has the potential to benefit those who are living with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia. This organization began in Copenhagen in 2012 to get all elderly people back on their bicycles. The first step was creating a “trishaw,” a three-wheeled bicycle (like a pedicab) which puts a “driver” in the rear and one or two passengers in seat up front. Today, anyone can create a chapter in their local community or you can find a chapter to sign up for a ride. Speaking of the dream of “a world together” in which people of all ages remain active citizens behind the program, the founder stated, “We do that by giving them the right to wind in their hair, the right to experience the city and nature close up from the bicycle and by giving them an opportunity to tell their story in the environment where they have lived their lives.”
For compassionate and professional dementia caregiving services, contact Homewatch CareGivers today.