James Ashwell, founder of Unforgettable.org reveals that the connections your child can make with someone with dementia can be helped along with a range of games and activities.
Mum always loved children. As well as being a mother of four, she also worked as a scout leader. Sadly, she never got to meet her own grandchildren, as her first grandson was born a week after she died with frontotemporal dementia. However, the enjoyment she got from spending time with children was clear right into the later stages of her condition.
Even when she seemed at her least responsive, she would immediately come alive when there were children around. I think it was because her nurturing instinct was so deeply ingrained, that even when dementia had robbed her of many of her other abilities and thoughts, she would still respond to children.
I strongly believe that encouraging children and those with dementia to spend time together can be extremely beneficial, both for building an awareness and understanding in young people about dementia, but also for the person with the condition, as it helps them to feel happy and content.
Products – particularly those based around games, puzzles and activities – can be a great way for a forging a bridge between a child and someone with dementia. Below, I’ve suggested a selection that your loved one may enjoy using with children of different ages.
Products for 3-5 years
Colouring and painting books
Doing artistic activities is a great way for a young child and someone with dementia to spend time together. Colouring can be a very engrossing and calming activity and there are a range of books out there that range in ability depending on the age of your child and the stage of dementia that your loved one is at. For younger children, painting books that use water to paint onto a picture so that the colours start to appear can be a great starting point and immensely satisfying for all involved.
Try: Active Minds Painting Book, £9.99
Kids may love bringing their favourite story book for Grandma or Grandpa to read to them, but you can also get picture books that are suitable for adults, and which they can look at together. Just the action of turning the pages and looking at the images can be a great bonding activity for children and someone with dementia.
If your loved one with dementia is struggling to complete jigsaws with lots of pieces, there are still puzzles they could complete with a grandchild. Dementia-suitable jigsaws, which are made up of 12 or 13 pieces, have specially designed pieces and are made of hard-wearing material are ideal for children as well. The pictures used on them will appeal to children – pets, trains, seaside scenes – while maintaining the dignity of someone with dementia.
Try: 13-piece Jigsaw Puzzle, £12.49
There is something extremely therapeutic about rolling out shapes with modelling dough, which makes it an ideal activity for both those with dementia and young children. As co-ordination diminishes in someone with dementia, they’ll enjoy activities where they can use larger movements – thinking rolling or squashing – and modelling dough is ideal for this. Children at this age will have a similar level of co-ordination so will enjoy creating figures and shapes with your loved one with dementia.
Try: Wheat & Gluten-Free Modelling Dough, £10.49
Products for 8-10 years
Card and board games
As children get older, they’ll love playing different board games with someone with dementia. Much like you would when picking a game for a child, you’ll need to think about the stage of dementia the person is at, to ensure they will understand how to play the game.
Older children may enjoy crafting, because it provides a project and finished result which is satisfying. For someone with dementia, crafts are great for providing a sense of purpose and achievement once it’s made.
Try: Glitter Mask Activity Pack, £25.19
Reminiscence books and cards
As someone with dementia struggles to live life in the present, they’ll find enjoyment in looking back at pictures from the past. Children at this age are inquisitive and articulate enough to be able to ask questions about the pictures, and encourage the person with dementia to talk about days gone by.
Products suitable for all ages
Whether it’s a game of skittles, horseshoe or croquet, kids will love getting outside and playing some garden games. If the person with dementia is also reasonably mobile, they’ll be able to join in. Many garden games may be ones that a loved one with dementia will remember playing when they were a child, providing a great opportunity for them to reminisce, while bonding with the child.
Try: Brightly Coloured Plastic Skittles, £8.39
For more information on how products can help someone with dementia and to see a range of items that are suitable for both children and adults affected by the condition, visit www.unforgettable.org.
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