Carers play a vital role in helping people with dementia to adjust to living an indoor life in many ways.

Carers also have to adjust to a feeling of being overwhelmed by their caring role in addition to the scope of their family, employment and/or household duties.

Regular activities at home help people with dementia to retain their life skills and learn some new ones.

Also, activities done with a carer in the home or with others in a day-care centre provide opportunities for social interaction.

By providing an occupation or an outlet for energy, activities at home may lessen anxiety or boredom and consequent behaviour such as rummaging in drawers or pacing around.

Regular tasks

It is important to make activities for the person with dementia part of the regular routine at home, so that he or she feels a sense of inclusion in the various tasks being done.

Examples of tasks at home include: Folding sheets/towels (with help, if necessary), sorting and matching socks, dusting, cleaning kitchen worktops, sweeping/mopping floor, re-organising the food cupboard, polishing brass or silver, setting/clearing the table, washing/drying dishes, tidying drawers, arranging flowers, watering plants/window box, making a shopping list, feeding pets.

These are regular activities in the home. The carer also has to ensure there are daily personal activities such as bathing/showering, shaving/face make up, and dressing. Mealtime activities include preparing food, cooking, eating and drinking, and washing/drying plates.

Sensory stimulation

Sensory stimulation given by the carer with affection and gentleness will be enjoyed even if the person cannot express this verbally or is not physically active. Some ideas include looking at family photographs, smelling flowers, eating small tasty treats, and feeling a variety of different fabrics, objects and soft toys.

The carer can extend this to personal care activities such as gentle brushing of hair, using a foot spa, and having a neck or hand massage with scented oils or lotions. These are comforting and soothing to a person with dementia.

This article is based on one of the many advice sheets which are available at www.dementiasa.org