With the onset of summer, many are looking forward to celebrating beloved traditions. These traditions -- Fourth of July fireworks, summer barbecues, trips to the beach or family reunions -- often involve seniors, including those with memory loss. Ensuring that your loved one with memory loss participates in as many summer activities as possible is a wonderful way to enrich the lives of everyone involved. For a safe and satisfying trip or event, try some of these tips to keep your loved one secure and engaged in all of your summer fun.
Celebrate Past Traditions
When planning your major summer events and get togethers, take the time to reminisce with aging loved ones and those with memory loss on past traditions and how they loved to spend their summers. Use the information gained from these conversations -- or pull from your own recollections if your loved one can no longer verbalize their memories -- to incorporate past traditions into this year's celebrations. For example: If your loved one fondly recalls summer picnics with their family, move your Fourth of July party to a nearby park rather than your patio. Or, if you find his or her favorite part of summer was barbecue chicken, include that on the menu for a summer cookout.
Of course, no two people with Alzheimer's disease or memory loss are alike. Therefore, it is important to customize events according to the abilities, needs and preferences of the seniors in your life. Be sure to assess your loved ones' comfort level with noise, crowds, travelling preferences, etc. to make it as enjoyable and stress-free as possible. Some may enjoy the sights and sounds of fireworks, while others may enjoy watching them on TV in the comforts of home. Some may want to be outside for a family picnic or cookout while others may prefer to have family members visit them at home or at their assisted living or long-term care community. In addition to ensuring a successful outing or celebration, accommodating the needs and desires of your loved ones in plans will enable them to feel valued and important.
Summer fun often includes outdoor games and activities that may be too physically challenging for seniors and those with memory loss. There are, however, a few easy ways to adapt such activities so everyone may participate. This is especially important if you've found that such outdoor activities were part of cherished traditions in the past. Some simple adaptations include adding a chair to help seniors maintain balance or sit as needed. For a game of horseshoes or bocce ball simply allow your aging loved ones to throw while seated in the chair. Some games are also easily played from a wheelchair, such as croquet. Another quick way to adapt a game is to substitute a balloon for a heavier ball. Use a balloon for a game of badminton or volleyball. If adapted activities are still too physically challenging, or your family member just prefers being on the sideline, offer them the opportunity to serve as a coach for the wiffle ball game or as umpire for a round of kickball. Again, finding ways to incorporate those with memory loss, and seniors in general, into your family activities gives them a real sense of self-worth and makes the activities more enjoyable for all.
If your summer activities will involve family members or friends who do not have regular contact with a loved one with Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia, you may want to take some time to prepare them for what to expect. If they haven't regularly been exposed to the symptoms of those with Alzheimer's disease or other forms of memory loss, it could be an overwhelming experience. Sending a note updating other guests on the state of the attending seniors and tips on what they may or may not remember can be helpful.
Make Safety a Top Priority
It is very important to remember to keep all guests, but especially seniors, cool and hydrated for all summer activities. At Sunrise Senior Living, we recommend a number of important tips to keep seniors safe in the summer, which you can view here. Basic tips include wearing sunscreen and light-colored clothing and sitting in the shade. Hydration is a key element to outdoor summer safety and it is important to be aware of the signs of dehydration, which are less pronounced in seniors. These precautions can help keep seniors cool while allowing them to enjoy an outdoor barbecue or picnic. In addition, if you are in a public place with your loved one with memory loss keep in mind that they might become more confused, especially if the setting is not familiar or they could easily walk away and become lost. Therefore, always keep a watchful eye on them.
Summertime is meant for family, friends and fun so it is important to help those with memory loss feel that they are a part of your plans. By following the simple guidelines above, you can include your loved ones in meaningful ways while enjoying all the season has to offer.
For more by Rita Altman, R.N., click here.
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