How to Maintain Connections with Those Living with Dementia

Matthew Ralph-Savage

October 13, 2020

Whatever the circumstances, it can sometimes be hard to communicate with loved ones who are living with dementia, so it is essential to maintain connections wherever possible. At present, during the coronavirus pandemic, maintaining connections has likely become that bit more difficult. Whilst some people may be able to see their loved one, if they live with them for example, others are having to keep their distance.

In either of these circumstances it is important to maintain communication and connections wherever possible; therefore, we have put together some ways to maintain connections whether you are able to be with your loved one, or not.

If the Person is Within Your Household
If you are currently living with a person living with dementia, you will all be spending a lot more time in the house as of late. Whilst ensuring you are doing everything to protect yourself and your loved ones from the virus; by staying home where possible, washing your hands and isolating should you have any signs of the virus; you should also be aware to protect your own and your loved ones mental health.

Whilst this is an incredibly worrying time, it is important to stay as positive as possible and do things which make you, and your loved ones, happy. Therefore, participating in activities to maintain connections and positivity can help you and those living with dementia during this time.

Indoor Sensory Activities
The majority of people who are isolating at home will be feeling a loss of connection with the outdoors, and for those living with dementia this may feel even more poignant. Therefore, where you can incorporate sensory activities which are reminiscent of the outdoors. Some simple things such as creating an indoor small garden, listening to outdoor sounds such as birds singing, using outdoor scents or looking at pictures of nature.

Arts and Crafts
Similarly, arts and crafts can be used to maintain a connection with the outdoors; you could take leaves and flowers from the garden to press and create your own cards or pictures. Or paint some landscapes reminiscent of your loved one’s favourite places with them. There are various ways to include nature in your craft activities and doing artistic activities together can help encourage communication between you and spark conversations which can help boost positivity and reduce stress.

Indoor Activity
Although living with dementia does not mean your loved one is unable to take a walk, they may have other health conditions which mean they are being told to avoid strenuous exercise. In these cases, it is important to still encourage indoor activity to keep them mobile and healthy. On YouTube you will find indoor walking videos, with some even targeted at those with reduced mobility. Alternatively, you could try Yoga as both a form of activity and relaxation.

If the Person is Not Within Your Household
If you are not within the same household as a person living with dementia, you can still support them and maintain connections from a distance.

Video Calls
If your loved one is comfortable with using video calling apps this is a great way to maintain a connection with them from a distance. Simply seeing someone’s face and hearing their voice can be incredibly reassuring and make a person feel much happier and calmer. If your loved one is in a care home, you can speak to them about how to best communicate with your loved one and when. If video calling is not possible, simply picking up the phone and having a chat can do the world of wonders.

Sometimes, video calling or picking up the phone may not be so easy. Therefore, writing a letter could be a good option. Make sure the writing is large enough for your loved one to read if they have visual impairments or only include images if they have trouble reading; don’t make it too complicated. You can include information on how you are doing and include some pictures for them to look through. Even if you are speaking to them in other ways, a letter can be a nice personal touch as a means of maintaining a connection during this time.

Care Packages
Similar to a letter, you can also send a package to your loved one with some essentials and little treats in. If you know there are some things they are struggling to find in terms of food you can include these as well as some of their favourite treats, pictures, activities or games such as a puzzle for them to do. These small gestures are a great way of showing someone you are thinking about them and can give them a nice boost if they are struggling.

Many of our memories are engaged through sensory exploration, and it can be a fantastic way to maintain connections with someone if you can’t visit them right now. Providing a certain scent such as a perfume, or perhaps a photo album or piece of music for them to listen to, can help them to maintain connections with you from afar. Why not bundle some meaningful items together for the person within a reminiscence box which they can look back on time and again.

Whether you are with your loved one, or having to support them from a distance, there are a range of ways to show them you care and help to maintain connections. Anything, big or small, can have a positive impact on someone’s day and in times like these it is essential to stay connected where possible.