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Older people enjoying creative nature activities indoors

07 Aug 2020

5 top tips for running activities for people with dementia

We recently ran a course for care home workers, in which we had some great discussions regarding top tips for running nature-based activities.

credit Tom J Johnson

By Claire Francis

Although our course was aimed at engaging and inspiring care home workers to incorporate nature into care plans, these tips work for anyone caring for someone.

1. Support, don’t lead

It’s easier said than done; we’ve all been there – you’re doing that activity, really enjoying yourself and the next thing you realise is that the person sitting next to you has sat back allowing you to finish the activity. Its great that you’re enjoying yourself because that enjoyment will shine through but remember to also support, let them set the pace, sit on your hands if you have to!

2. Seasonal activities

Don’t view your garden as just a summer room, think of the sensory stimulation that each of the seasons have to offer. Noticing the falling leaves of autumn, feeling the frosty grass of winter and smelling the ground after it has just rained all connect us with time and place. Use umbrellas, tarpaulins or plastic sheeting and poles to make shelter helping you to extend your opportunities to spend time outside. Blankets and camping chairs are a great setting for a hot cuppa on a cold winter day.

3. It's the taking part

The time spent doing an activity is more important than the outcome produced at the end. Don’t get hung up on achieving something, instead just enjoy the moment.

4. Bring the outdoors in

Natural materials from your garden can be brought indoors for those unable to get outside. Just cut the grass? Why not bring a handful inside for someone to smell. Working with natural materials provide a subtle calming effect and help anchor us to the seasons. Why not keep a small vase of flowers from the garden or local area regularly refreshed? In the winter, look out for pine, mistletoe and holly.

5. Relax

Keep the atmosphere relaxed, calm and fun. If someone only wants to spend five minutes outside, that’s fine; if the activity isn’t finished, that’s fine too.

and finally...

Care home workers and managers – I know what you’re thinking: "Help! I don’t have enough time to do nature-based activities with our residents". Our answer: get the families involved. Share your activity ideas (or ours!) with the families, showing them how small, simple activities can make big changes to their visits and is vital to their relationship with their loved one.