By Jennifer Clancy

Today nearly six million Americans live with dementia, and 95% of them are cared for at home by a family member. It’s a challenging, sometimes overwhelming, and often heartbreaking experience watching a loved one struggle to do things that were once so easy for them. If you are one of these family caregivers, be sure to connect with the Arizona Alzheimer’s Association for the latest news, support groups (virtual and in-person), and ideas for keeping your loved one engaged.

Every day, those who care for their loved ones search for meaningful ways to engage them. These family caregivers aren’t looking for simplistic activities; they know the value of brain stimulation, and they know their person’s history. The solution needs to be easy to use, fun, and encouraging. People love to learn, they love to create, and they love to laugh. Here are three great ideas for engaging a loved one living with dementia.

Photographs: Pictures can inspire recall and often lead to great storytelling. Keep a basket of photographs handy that can be quickly accessed, held, and touched. Invite your loved one to select a photo and encourage them to tell you what they see. For example, who is in the photo and what are they doing? If the person has difficulty verbalizing what they see, help tell the story with them.

Music: Search the internet and YouTube for songs that were popular during your loved one’s life. Singing or humming familiar music during the day can assist with transitions and even reduce anxiety and provide relaxation.

Storytelling: For those living with dementia, the past is their world. How do we bring the past to the present? We create space in our lives for the stories they have told over and over again. We help them celebrate that story by writing it down and posting it with a favorite photo.

Adults living with dementia deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. What can be better than helping them celebrate their lives with people, places, and events from their past?

Jennifer Clancy is the founder of Phoenix-based Alle Learning, EngAGE EnCOURAGE, and Engaging at Home. ALLE Learning provides interactive lifelong learning opportunities for active senior communities. EngAGE EnCOURAGE provides interactive curriculum for senior day centers and other providers for those with dementia. Engaging at Home provides online classes for home-based caregivers looking after a loved one with dementia that give family members and loved ones an opportunity to share meaningful moments.