The stats speak for themselves. Every three seconds, someone somewhere in the world develops dementia (1;2).
Most of us likely know, have known, or will know someone living with dementia, making becoming familiar with strategies that may help improve the health and well-being of those living with dementia valuable. Similar to visual art therapy and cognitive training, which have previously been discussed, here are few more helpful strategies to try (3-7).
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1. Unleash your inner musician
Active music-making therapies, such as singing, improvisation, reacting to a sound, and playing percussion instruments—involve an individual physically participating in music. Preliminary research shows that active music-making therapy may result in small but meaningful improvements in cognitive functioning in older adults with cognitive impairment or mild to moderate dementia. Folks interested in this strategy should seek out programs developed and delivered by professionals, such as occupational therapists, psychologists with musical expertise, and music therapists (5).
2. Engage in meaningful activities
Some models of care prioritize people’s interests, wishes, habits, and unique abilities (6;8;9). Research shows that engaging in meaningful activities outside of one’s residential aged care facility may enhance well-being and mood, as well as decrease depressive and behavioural symptoms in people living with dementia. Meaningful activities can be anything from swimming to art gallery visits to walking to outdoor gardening. Still, more research is needed to understand this strategy and determine the ideal activities for improving psychological health and well-being (6).
Millions of people living with dementia experience depressive symptoms but do not receive an official diagnosis of depression (7;10-12). Research shows that, in this population, non-drug treatments such as cognitive stimulation alone, cognitive stimulation plus exercise and social interaction, occupational therapy, massage and touch therapies, reminiscence therapy, and multidisciplinary care may help decrease depressive symptoms. Some non-drug treatments may even be superior to certain medications (7).
More and more strategies are becoming available to help those with dementia and their caregivers live as well as possible with dementia. Whether you are an individual living with dementia or a caregiver, consult with your healthcare team to determine what approaches may be beneficial for you or your loved ones.