Memory loss associated with dementia changes the world of our loved ones in so many ways.  It is important to help them keep mentally engaged to enhance life and also prevent depression.  The general rule is to have a candid discussion as soon as symptoms appear and if you or a loved one is experiencing troubling symptoms, visit a doctor to learn the reason. There are many conditions that can cause symptoms of dementia, including some that are reversible, such as thyroid problems and vitamin deficiencies.  Keep in mind that when dementia progresses, it varies from person to person.

When the diagnosis is dementia, here are some ways to help with mental engagement:  ask questions about past pleasures; did they enjoy flower arranging or going to car shows? Did they look forward to going to the orchestra or taking an art class?  All the experiences they most enjoyed are touchstones for memory.  There are always opportunities for them to still do what they loved, perhaps in a simplified way.  If your loved one enjoyed going to the orchestra, take them to a small chamber concert. Check with your local library and university a see if they have any concerts coming up.  You can also play the music they most enjoyed experiencing and ask them to tell you how it makes them feel and if it brings back memories.  If they enjoyed making art, take them to a gallery or museum and then engage them in conversation about the art they liked and even what they didn’t like.  You can also look for art classes that are designed to work with dementia patients. Check with your local Alzheimer’s association.

The most important thing to do to promote engagement is to focus on the enjoyment of the experience, not the final product or achievement.

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