Summer Fun with Your Loved One Who Has Dementia

Summer Fun for you and your loved one with dementia

In the summer of 2021, a memory care community called Bridges by Epoch in Norwalk, CT wanted to celebrate finally being able to get outside again after the long seclusion forced by Covid. Their suggestions and safety tips are reprinted here to inspire you to make the most of this summer with your loved ones who have dementia.

Most of these suggestions are for those caring for their loved ones at home. But if your person lives in a Memory Care community, see if their Life Enrichment team can include some of them in their summer calendar.

  1. Plant a garden.

Gardening is a favorite hobby loved by many, and it can be particularly beneficial to older adults with dementia. Being outside in the sun provides a nice dose of vitamin D, which has been shown to help boost mood and even reduce some of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Sunlight also helps keep circadian rhythms regulated, which helps your loved one get a good night’s sleep. Gardening is also a good form of exercise, as it combines muscle strengthening, flexibility and even a little cardiovascular boost. Gardening is also enjoyable in the sense that it’s an ongoing activity that you can see results from. If gardening from seed isn’t your strong suit, consider buying prearranged flowerpots or some small herbs that require less work but are just as enjoyable to tend.

  1. Watch the birds.

Just like gardening, birdwatching is another activity beloved by many. It’s an excellent option for people with dementia because it’s neither physically nor mentally demanding, and you can do it outside or inside. Buy a feeder (or make one as an activity with a loved one) and set it up in a place where your loved one enjoys sitting. You may want to get a variety of feeders to attract different types of songbirds and other animals. If your feeders attract other woodland creatures, such as squirrels, consider getting a separate feeder for them as well. Watching squirrels eat peanuts from the shell can be highly entertaining.

  1. Make summertime sweet treats.

There are all sorts of delicious treats that go along with the summer sun: ice cream, popsicles, lemonade, flavored iced tea, watermelon … No surprise, a lot of these yummy foods are high in hydration. Since older adults get dehydrated and overheat much more easily than their younger counterparts, it’s always wise to make sure your loved one has plenty of drinks or hydrating, cool foods within reach. Making summer treats is a fun activity that can help with that. Churn some homemade ice cream, make your own fruit pops or flavored ice cubes or make a nice fruit salad. Of course, don’t forget other summertime favorite foods to go along with the treats, like corn on the cob, hot dogs, s’mores and other goodies.

  1. Go on a picnic.

Eating outside is simply marvelous when the weather is nice. Pack a picnic basket with a light lunch, bring a blanket and some lawn chairs, and head to your favorite park – or stay in your own backyard, if that works better. Your loved one can help you prepare a lunch that’s simple and will stay fresh no matter where you’re traveling to. Simple sandwiches, fruit, cold beverages and crackers are all excellent choices for summertime snacking.

  1. Visit the park.

During the summer months, local parks truly shine. With farmers’ markets, live performances, festivals and the simple fact that children are outside playing, they’re a great spot to people-watch and enjoy the sights and sounds. If your loved one with dementia is still relatively mobile and enjoys walking, choose a park that has smooth walking trails or paths that make it easy to get a little exercise while enjoying the fresh air, chirping birds and laughing children. If there’s a lake nearby, grab some cracked corn and feed the ducks (especially fun when they still have little ducklings following after them). Or, your loved one may enjoy just sitting peacefully by a fountain or pond.

Safety Tips for Summer

The health and safety of your loved one with dementia is always of utmost importance. Here are some easy tips to help you keep your loved one safe in and out of the sun.

  • Carry a tube of sunscreen with you and be sure to reapply it regularly.
  • When you’re outside, be sure that there are cool places where your loved one can escape if necessary. Avoid doing outdoor activities during the really hot times of the day.
  • Make sure your loved one is wearing proper clothing. A hat, loose clothing and sunglasses are musts.
  • Carry water with you and make sure your loved one sips it regularly. Dehydration can occur incredibly quickly during the heat of the summer. If plain water isn’t enjoyable for your loved one, consider fruit juice or other flavored drinks – just avoid ones that are too sugary or are diuretics.
  • Make sure your loved one has identification with them (like an ID tag or bracelet) so that if you do get separated, it will be easier for them and you to get help.
  • Now is a good time to call the HVAC company and make sure your air conditioning is in tip-top shape. Consider buying some fans so that there’s always air circulating when it’s warm.
  • Keep cool drinks handy and be sure your loved one takes a cool bath or shower in order to keep from overheating.

With a little bit of planning, you can create a summer filled with fun and meaningful activities for both you and your loved one with dementia.

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Caring for a loved one with Dementia or Alzheimer's is emotionally challenging—as is the decision to move them to a Memory Care facility. The Village at Sydney Creek is here to assist you with this transition. Our community in San Luis Obispo, California provides a knowledgeable staff and the necessary resources to make this step as smooth as possible—logistically, mentally, and emotionally.

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