I am on my 7th or 8th week mark of my practicum, and I am feeling more comfortable with these lovely individuals that I work with every Friday. They are full of wisdom, stories, and lessons to share despite having dementia, and I feel so honoured that I am able to witness and in a way, experience those things with them every week.
Today, I want to talk about how encouraging seniors with/without dementia to do something that you know and believe that they are capable of can have an impact on how they view themselves, and how other people view seniors. (Note: Keep reading for ideas regarding fun activities for seniors!)
On January 13th, I led an activity called “Things That Go Together” from goldencarers.com with three attendees of the day program.
I would say something like “Salt and _____”, and they would answer with the first word that comes to mind. For most people, the answer would be (in this case) “pepper”, and for two out of the three attendees for that day, the answers came easily to mind. The other individual thought of other things for the most part or hesitated to answer, which allowed us to have a discussion of other things that go with sugar, fish, or pencil, to name a few.
When I played this activity again with the same group on February 3rd, the individual—who hesitated a lot and had different answers initially—was able to answer most of them as listed on the quiz. And she. Was. Thrilled!
Every time their answers matched (for both days), they had smiles on their faces, laughed, and one of them often gasped ever so slightly from the shock of getting the correct answer!
They really do know so much more than they think they know now.
Another significant moment has been playing Scrabble with an individual, who claimed that she did not know how to play, even though I was told that she was an avid player in the past. I didn’t know how to play Scrabble until that day when I had read the instructions, followed them, and eventually, followed her lead as she gradually started remembering how to play. See? In some ways, she actually did remember!
In some ways, seniors do remember how to do something, even if they consciously say that they don’t know it.
There’s another individual, who didn’t think that she had a knack for catching and throwing a ball from approximately eight feet of where I was standing. However, after consistently catching and throwing the ball, it was clear that the only thing keeping her from doing so was thinking that she couldn’t do it.
Maybe it has to do with the general idea that we have of seniors, or the stigma that comes with aging in society nowadays. Within the first few weeks or so of my practicum, I found that I doubted just how much they can do because of the frailty that I heard comes with aging. Luckily, I have noticed and realized that believing in what they can do, and encouraging them to do simple things like going for a walk or playing catch puts aside all those doubts and hesitations that they might have. Even if it’s for a moment, that still makes a difference.
So far in the day programs that I’ve been attending, we have been exercising, playing some sports, having cognitively stimulating conversations about random things, singing, playing music together, baking, going for walks, and making art. I think I want to try writing a song with them soon, just because I know and believe that they can!
They can do so much more than they think they can.
In seeing that, I also realized that I too can do much more than I think I can. It’s definitely easier said than done, but being inspired every week has enabled me to take on challenges that would make this practicum learning experience more worthwhile.
I am so grateful for their company, more than anyone could possibly fathom, and I hope that they can at least see some level of that when they come in on Fridays 🙂
Golden Carers. (2017). Things that go together quiz. Retrieved from http://www.goldencarers.com/things-that-go-together-quiz-/3647/