It might seem controversial that infant toys would be associated with dementia. For me not just as the founder of the DC but also as the daughter of someone who has dementia, I don’t think so. This post is 1 of 3 where I’ll be talking about the different toys that I’ve recently bought for a loved one with dementia and the huge difference they’ve made.
My Mother always loved teddy bears, long before she developed Alzheimer’s Disease. It was then no surprise that as dementia progressed and she was still living at home, she would pick up these bears (there were a few around the house, old ones of mine from childhood) and she would wander about with them. It was later that we learned that doll therapy exists in dementia care and an interest in dolls is not uncommon through dementia. Instead of dolls, Mum had bears.
This inspired our earlier campaign #BearNoJudgement back in 2015.
In fact, anything that could be considered sensory can be helpful in dementia care. We’re big on sensory and you can find lots of articles about this here.
Searching for dementia toys and dementia aids I realised often is the case items are more expensive when they’re made for those with dementia than if they’re created for infants. If they’re safe for infants, then they’ll be safe for adults too. There are great aids and toys out there, here’s a useful site: Unforgettable it really depends on what you’re looking for, what a loved one likes and what stage dementia they’re at, of course. I started by buying a few items to see how they were received and when they went down well, I purchased more over time.
Recently purchased items that are incredibly popular and help while away the hours include anything to look at, listen to, touch, hold… (list below, all from Jo Jo Maman Bebe)
The most popular items being soft books and buggy books which my Mum now prefers to regular books. When I commented last week; “You like those books don’t you?” Mum replied: “Well it’s something to do isn’t it, so you don’t get bored.” Now in late-stage dementia when sentences aren’t always coherent, I was impressed. The books are a hit. Here’s a look at some of the items recently purchased…
These flashcards are pictures with single words. Although whole sentences aren’t always possible, I’ve noticed with my Mum that every so often she’ll read a word. Even if the picture is covered. It’s not always possible and we wouldn’t recommend pushing someone to do this, but to ask “what’s that?” -and point at something is gentle enough encouragement and if the person wants to respond, they will. This is more about interaction than it is getting the word right or wrong. It can also serve as chat if the conversation is strained or has been lost.
Some of the books are particularly useful to clip onto the sides of beds with rails and wheelchairs so that individuals have something to look at with them at all times.
As well as books, I’ve introduced other items as well and these have gone down a treat. As mentioned, I would say it depends on the stage of dementia and what individuals like to begin with. Having said that, preferences can change within dementia.
The main objective is to keep a person entertained and comforted. Despite any level of mental capacity, no one should be left staring at a blank wall. It is often the case that TV’s and Radios overused instead of human interaction and activities. Regardless of capability, anyone can find mental stimulation in colourful cubes and books or even aesthetically pleasing objects with different textures and sounds.
The woodland cubes below my Mother really loves. And she likes to remark on what nice faces they have. They’re the right size to hold in your hand and look at.
Someone with dementia may not remember what they’ve done in a day, but the emotions remain long after the memory of specifics has subsided. It doesn’t matter whether someone recalls the detail or the conversation. It’s whether at the end of that day they feel happy or sad that’s of utmost importance.
Sounds can also be introduced in dementia. These might mark the end of the day, winding down or simply as a point of interest and conversation.
When the toys arrived in the office at the DC, myself and our team were all in a hurry to unwrap them and have a go. It just goes to show that no matter what age you are, you’re never too old to have fun.
Live well with dementia where possible. Laugh as often as you can and enjoy your time with your loved ones.