Hooked on Sharing Ideas and Stories that Connect

One of the many things we love about sharing ideas and stories that connect people during the dementia journey—we never know the brilliant, witty, and amazing things our participants will say!

Let me set the scene:

It’s Thursday evening and Ron and I are presenting a program in a church basement. Our audience is a group of dedicated parishioners who serve in the Stephen Ministry, which offers help, hope, and healing. Several are reaching out to people who are living with dementia and want to learn tips for having enriching visits. As we discuss ways to assist people in adapting hobbies and activities, I invite the group to get into dyads and share a favorite hobby and some of the things they enjoy about it.

This is a lively bunch of people and they instantly start talking.Two women on the front row laugh uproariously throughout the exercise. Of course, I am curious. When the exercise is over, I ask, “What are some favorite hobbies?” One of the laughing women points to the other and says, “Would you believe, the first thing out of her mouth? She said, ‘I’m a hooker.’”

There was a bit of a nervous silence.

“A rug hooker,” the woman explains, grinning.

Everyone laughs.

“I love to make hooked rugs and share with them people,” she says.

A man leans forward and looks right at her. “I’m a hooker too,” he says and pauses for dramatic effect. “I like to hook fish. Fishing relaxes me.”

The room lights up with generous laughter. Then we continue the practical matter of adapting hobbies.

So, hopefully you’re now “hooked” on this subject. Here are a few practical tips for adapting hobbies for and with those who are living with dementia.

  • Discuss which hobbies are most important.
  • List the components of each and learn which parts the       person most enjoys.
  • Adapt the experience as needed to fit changing abilities and   interests.

For gardeners, is it the feel of their hands in the soil?

Is it producing flowers or harvesting vegetables?

Is it having something to take care of?

For those who like quilting, is it making the squares or the finished product? Is it the companionship with other quilters?

Or is it the texture and colors of the fabric?

For those who like cooking, is it the measuring and stirring?

Do they enjoy the aromas and textures of the ingredients?

Is it the joy of preparing something that thrills others?

Or is it the simple pleasure of tasting delicious foods?

With those answers, you can support the aspects of the activity that really resonate and enrich their lives.

Many people who live with dementia deal with social isolation. A big thank you to Nora Ellen Richard and those who are reaching out to stay connected.

Deborah Shouse is the author of Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together and Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

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