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5 strategies for success; a primer for programming for persons living with dementia

February 12, 2018

I facilitate art programs for persons living with dementia or physical losses.

Here are 5 practices I use to encourage participants and ensure a pleasant experience.

These tips enhance any activity. They are invitational and welcoming prompts that show you care.


ASK, don't command.

"Would you like to join us for art class? Can you try this brush instead of that one?" "Would you like green or yellow ribbons?"


AGREE, don't argue.

This one is a challenge in my family, we are master negotiators. However agreement is best. "It is cold in here,(when it is 75 degrees warm). I know your husband is coming, could we wait here at the table?"

REPEAT & REASSURE, don't dismiss

"This brush needs to be put back in the water after use, could you do that for me please? I see that you are really trying." I may repeat this several times in an hour session, each time in a pleasant tone of voice.

REMINISCE, don't say remember?

A reminisce is open-ended and does not require an answer. "I really like that flower painting, it reminds me of my garden." A participant may tell you that this painting is about the time he gave flowers to his wife for a birthday. Or he may simply nod his head.


REDIRECT, don't scold

This last reminder encapsulates the first three. If a participant suddenly wants to leave, or take off his clothes, I accommodate as much as possible. Sometimes a redirect will suffice. "Here is a magazine, can you look at that now? I need help picking up these papers, can you help me first?"


I like the word practice because sometimes I forget and tell instead of ask or shake my head in disagreement (an unnecessary visual cue). However, I practice and redirect. When I open the way for reminiscing I love the stories I'm favored to hear.


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