There are a number of studies that show that people with dementia continue to have feelings similar to those without cognitive impairment. They need to feel a sense of accomplishment and a sense of purpose. As their friends and family members, we need to provide activities for them that create meaning in their life. Lady-Links visits attempt to do just that. One of our friends we visit has Alzheimer’s dementia. The other has vascular dementia. Both ladies need meaningful interaction with a sense of purpose that they are contributing to something more than just themselves. We have found that making cards to give to others is one way to meet that need. We seldom send the card ourselves. Rather we make cards and give them to groups to use when they learn of someone who needs some encouragement. There are many groups who welcome our cards. Most of the cards have scripture because that is the request of one of our friends with dementia. Some of the cards don’t include scripture and can be used for occasions where just a cheerful message is what is needed. We have over 30 card designs from get well messages to St. Patrick’s Day and everything in between that have been successfully completed at our Lady-Links visits.
We even make “repurposed” cards. We have collected previously used cards, cut the front off and added stickers of scripture and pictures to the backside.
Since both of our friends with dementia need to have projects that are easy to assemble, we have found that printing the message on labels or making stickers using a sticker making machine is better than using glue. They can both peel and stick, so rather than using glue, we use the “peel and stick” method whenever possible. At other times we use double sided tape.
We have learned that an uncluttered design is what our two friends need. When there are too many choices or too many shapes and sizes, they feel overwhelmed. Some designs that are very artistic in our way of thinking are too confusing for our friends. The following two pictures are beautiful but were too complicated for our friends to assemble.
The project must be about meeting the needs of our friends, not us. Although we have many of the same needs, they must be met in different yet appropriate ways. So we adjusted our card designs to reflect what our friends with dementia can appreciate, understand, and help make. And the cards have turned out beautifully and are greatly appreciated by those who receive them.
Before each visit, there’s prep work that must be done. We get the cards to the point where they can be easily assembled when the visit occurs .
With the parts of the card ready to be put together, our friends can enjoy the process, feel a sense of accomplishment, and know that their efforts will be used to encourage another person’s life.
Feelings of accomplishment help our self-worth. But even more importantly, accomplishing something that will benefit others fulfills our need to provide meaningful significance in someone else’s life. With the card projects, our two friends with dementia get a sense of having contributed in a positive way to the encouragement of others.
If you have friends or loved ones with dementia, how do you help them find a sense of purpose and accomplishment in their lives? What activities promote an improved sense of self-worth in them?
If you want help or suggestions on how to start a Lady-Links group in your area, please let us know. We would love to help you get organized and give you ideas for making friendship visits to the one you care about. Most likely you will see, as we have, improved social skills and an improved sense of self-worth. It takes such little effort yet it makes a big difference…in their lives and in yours!