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New years resolutions for those with dementia

New Year’s Resolutions are For Everyone, Including Those with Dementia

Every year around this time residents and staff at our communities are busy taking stock of the year that is ending and making new lists of resolutions for the new year.

Many of the resolutions are simple, such as “smiling more often”, or “appreciating the small things in life.” What is most important, however, is not the goal itself, but the satisfaction of setting it and taking steps to achieve it.  

Setting goals is good for everyone, regardless of age or health conditions.

A UCLA study found that when personal goals were set by a group of individuals with dementia as well as caregivers, about three-quarters of them met or exceeded their goals within a twelve month period. Most of the goals were non-medical in nature, including such things as “getting financial affairs in order” or “participating in activities outside the home.”

Now is the time to set some goals for the new year.

Here are a few tips from the Institute on Aging to help family caregivers support goal setting for a loved one with dementia.

  • Keep the goals simple and attainable. A few suggestions might be to learn a new game that improves concentration, work on improving strength or balance, start a daily meditation session, or begin taking a moment every day to focus on things that make you happy.
  • Focus on one goal at a time. Overloading your loved one with multiple goals will not only be confusing but overwhelming as well. Starting with the simplest goal is the best strategy.
  • Take baby steps. For instance, if the goal is to learn a new game, you might break that down over several days, starting with 1) picking the game, 2) understanding the instructions, and 3) playing a game. Celebrate each step. “Great, now we have a game to try. We’ll take a look at the instructions tomorrow.”

Whatever the goal might be, it is so important to be supportive. Encourage your loved one every step of the way. Recognize that there will be good days and challenging days when concentration levels may be lower. Be ready to take a break and start up again the next day. And, while you’re at it, add in a few goals for yourself as well!

Wishing you and your family a wonderful New Year!