Dementia is a general term for memory loss, which causes problems with thinking and behavior. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. Dementia symptoms gradually worsen over the years, and family members become more involved in caring for their loved ones. Persons with Alzheimer’s need structured activities to stimulate memory, prevent boredom, and help reduce challenging behaviors. Judith A. Levy, Ed. M discusses activities to strengthen family relationships and give families and loved ones a sense of meaning and self-worth in the face of dementia.
If you think your loved one has Alzheimer’s or dementia, the Fresno Alzheimer’s Association is here to help you. They have helpful information and can link you to services – all for free.
Here are some suggestions for activities with Alzheimer’s –
Discuss the weather.
Is it warmer? Discuss how to dress appropriately. Then find that necessary hat and scarf and go outside for a short walk. While outside look for plants in bloom. Do you see any flowers? Do they have a scent? What color are they? Upon returning home discuss what you have seen. Have your family member draw some pictures that incorporate the colors from your walk. Use this time to reminisce about how your loved one spent their childhood when the weather was warm. What did they like to do? Who did they play with?
Make a flower or vegetable garden.
Look at catalogs for items appropriate for hot weather. Discuss which vegetables or flowers you would like to grow and get them. For those with memory difficulties I believe it best to start with small to medium sized plants. With the time necessary for plants to germinate from seeds your loved one may not remember what was planted. This eliminates that problem. Keep your garden small so it won’t take too long to create. Consider using a window box, or raised planter bed. This eliminates bending and prevents pressure on your loved one’s knees.
and invite some family members over for a visit. Purchase slice and bake cookies and have your loved one place them onto the baking sheet. Make an additional 2 – 3 for each family member to take home. Place them into sandwich sized bags. Make personalized name tags and tape them onto the bags. How special to be the donor instead of being the recipient!
Structured activities such as these help make it possible to maintain social skills. Think of ways to involve your loved one in everyday life. Tasks need not be complicated. They should be easily understood, broken down into simple one-to-two steps, and end with success. Activities should be respectful of your loved one’s level of functioning and boost self-esteem. With a little planning, activities can improve the quality of life for loved ones with dementia and their caregivers.
Judith A. Levy, EdM, OTR is the author of “Activities to Do with Your Parent Who Has Alzheimer’s Dementia.” She has been a practicing Occupational Therapist for over forty years and was the primary caretaker for her mother who had Alzheimer’s Dementia for almost ten years. Her book is available on Amazon.com