One of the most important things to consider when choosing activities for a person living at home with Alzheimer’s or dementia is to match the activities to the person’s abilities. This matching is necessary to keep the person from becoming overwhelmed or frustrated if the activity is too difficult or virtually impossible. There are different stages of Alzheimer’s disease, and it will be counter-productive to ask a person with the most limitations to attempt to do things that are far beyond their ability.
So, before considering which activities to try, it’s very helpful to know what the individual’s capabilities and limitations are. Another important consideration is that a person with some cognitive or physical limitations still deserves - and should be treated with - dignity, respect, love, compassion, care, and sensitivity. "The biggest thing to remember with a person with dementia is that they're a person with dementia," explained Cameron Camp, Director and Senior Research Scientist, Menorah Park Center for Senior Living.
To clarify, dementia is not the same thing as Alzheimer's disease. Dementia is not a disease; it is a decline in cognitive function related to aging. Dementia can be caused by a number of conditions, the most common being Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s affects some aspects of brain function, like memory, verbal processing and motor skills/coordination. A person experiencing cognitive decline might have many of these functions intact, but suffer from a diminishment of them. Depending on the severity, some brain functions might be compromised severely, or even absent. A person with Alzheimer’s still has a normal need for social inclusion and interaction, meaning, fulfillment, warmth, affection, health and serenity, love, and happiness.
Activities for such an individual then might overlap with those of fully healthy people. In other words, people with dementia should be respected and treated with the same esteem as any other person. They should not be related to in a patronizing or condescending manner, as if they are of less value than anyone else.
Activities for those with Alzheimer’s should be aligned with their likes and dislikes, interest level, passion, and so forth, just as they are for fully healthy people. The activities themselves may be different for legitimate practical reasons, including memory care, but the effect of those activities can be the same - enriching lives and improving quality of life. You can imagine that having Alzheimer’s can also cause depression and/or anxiety, which can cause severe states of suffering.
Activities will not reverse Alzheimer’s, but they can alleviate depression and anxiety. People with Alzheimer’s may be socially isolated, and social isolation can also contribute to depression. In fact, research has shown that chronic social isolation is associated with premature death. Other research has shown that loneliness could reduce the functioning of the immune system. For these reasons, it can be very beneficial for a person living at home with Alzheimer’s to have regular social interaction, like having visitors that are known or very familiar come over on a regular basis. It is also helpful if visitors are informed about how to relate to someone living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, so they are not insensitive and can be more understanding. Senior living can be difficult enough, even without social isolation or a lack of compassion.
1. Play games like cards, or board games with the person. Ask them what their favorite game is and play that with them.
2. They can have coffee or tea with a friend, family member or caregiver and try to have a conversation, or just listen.
3. If a person is very socially isolated she or he might appreciate physical touch, so ask if there is interest in a massage and have a body worker come for an in-home massage.
5. Look at photo albums and talk about personal experiences and share stories.
6. Dancing and learning to do new steps might reduce some symptoms according to a research study.
1. Cooking and baking are creative and fun because you get to work with your hands and take on the challenge of making something enjoyable to eat. They can also be enjoyable shared social experiences. Some people also like to make foods that are traditional for their families or part of their culture.
2. Make any form of art like a painting, a drawing, sculpture with clay, collage, photos, or writing.
3. Crossword puzzles or Sudoku.
1. Meditation can help call the mind and relax the body. A very simple form of meditation is to simply sit quietly with the eyes closed and put one’s attention on the inhalations and the exhalations of the breath for about ten minutes. Some research studies have found meditation can be good for reducing stress.
This gentle form of exercise and stretching can be done in the home and is low-impact. There are also poses that can be done sitting in a chair or lying down for a person that has any issue with balance and needs to be supported. There is also a form of the exercise called restorative yoga that is good for relaxing and going to sleep. There are DVDs with yoga poses and free videos can be found on YouTube.
3. Gardening or taking care of indoor plants. Gardening has been shown to have some benefits like reducing stress, improving attention span, and it may even relieve symptoms of depression.
1. Seniors that took mental training exercises experienced a boost in their cognitive function. It is not true that people suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s should not bother trying to learn new things. Learning can be a source of happiness and fulfillment, so presenting opportunities for learning and growth to improve memory can help maintain a zest for life.
If your family decides it's time for the next step in providing dementia care for an aging loved one, memory care senior living communities may be a great option to provide a safe, comfortable aging environment. Memory care communities are designed to support those with cognitive impairment by providing trained caregivers and offering activities that support sensory stimulation ot improve overall health and well-being.
The Seniorly website is full of memory care options throughout California, and we are happy to help you locate the community that would be the best fit for your loved one's care and lifestyle needs. Visit us at www.seniorly.com or call us at (415) 570-4370 to speak to our gerontologist today!