By Katie Tardiff, Vice President, Clinical Services on Jan 3, 2018 3:19:19 PM
Activities are crucial for people living with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, offering benefits such as cognitive stimulation, the opportunity to connect with others, comfort and relaxation, and more. Plus, physical activities and exercises are important for maintaining physical strength and balance, plus physical exercise is great for the mind, too.
If you’re caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, you may sometimes struggle to identify activities that are within your loved one’s capabilities and provide appropriate cognitive stimulation without adding unnecessary stress. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of stimulating activities caregivers can use with loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease, along with some general guidelines for identifying appropriate activities and ensuring that your loved one is able to participate and engage.
While many of the activities discussed below refer to activities that can be planned in assisted living communities and nursing homes, they’re also easy for caregivers to incorporate in the home setting.
General Guidelines for Effective Activities for People with Alzheimer’s Disease
- Establish consistent routines. “There is so much that we all do on a daily basis without thinking because it is part of our regular routine. It is as if we are on autopilot whilst going about our daily business: getting washed and dressed, food preparation, cleaning, exercising, getting around our house and local environment and even driving. I’m often amazed that I can daydream whilst in the car and don’t seem to notice how I’ve got from A to B!
“There are also things that we do on a weekly basis that are also familiar because of the relative frequency that an event occurs. We might always have a roast with family at the weekend, go to a place of worship, put out the bins on a Thursday or attend a club on a particular day of the week. In my work with people with dementia I’ve often been surprised at the level of skills that people retain as the disease progresses if they are performing tasks that are very familiar to them. This is because procedural and long-term memory tends to be affected as a later stage than short term memory. As time goes on deviations from normal are the things that flummox them. Smaller and smaller non-routine occurrences often seem to become more difficult over time. For many people with dementia it is important to establish schedules that work for them as soon as possible after diagnosis so that much of their life is regulated and predictable.” – Julie Cole, Establishing Routines for People With Dementia, Dementia Consultant; Twitter: @DementiaExtra
- Be mindful of the individual’s needs. “Games for people with Alzheimer’s disease should work on several levels. A board game with a colorful playing surface and objects that can be handled (cards, dice, etc.) is better than a game that does not contain these features; the more sensory stimulation the better (but be careful with objects that are small enough to be placed in the mouth). Many games involve a physical component. Physical exercise is another element to consider in selecting a game, but don’t choose all your games based on exercise.
“And be sure to allow the people in your care to have a say in the selection process. A game that she played with her children when they were growing up, or one that she played as a child will likely hold a special attraction for a woman whose memory of her past is more vivid than her memory of things more recent. That familiarity with the activity will serve to stimulate memories at the same time that it holds attention.” – John Schmid, Games for People with Alzheimer’s, Best Alzheimer’s Products; Twitter: @AlzProducts
- While structure and routine is important, even unplanned activities can be meaningful. “Activities don’t have to fit in a box on a calendar or whiteboard, and they don’t have to be held at intentionally carved-out hourly intervals throughout the day. There are countless opportunities for activities often right beneath the noses of all dementia care unit staff. Making the bed. Meal time. Watering the plants. Tidying up the room. Each of these things, small and simple though they seem, can provide rich opportunities for engaging a resident who is perhaps not interested in bingo, movies, or other group activities.” – Michelle Seitzer, 6 Best Practices for Activities Programming in Dementia Care Units, CPI (Crisis Prevention Institute); Twitter: @cpi_training
- Keep activities simple and brief, and individualized when possible. “Structured group activities very seldom work. Simple, brief activities offered several times a day are the most effective and beneficial types of activities for Alzheimer’s.
“Activities such as housework and simple games can help to maintain motor skills. Listening to music is also a very calming and engaging activity.
“The focus should be on the person and not the condition. Try to match people with activities that suit their background and experience.” – 20 Practical Activities For People Living With Alzheimer’s Disease, GoldenCarers.com; Twitter: @GoldenCarers
- Use activities that can re-establish old roles. “Make use of skills that have not been forgotten, such as buttering bread, washing up or watering, sweeping and raking in the garden. These are also ways in which a person with dementia can contribute to the household and feel useful. Encourage an area of responsibility no matter how small.” – Activities for People with Dementia, Alzheimer’s Australia; Twitter: @AlzheimersAus
- As your loved one’s disease progresses, simplify activities over time to accommodate their abilities. “Over the course of your loved one’s Alzheimer’s, it will be necessary to simplify activities to match his abilities. For instance:
- A life-long reader may eventually enjoy being read to, and then progress to just looking at the pictures.
- A love of gardening may go from gardening, to cutting flowers, to weeding, to watering plants, to watching squirrels.
- A regular round of golf, or a weekly night of bowling may progress to walking only.
- Playing music or singing may progress to listening to music only.
- Preparing the evening meal may eventually progress to folding dinner napkins, and can be a very engaging for the one with Alzheimer’s.” – Kathleen Allen, LCSW, C-ASWCM, Activities to Get the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Patient Engaged, BrightFocus.org; Twitter: @_BrightFocus
- If your loved one is anxious, focus on activities that promote relaxation. “Some people with dementia will not be able to take part in many physical activities, but this does not mean they have lost their capacity for enjoyment and relaxation. For many people, dementia is a source of great anxiety and tension. Relaxation through music, light, warmth, smell and touch benefits everyone – not least tired family carers and busy care staff.” – Provide activities to maintain a person’s ability, dignity and self-worth, Alzheimer’s Australia; Twitter: @AlzheimersAus
- Focus on the activity, not the outcome. “Lose your pre-conceived notions of how the activity should be done or what the end product might be, as people in the middle and late stage of dementia are not capable of understanding the goal of an activity. Just enjoy the process and the current moment of doing!” – Monica Heltemes, Dementia: The Importance of Staying Active, Easy Living; Twitter: @EasyLivingFL
- Know your loved one’s daily rhythms. “People move through the disease on their own individual path. Family and professional caregivers should be alert to signs that a particular activity is causing frustration. If your loved one is no longer enjoying an activity, it is time to make some modifications or try something else. Know your loved one’s daily rhythms. Is there a time of day when he or she is prone to agitation? Are noise and distractions causing sensory overload? Plan for more quiet time. Your loved one may enjoy restful conversation and reminiscing with the caregiver, perhaps looking at photo albums or having the caregiver read aloud. Even for people who are losing the ability to speak, a sense of love and connection comes from sharing time with others.” – Daily Activities for People With Alzheimer’s Disease, Right at Home; Twitter: @rightathomeUS
- Plan activities for the times when your loved one tends to function at their best during the day. “To achieve the most success when carrying out activities, consider the times of the day when the person is at their best. For example, sometimes walking is best done in the morning or the early afternoon. For people who become restless later in the day or who have had a particularly long or meaningless day, a late afternoon walk may be better.” – Dementia – activities and exercise, BetterHealth Channel; Twitter: @BetterHealthGov
- The most important thing is that your loved one remains engaged in an activity. “Whether playing cards together or participating in an exercise program together, the important thing is that the person with Alzheimer’s remains engaged in the activity. Such sensory stimulation helps preserve their basic skills—such as being able to button a shirt—and function as independently as possible for as long as possible.” – Activities for Stage 1 Alzheimer’s, Homewatch CareGivers; Twitter: @hwcaregivers
Exercise and Physical Activities
- Use props to enhance chair exercises. “Use props, such as streamers, maracas, batons, pom poms, canes, stretch bands, tambourines, clappers, top hats, scarves, or small hand-held balls. (All can of these items can be ordered at wholesale prices through www.activitytherapy.makesparties.com). Face the person and have stimulating music playing with an easy to follow rhythm. You may wish to use music from their era, but it is acceptable to use any kind of music that elicits a positive response. Please remember their preference when selecting music. Design a routine that is repetitive and easy to follow. You may wish to start with 20 minutes and build up to 45 minutes as tolerated. Take lots of breaks. Hand held props held develop hand strength and provides a stimulating visual to follow the leader. Music, Movement and Props are three key elements for a successful exercise program.” – Activity Ideas for Alzheimer’s/Dementia Residents, NCCDP.org; Twitter: @NCCDP
- Any physical activity can be beneficial, from a simple walk to a yoga class. “Exercise provides countess benefits to all seniors, regardless of whether or not they have Alzheimer’s. Workouts can consist of everything from taking a walk around the block to taking a yoga-for-seniors class.” – Anne-Marie Botek, How to Plan Meaningful Activities for Someone with Alzheimer’s, AgingCare.com; Twitter: @AgingCare
- Participate in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. “Participate in the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s. To learn more about Walk, please click here.” – 101 Activities, Alzheimer’s Association; Twitter: @alzassociation
- Find creative ways to encourage physical activity. “Ideas for exercise include walking in the park, gardening, throwing a beach ball or a balloon and playing Simon says. A simple weight to lift may be made out of a broom handle and a small bag of sand. For more advanced Alzheimer’s, you may have to do some passive exercise by moving their limbs for them, but exercise is still important.” – Top Ten Reasons Why Alzheimer’s Patients Need Activities, AGIS
- Coordination exercises are beneficial for those with Alzheimer’s disease. “Here we have a broad range of exercises which can be classified into exercises for ‘fine’ and ‘gross’ motor skills.
“Fine co-ordination exercises are those which force us to be precise in our movements and which, in general, don’t involve large muscle groups. Examples of fine co-ordination exercises include coloring with colored pencils (trying to stay within the lines), cutting out pictures, sewing and knitting, putting differently-shaped objects inside a box with holes of different sizes, origami, making bracelets or braiding, sorting coins… These activities force our brain to stay attentive and to concentrate on what we’re doing.
“When it comes to ‘gross’ co-ordination, large muscle groups are involved. This could be extending your arms and touching your nose, bouncing a ball with one or both hands, trying to keep an object like a balloon or beach ball in the air, clapping in time to music or learning a choreographed routine that involves both hands and legs.” -Luis Miguel Pérez, Physical activities for someone with Alzheimer’s, PeopleWho.com; Twitter: @PeopleWhoUSA
- In the early to middle stages of dementia, there are many suitable activities. “There are many suitable exercise opportunities that may be beneficial for people in the early or middle-stages of dementia. Local community or sports centers often provide a range of organized exercise and physical activity sessions, such as ball games, seated exercises, tai chi, music and dance, indoor bowls or swimming. You may be able to use a personal budget, in the form of a direct payment from your local authority to pay for these. Some of these activities can be modified and carried out at home. Walking, gardening and housework are also good forms of everyday physical activity.
“People in the early stages of dementia may experience no new difficulties in sports and other physical activities they enjoy. They ought to be encouraged to continue these activities where possible.” – Exercise and physical activity, Alzheimer’s Society; Twitter: @alzheimerssoc
- Substitute an activity for a behavior. “If a person with dementia rubs his or her hand on a table, provide a cloth and encourage the person to wipe the table. Or, if the person is moving his or her feet on the floor, play some music so the person can tap to the beat.” – Activities, Alzheimer’s Association; Twitter: @alzassociation
- Look into local volunteer opportunities. “Some cities have programs to help facilitate meaningful engagement and community involvement for individuals with dementia. For example, Seattle Parks and Recreation supports Dementia Friendly Recreation, which includes the ‘Remember the Hungry’ volunteer program. In this program, those living with memory loss are able to give back to the community by helping at local soup kitchens.
“If you don’t live in a city where such programs are available, volunteering may be a great activity for a caregiver and person with dementia to do together. If volunteering outside of the home doesn’t seem feasible, there may be small ways to encourage contribution around the house (e.g. watering plants, helping to prepare a meal). Feeling useful and feeling like one has a purpose in life have been shown to have substantial positive impacts on health and well-being. While contributing to others won’t cure the disease, research suggests that it might help improve mood and quality of life.” – Molli Grossman, Dementia and Alzheimer’s Activities – Ideas for Stimulation and Fun, Kindly Care; Twitter: @kindlyhomecare
- Resistance training helps to maintain strength. “Resistance training builds muscle strength which can be lost through the natural aging process. Try the following activities:
- Passing a weighted ball to each other around a circle
- Half squats using a chair for support and balance
- Exercise bands or tubes” – Active Ideas for Dementia: Help for Caregivers, University of Kentucky – College of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service; Twitter: @UKAgriculture
Engaging Cognitive Activities
- Assemble jigsaw puzzles with large pieces. “Jigsaw puzzles with very large pieces. The images shouldn’t be child-oriented; try scenery or pictures of animals instead. Floor puzzles are good because they typically have large pieces, and there aren’t too many, which can be discouraging. Work on these on a table so you don’t have to struggle getting off the floor!” – Kay Paggi, Activities for Alzheimer’s and Dementia Patients, Caring.com; Twitter: @Caring
- Reminiscing can be comforting. “Reminiscence therapy is another type of cognitive stimulation that can help improve the quality of life for an individual with dementia. Reminiscence activities may include:
- Looking through photo albums
- Creating a scrapbook
- Telling ‘I remember when’ stories
- Re-reading saved letters and greeting cards
- Listening to music
- Baking and eating a special family recipe together” – Activities for Dementia Patients Can Provide Mind-Stimulating Benefits, CaregiverStress.com; Twitter: @homeinstead
- Sort hardware parts or coins. “Another way to enjoy handy activities is to have your seniors sort inexpensive hardware parts like these nuts, washers, or bolts.
“Some older adults might also enjoy sorting a big pile of coins as a reminder of when they used to manage household finances.” – 10 Activities for Seniors with Alzheimer’s: Inexpensive DIY Ideas, DailyCaring.com; Twitter: @DailyCaring
- Play a game of “name that tune.” “Doing a music quiz can be a great way to trigger memories and reminiscence about a particular era. If they struggle to say the name of the song, you could play musical bingo and provide words or images that are mentioned in the songs.” – 21 ideas for group activities in your care home, Unforgettable.org; Twitter: @unforget_org
- If your loved one has difficulty reading, read to them or use picture books. “Reading will become increasingly difficult for the person with dementia. Switch to books with larger print, or books with pictures. Consider getting tapes of books. It can be very fulfilling to read to the person, and this can be an activity that you and the person with dementia do together for relaxation.” – Helping with Activities of Daily Living, Dementia Care Notes
- Place familiar objects in a bag and ask the person to guess what’s inside. Choose a colorful bag, something that catches the eye, silk, or any other fabric that feels good to the touch. You don’t want to be able to see through the bag. It might have a rope so that you can tie it shut.
“Find random objects, such as kitchen utensils, keys, padlock, sun glasses, can of soup, feather, button, pen, various tools, bobbin, spool, yarn, zipper, clothes pin, hole puncher, the list can go on and on. I am aware that you all have a vivid imagination.
You can put one object at a time, or more.
They can either try to guess the object, say what the object can be used for, or count the objects in the bag. Without looking in the bag. Timer is provided as some individuals just need to figure out what that object is!” – Fidelma Carroll, What’s In The Bag, GoldenCarers.com; Twitter: @GoldenCarers
- Memory games can help to keep the brain active, but be mindful of frustration. “Memory games are a great way to keep the brain active. If your loved one is getting frustrated with not remembering, try again on a different day. Consider using pictures of common images they will recognize.” – 12 Activities That Are Beneficial to Those with Alzheimer’s, Aksarben Village; Twitter: @DRetirement
- Embrace artistic pursuits, such as painting, writing, or music. “Various forms of art such as music, visual arts, drama, and writing, are a great way for caregivers of people living with Alzheimer’s to engage creativity, improve behavioral issues, and provide an outlet for self-expression.” – Activities that stimulate the mind of people with Alzheimer’s, Elizz; Twitter: @ElizzTweets
- For the fix-it type, tightening screws into pieces of wood or fitting pieces of PVC together can be both cognitively stimulating and relaxing. “Was your loved one the fixer, the handyman, or the go-to guy? Maybe he’d like to sort through and match up nuts and bolts, or tighten screws into pieces of wood. Perhaps he’d like to connect smaller PVC pipes together. There are also activity boards with lots of ‘to do’ things attached that you can purchase.” – Esther Heerema, MSW, Creative Activities Ideas for People with Dementia, Verywell; Twitter: @Verywell
- Sometimes, a simple activity such as looking through old photos is enough. “One of the best activities is to look through old photos from your loved one’s childhood. If these aren’t readily available, print off or find a few older magazines or newspapers from their early adulthood to share with them and spark conversation.” – Activities to do with Someone with Alzheimer’s, Kenwood Care Assisted Living; Twitter: @KenwoodCare
- Encourage social activities. “Engage in social activities that require interaction with other people, such as playing a game, talking or drinking a cup of coffee with someone.” – 10 Activities for People Living with Dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease, Compassionate Care; Twitter: @CCareMI
- Create a scrapbook. “The act of collecting saved mementos and recording written memories associated with each will not only stimulate fond memories for the person with Alzheimer’s, but it’s also a good opportunity for that person to share and record snippets of personal history for future generations while he or she still can.” – 8 Memory-Sharing Activities for Someone With Alzheimer’s, Home Instead Senior Care; Twitter: @HomeInsteadIrl
- Bake or build. “Making and giving away baked goods is something many women enjoy doing – whether they are young or old and whether they have dementia or not. As the diseases progresses people with dementia may need more help, but they still take great pleasure in the process as well as the results.
“I find it helpful to get out and measure all the ingredients before we start to mix things together. Putting each ingredient away after it’s added is a good way of tracking what has been done.
“Men may be more accustomed to woodworking, ‘fixing,’ or doing DIY chores around the house. Use the same ‘baking’ principles to help them feel useful.” – AmazingSusan, 101 activities you can enjoy with a person living with Alzheimer’s dementia, My Alzheimer’s Story; Twitter: @MyAlzStory
- Have fun with Play-Doh or clay. “Give resident some clay or play dough and have them make something, anything. This is good exercise for their hands.” – Gina Salazar, What Can I Do This Weekend? Fun Activities To Do with Person Who Has Alzheimer’s, DementiaToday; Twitter: @DementiaToday
- Try art therapy. “Art therapy is another activity that has been proven to successfully engage adults with dementia. Whether it is painting with watercolor, assembling a collage or creating a clay ornament, art allows people who have lost verbal skills to express themselves.” – 10 Activities for Seniors With Dementia, Elmcroft Senior Living; Twitter: @ElmcroftLiving
- Music can also be powerful for people with Alzheimer’s disease. “Whether vocal or instrumental, playing music can help to create a mood, stimulate imagination, and be a source of great enjoyment.” – Alzheimer’s Disease: Creative Activity Ideas To Enrich Home Care, Continuum Care
- Take ordinary gardening to the next level with a sensory garden. “A growing number of care homes now offer a sensory garden for residents to spend time in. They are usually wheelchair-friendly and with carefully chosen plants and flowers to attract local wildlife. A sensory garden is a garden or other plot designed to provide visitors with different sensory experiences. For example, a sensory garden may feature:
- scented and edible plants
- sculptures and sculpted handrails
- water features that residents can hear and touch
- textured touch-pads
- magnifying glass screens
- Braille and audio induction loop descriptions
“Sensory gardens can benefit older adults by encouraging them to spend more time outside. Their design and layout aim to provide a stimulating journey through the senses, heightening a person’s awareness of what’s around them.” – Activities for dementia, NHS Choices; Twitter: @NHSChoices
- Use sensory bean bags. “Provide small bean bags made of different fabric textures: cotton, velvet and silk, and filled with different grains.” – 15 Activities For Late-Stage Alzheimer’s Disease, GoldenCarers.com; Twitter: @GoldenCarers
- For some people with advanced dementia, holding a doll can be comforting. “For advanced dementia patients who may take comfort in holding dolls, a series of dolls and doll clothes can make for a pleasurable activity.” – Mark Huntsman, Why the Montessori Method is Becoming a Popular Treatment for Dementia, Alzheimers.net; Twitter: @Alzheimersnet
- Plan outings. “Being in touch with the community inspires a great sense of well-being and purpose within all of us, and the best part is you don’t have to go far to find new things to explore. While the ordinary daily routines are great for structure and familiarity, exploring is another way to help your residents and offer self-esteem and a sense of self through discovery. Taking individuals with dementia on trips and outings is very important but can also cause confusion in some due to being in unfamiliar places. Be sure to plan your trips wisely and look for atmospheres that are less likely to cause additional stress and or anxiety. Outings offer a great avenue for reality orientation and help them tap in to what is going on around them.
“Try planning trips to the zoo, sporting events, art museums, fruit picking, or visiting with family and friends.” – 8 Important Program ideas for Alzheimer’s and dementia, LinkedSenior; Twitter: @linkedsenior
- Color pictures or doodle. “Who says senior home care has to involve senior activities? Do you remember your coloring books? Break out an Adult Coloring Book. Respect your loved one’s dignity with adult pictures, but you might enjoy meeting your loved one’s inner child.
“Look for simple designs (they can get quite ornate). Use color pencils rather than kids’ crayons.” – Senior Home Care: 7 Home Activities for People with Alzheimer’s, Skylark Senior Care
- Create a memory bag. “Fill the bag with items reminiscent of their late teens/early twenties. Scented products work well for this, as scents are strongly tied to memory. Try including soap, perfumes and aftershave, or holiday scents like gingerbread, pine and peppermint.” – Activities for Dementia Patients, A Place For Mom; Twitter: @APlaceForMom
- Try the art of needle felting. “Recently, in the facilities where I visit, residents have enjoyed the art of needle felting. The process is easy, continuous and allows for comfortable, natural exchange of conversation, friendship building.
“Everyone in the group is able to verbalize and write. If they were not, I would adjust the project for the people involved. Passing around a card and marker, we begin talking about the wonderful season that we are experiencing, the decorations, the gifts, the lights. I then ask: ‘What do you love most about what is going on right now?’ There is common ground on which we stand: family…friends…time together. They write those simple thoughts onto a piece of paper and we place it over to the left…
“We talk about the colors those people in our lives might be to us; what colors we might enjoy seeing. I demonstrate the easy process of felting, pass around an example of completed wool that has been felted. They begin to choose colors. Conversations arise as we talk about our pieces of paper, our reflections of those who reflect our hearts, our smiles. I share how I once read that writing a word or two on a piece of paper and placing it over to the left while doing art sometimes helps our memories.” – Aneesha Parrone, Using Needle & Wool Felting to Help People With Dementia, Art Therapy; Twitter: @arttherapy
- An Alzheimer’s activity mat is not only an engaging activity but also provides sensory stimulation. “Sew an Alzheimer’s Activity Mat with free sewing instructions as seen on Sewing With Nancy! Marcia Engquist, who designs Alzheimer’s Activity Aids, designed these activity mats after watching residents at a care center restlessly fidget. These easy-to-sew activity mats help soothe the agitated fidgeting of people with dementia or autism. Plus, the mats help focus their attention, stimulate senses, exercise hand muscles, and entertain users.” – Nancy Zieman, Sew an Alzheimer’s Activity Mat, NancyZieman.com; Twitter: @nancyzieman
- Music and visual cues can promote engagement. “Music is a large part of religious celebrations and provides an auditory cue for a person with Alzheimer’s disease. Carefully select hymns and songs that reflect their spiritual needs. Vocal and instrumental pieces, the sound of an organ, a piano, or church bells can provide spiritual fulfillment and encourage reminiscing.
“Visual cues can also promote engagement. For example, a person may have a photograph of a family wedding in their room. Using the photo to prompt a conversation can recall a cherished memory. They may not recognize the people in the photo, but they may know it was a very special event. Examples of other visual cues may include a cross or crucifix, a Bible, rosary, holy card, or a statue.” – Caring for the Spiritual Needs of Alzheimer’s Patients, Shadowbox Press; Twitter: @ShadowboxPress
Making the Most Out of Everyday Activities
- Incorporate life skills activities. “Life skills ‘stations’ are a more recent development in memory care programs. These enable residents to find comfort in practicing daily routines and life skills that were previously part of their everyday lives, such as folding laundry, hobby work, or gardening.
“In addition, some facilities have added computer-based, memory-stimulating programs such as Dakim Brain Fitness, which shows evidence of helping residents with Alzheimer’s and dementia remain more active through cognitive stimulation. As new generations of tech-savvy seniors enter senior living communities, even more technological advances will be required to meet their needs and expectations.” – John Moschner and Marki Greer, Unique Dementia Care Activities Boost Quality Of Life, Provider Magazine; Twitter: @ProviderMag
- Regular household chores offer familiarity and encourage physical activity. “Wash dishes, set the table, prepare food, sweep the floor, dust, sort mail and clip coupons, sort socks and fold laundry, sort recycling materials or other things.” – Adapting Activities for People with Alzheimer’s Disease, National Institute on Aging; Twitter: @Alzheimers_NIH
- Make cookie-cutter mini pancakes. “Some dementia activities are especially fun to do with kids, family or friends. For this one, you will need a pancake griddle and metal cookie cutters to pour the batter into, such as stars, hearts, Christmas trees, flowers, bells, Mickey Mouse, etc. Keep the cookie cutter around the batter until the shape sets. When done, people can choose decorations: raisins, apple slices, coconut, candies, nuts, even a little whipped cream. Great for a brunch or special birthday breakfast too.” – Mary Schulte, Meaningful Dementia Activities, ElderOneStop
- Repetitive tasks such as gardening are fulfilling. “Basic, repetitive tasks such as raking may fulfill your loved one, especially if he gardened in the past. Use herbs or other nontoxic plants that arouse multiple senses.” – Activities for People with Alzheimer’s Disease, AARP; Twitter: @AARP
- Arrange for a visit with a pet. “Much like children, animals can often touch people with Alzheimer’s more deeply than people can. Ed, my life partner who developed Alzheimer’s, typically ignored me completely whenever I took my little Shih Tzu, Peter, to visit him. He focused all of his attention on the dog.
“I’m reminded of a mid-stage Alzheimer’s patient at the facility where Ed lived who always had a blank expression on her face and never answered my greeting. I never heard her talk to anyone else either. But her eyes always lit up when I took Peter with me. Then one day when I arrived without him she spoke to me for the first time ever, asking ‘Where’s the dog?’
“There was another incident with a late-stage lady with Alzheimer’s whose face Peter licked when I held him up for her to see. I told her Peter didn’t usually ‘kiss’ people he didn’t know, and she immediately answered, ‘Dogs are very selective.’ Her son told me that was the first lucid remark she’d made for months.” – Marie Marley, Four Activities People With Alzheimer’s Can Typically Enjoy at All Stages of the Disease, Huffington Post; Twitter: @HuffPost