The ability to stay active is essential to a senior’s continued quality of life and care. In the case of those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, finding and tailoring activities to the unique challenges of this disease can add fun and hope to our days.
This guide to Alzheimer’s activities can give you an endless supply of new ideas for sharing quality time with your loved one.
Rules of Thumb for Alzheimer’s Activities
Keeping a loved one diagnosed with Alzheimer’s engaged and active can be one of the best ways to improve their quality of life. Simple, useful, and familiar tasks can increase the good days and moments with your loved one by lessening agitation, confusion, and depression.
Carefully selected activities can help maintain motor skills and some sense of accomplishment. The benefits also extend to caregivers and family members by reducing frustrating moments and maintaining a healthy relationship.
As you begin to plan activities to enjoy with your loved one here are a few general guidelines for designing your Alzheimer’s activities.
- Make Activities Meaningful – Don’t just fill the time. Try to find activities that will give your loved one a sense of accomplishment or remind them of the things they used to enjoy.
- Revisit Past Interests – People with Alzheimer’s often hold on to old habits and skills. By revisiting past interests, you can trigger positive memories and a sense of accomplishment.
- Keep Activities Simple – Anything that you do should be as free from frustration as possible. Try to reduce activities to their most basic form.
- Ensure Activities are Failure Free – Create activities that don’t have a right and wrong way to do things. The creative freedom inherent in art and crafts can make these excellent activities.
- Do Activities During the Best Time of the Day for Your Loved One – Most people who have Alzheimer’s settle into routines that present good and bad periods throughout the day. Leverage those rhythms to pick the best time to try activities.
- Do Things that Allow Your Loved One to Manipulate Materials – Tactile experiences, activities that allow loved ones to use their hands and touch and feel different materials can be some of the most rewarding.
- Give Verbal and Visual Instruction – To reduce frustration, feel free to guide your loved one with words and movement – guide their hands and demonstrate how to do things.
- Repeat Favorite Activities and Create Routines – Take note of the activities that bring the most joy. Routines and repetition can give your loved one a sense of security. Revisit those activities that seem to create positive experiences for your loved one.
Given these general guidelines, develop a group of activities that you want to start trying with your loved one. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
7 Activities to Stimulate Loved Ones With Alzheimer’s
Everyone loves having a sense of purpose. Our seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s are no different, but too often we unintentionally leave them out of day-to-day activities. Simple chores and errands give all of us little purpose-filled moments of accomplishment.
Take the time to ask your aging loved one to ride along with you as you run errands or encourage them to help you with daily chores. The change of scenery and completing tasks can encourage Alzheimer’s patients and caregivers.
Simple examples of these types of activities include:
- Make a shopping list, clip coupons, and then invite them to come along as a companion on your next shopping trip.
- Tidy up or organize their room or a room in your home in anticipation of an upcoming family visit or dinner.
- Help you with a baking or cooking project, even if it is just browsing the Internet and picking out recipe ideas.
Art & Crafts
One of the best ways to improve the quality of life for loved ones diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is to get them creating. Arts and crafts projects are some of the best ways to spark the power of creativity in a senior’s life.
Find opportunities to help your loved one manipulate materials, use their hands, and engage their minds all in a single activity. Projects that allow us to work alongside our loved one to get our hands moving and brains whirring always create positive experiences. Add to this the benefit of walking away with a couple of treasures to put on display, will brighten everyone’s day.
Here are some ideas for your next craft day:
- Do finger or water painting. If you want more structure or artistic guidance, try paint by numbers.
- Make slime with your loved one. This super popular children’s activity is a great one to get younger grandkids involved with – they can show grandma or grandpa the latest trend.
- Painting ceramics. These are easy to find projects and give you an endless supply of useful knick-knacks and gifts to adorn your loved ones as well as your own home.
The beauty of art when working with a loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s is there is no right way to do it, eliminating the frustration of failure.
Movement is critical to getting oxygen into the bloodstream and to the brain, maintaining muscle mass, bone density, and basic mobility as we age. All of these benefits are important to memory care and general quality of life.
Look for any opportunity to get your senior loved one moving in different ways.
For those with less mobility, this can be just moving in place. Get them to use their hands, move their arms, or even shifting their body to participate in an art project, look through a book or picture album, or play a simple game.
For those that are more mobile, have them take short walks or move from room to room. Get them engaged – walking and talking. Have them tour you around their home or assisted living area. Get them to tell you the story behind pictures or tell you their favorite things about a room or the scenery from the patio, or in the garden.
Nothing encourages engagement and mental activity like games. Games are a great way to get a small group of family members or friends participating in caring for an Alzheimer’s suffering senior.
Find simple, frustrating free games. These can be simple puzzles, matching or sequencing games, bingo, checkers, dominoes or other familiar games. Try to make sure that the games you chose are appropriate to your loved one’s current abilities.
Games have the added ability to give you a non-threatening assessment tool to gauge the current level of memory care necessary for your loved one.
Like art, music is a great way to engage the mind, regardless of its current state of memory capacity. Music is something that often triggers memories, emotions, and reactions that can transport a person living with Alzheimer’s to a more comfortable and familiar place.
Try to find music that your loved one once enjoyed or at least was contemporary with their generation. Can you uncover an old stash of albums, playlist from a wedding or special event, or maybe just put together some golden oldies that can get your loved one talking.
The key to this kind of activity is to get those who have Alzheimer’s to talk with you about the music and of course dance or move around a bit.
Research has shown both real and robo-pets to have a positive effect on those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Pets are the ultimate examples of unconditional love.
Most anyone’s face will light up at the sight of a furry little pal.
Just make sure that any pet you introduce is appropriate to your senior’s current condition – they should be well trained or familiar to your loved one.
Even as memories begin to deteriorate, don’t assume that all memories are fading. Engaging your loved one in open-ended conversations can allow them to enjoy the moments they do recall without the frustration and stress of remembering specific things.
Reminiscing can also be very reassuring and enjoyable experience for caregivers – giving them an opportunity to learn and document family history.
Alzheimer’s is unquestionably one of the most challenging diseases for both those diagnosed and those giving care. As a journey that is often defined by moments of deteriorating condition, participating with your loved one in fun and rewarding activities can add many bright moments along the way.