Although suffering with a challenging illness, seniors with Alzheimer’s disease still enjoy the opportunity to participate in interesting, fun, and meaningful activities. It can be difficult however, to always know the best kinds of activities for Alzheimer’s patients. Whether you are caring for a family member, or work as a professional caregiver for someone who suffers from memory impairment, you will find that there are many activities that can provide the Alzheimer’s patient with a chance to boost their memory while sharing in an enjoyable experience with you.
What to Keep in Mind When Planning Activities for Alzheimer’s Patients
According to the Alzheimer’s Organization, it is important to keep several things in mind when planning activities for Alzheimer’s patients. Activities need to be appropriate for the individual, and need to keep their abilities and limitations in mind. You will want to be mindful of the time of day, as most Alzheimer’s patients react to things very differently in the evening, as compared to the morning. Also, always keep the focus of the activity on the enjoyment of it: it is the experience of the activity that is important to the memory-impaired, not the end result. And as the caregiver, your role will be to get it started, assist as necessary, but not to correct or criticize. The purpose here is to create enjoyment for the person!
Art Activities Offer Enjoyment for Alzheimer’s Patients
Art offers the perfect opportunity for someone suffering from dementia to participate in something creative and very meaningful. Art projects also allow the Alzheimer’s patient to communicate in ways that they may no longer be able to do. Each person will approach this type of activity differently, based on their level of functioning: some will be very elaborate while others will be more childlike in their approach. For many, just putting their brush, marker, or crayon to paper will be challenging.
Keep in mind that just the process of using art materials will help the memory-impaired with simple things like labeling what they are using and describing their artwork. Conversation with the Alzheimer’s patient is an important aspect of doing art with them!
It is important, when gathering supplies for art activities for those with dementia, to always use safe, non-toxic supplies, and no sharp objects. Be patient, and do not hurry the person. It is the process that matters, not the result, and make no judgment about when the project is “done”.
Music Provides the Backdrop for Many Alzheimer’s Activities
Musical activities provide many benefits to those with dementia. Playing songs from the person’s youth can stir memories and offer him/her the chance to enjoy a wonderful experience. Whether vocal or instrumental, playing music for Alzheimer’s patients can help to create a mood, stimulate imagination, and be a source of great enjoyment for the memory-impaired. Many folks, who played an instrument like the piano in their youth, find great comfort in that same activity. Others, who may have sung in a choir when young, will enjoy singing songs that they remember.
Use recorded tapes, CDs, or even live music, but avoid radio/TV, as the commercials and interruptions may be confusing for the Alzheimer’s person. Encourage them to participate by clapping and even dancing if they are able. Musical activities for Alzheimer’s patients can be one of the most rewarding types of things you can provide for the person you care for. Be sure to enjoy the time with them.
Card Games are the Start of Many Beneficial Alzheimer’s Activities
Using a deck of playing cards, or educational flash cards can form the basis for all kinds of activities for Alzheimer’s patients. The key here is to keep it simple and appropriate for the person. The focus will be on things like recall, sorting, identifying, and simple reasoning. As with other activities, make it fun and positive: there is no right or wrong!
Some simple types of activities that you can do with a memory-impaired person and cards are:
• Sorting activities. Sort by color, number, suit, or anything else depending on the cards you are using. For some later-stage Alzheimer’s patients, it may be appropriate to simply count the cards.
• Matching activities. Help the person with dementia to match things that are the “same” or perhaps in the same “category”. This works very well with simple educational flash cards.
• Play simple card games such as Old Maid, or Go Fish.
• Play bingo. Help the person to recognize numbers and place their chip (or make a mark) appropriately.
With simple tools or supplies and a sense of enjoyment, you can provide many fun, beneficial, and meaningful activities for your Alzheimer’s patient or loved one. Be creative, be patient, and have fun with them.