Activities to do with an Alzheimer’s patient
It can be challenging to keep an Alzheimer’s patient active and engaged in everyday living. You may feel that that there is too much time and not enough things to do when caring for your loved one. Planning activities while you are inundated with your caregiving duties is an important part of the caregiving experience.
There are proven activities that can keep you and your patient busy and engaged. The thing to remember most is that you need not fill a whole day with such activities, just time periods that fill your patient with emotions that make him or her feel involved and alive. Activities can help reduce stress for you as well as the patient. In most cases, the simplest of things can be of great importance to the patient as well as yourself. Let’s take a look at some things you can do to help in this regard.
Assuming there are no mobility issues, what is easier than walking? Walking reduces stress as well as giving you quality time with your patient. Nobody is saying that you have to go on a marathon walk, but even 10 to 15 minutes outside can make all the difference in the world. When you are walking, be sure to change the route from time to time to make the activity a little more enjoyable. Be sure to point out different things along the way and talk about the most interesting things you see. This helps keep your patient’s mind and body active, contributing to a feeling of being engaged.
Music has been a part of everyone’s life at one time or another. Music is one of those things that can stir emotions, bringing back memories of times when things were good in our lives. Do a little research here to find out what type of music your patient enjoys. When people hear a particular song that they liked when they were younger, it helps in making them feel better: their mood can change instantaneously when that happens. You can use music to set the mood for your patient. Make sure that when you use music there are no other distractions to confuse your patient. Distractions can really disrupt the thought process and ruin the objective you are trying to achieve. Try to get your patient involved by asking him or her to clap to the music, and maybe even ask your patient to dance. Music can soothe the spirit and inspire the body!
Using art as an activity can be a challenging thing to do if neither you nor your patient has had any experience with it. But art is one of those activities that can be used as a fun thing, whether (or not!) you or your patient have any creative juice. If you or your patient does have some artistic ability, however, tapping into inner creativity can last all day long and keep both of you busy. Whether or not you or your patient is “good” at art, being creative will bring back emotions and keep the mind active. Art is a challenging thing for the mind; it keeps the mental motors running.
Try to introduce conversation into the project, interject encouraging comments, talk about what your patient is creating and what it means to them.
Remember to use non-toxic paint if you’re painting, and don’t use sharp objects because having sharp tools around could make a good situation go bad in a hurry.
Do not feel the project has to be completed in one sitting; completing the project over several sittings is another way of keeping your patient active. The project is completed when the patient says it’s completed; don’t ever say that it’s finished before the patient says it’s finished.
Something as simple as putting scrapbook together certainly qualifies as a creative project. Organizing old photographs in a scrapbook can bring back memories, bring back emotions, and can be a very enjoyable activity. There are whole websites dedicated to scrapbooking. Visit some of these sites to get ideas and instruction. A scrapbook will keep you and your patient busy while keeping the mind for your patient active.
Pets have way of making people feel good about themselves; pets usually react very positively to people who show an interest in them. Pets crave attention just like humans do. Studies have shown that people who have had pets live longer, happier lives.
You have to keep in mind not every patient will react positively to pets; people who have had pets in the past will react better than patients who have not had any pets before. Ask yourself what type of pet would be good for your patient. For example, patients who are a little more mobile and active may enjoy a dog more than a cat. People who are less mobile may prefer a cat over a dog. Any way you look at it, pets can have a very positive effect on your patient.
Games can benefit Alzheimer’s patients by keeping their minds active and involved. There are literally thousands of different kinds of games to introduce—or reintroduce—to your patient.
You have to keep in mind the level of skill your patient can handle. The differing stages of Alzheimer’s will dictate what games he or she can play. Board games and memory games are very good for an Alzheimer’s patient who is the early stages of the disease. Card games that your patient may have played earlier in life may or may not be possible now. Patients in differing stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s will determine which games will give them the greatest enjoyment.
We here at the Alzheimer’s Research Association endorse the products of Lumosity.com, a company that provides games to improve brain health and performance. Luminosity.com is the leader in this field and has researched the field of using games as a way of keeping the mind active and healthy.
Reading is another activity that may help you in your quest to find things to do with your patient. Even simply reading the newspaper to your patient can be of great help.
If your patient has read the newspaper in the past but finds it too difficult to do now, try reading it to him or her. When you find a particular article that interests your patient, start a conversation about it, discuss the merits of the article, get your patient engaged, and help him or her along with the discussion.
Books, magazines, blogs, and websites all have great reading material to help engage patients and keep their minds active. Encourage their involvement and discussion.
You will want to stay away from reading material that would upset or agitate your patient. Sensitive and controversial topics might best be avoided.
The ideas we just discussed are just a few ideas of what you can do with your patient. Remember that any activity that you find useful and engages the patient is just another part of the caregiving process.
If you find other activities that work with for you and your patient, by all means use them and use them frequently.
And, if you would like to share any activities that you have found fun and effective, please contact us.