Seniors with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia need activities, stimulation and exercise. While keeping busy won’t necessarily alleviate symptoms or stave off the progression of this deadly disease, it can help ward off depression and vastly improve the quality of life of someone suffering from Alzheimer’s.
What activities can help give the senior in your care a sense of purpose and accomplishment, without frustrating them? Here are a few suggestions, which can be tailored or modified based on their interests and ability levels.
The repetitive physical activity of gardening can make it enjoyable and therapeutic for anyone. Actually growing healthy foods or beautiful flowers from your efforts creates a sense of accomplishment. Whether it’s spring, summer or fall, gardening is a healthy, fun way to spend time with a senior.
Choosing an easy puzzle, such as one with 100 large pieces, exercises a senior’s brain, assists in hand-eye coordination and promotes a sense of satisfaction when the puzzle is done. If a puzzle is too easy, you can move on to others with more pieces, or scale down to a puzzle with fewer pieces or a more simple picture.
Doing puzzles together is great fun and, when one is complete, you can use puzzle glue to hold the pieces together, frame it in a picture frame, and hang it up.
Get Creative with Artwork
Whether it’s poster paints, water color, acrylics, or even just crayons, seniors may enjoy drawing and coloring. Even those who didn’t consider themselves “artists” earlier in life may have fewer inhibitions now due to dementia. The upside is that they can enjoy the process of creating art without being overly critical of their creations.
Enlist a Senior’s Help with Housekeeping Tasks
Few of us enjoyed housework when we were younger and had to do it every day. But the repetitive, almost zen-like quality of tasks such as folding laundry or washing dishes can create a sense of peace, calm and familiarity for someone with Alzheimer’s.
Why not tackle a project you’ve been putting off for a while, such as heavy-duty dusting of all your knick-knacks? It will definitely be more fun for both of you if you work together, and taking a look at old Tchotchkes could provoke pleasant memories or emotions for the senior in your care.
Be careful when selecting housekeeping tasks. It’s a good idea to avoid projects involving harsh chemicals, especially if the senior has respiratory problems or emphysema, and avoid anything that may involve climbing or excessive stretching, such as washing windows. As we age, our balance is not as good and these tasks could be more dangerous than they should be.
Another way to evoke a senior’s “inner artist” is with scrapbooking projects. Start with just one page and a few photos, and place it in a frame to hang. Word of caution: scrapbooking can get expensive. Start with the basics of a few stickers, acid-free double-sided tape and some colored or patterned paper.
You can print out your own scrapbooking paper and designs for free on some websites. Also check the clearance racks of craft supply stores or clearance section of scrapbooking websites to get discontinued supplies at steep discounts.
Re-visit Activities Your Loved One Used to Love
Maybe none of the above ideas appeal to you, or you don’t think the senior in your care will enjoy them. But you’re not sure where to start. Begin by thinking about activities, interests and passions your loved one used to enjoy, whether it was music, travel, dance or something even more unconventional.
Then think of ways to modify this activity into something they can enjoy today, that is within their physical and mental capabilities.
It may take some time to find a few hobbies the senior in your care really loves. Don’t give up. It will be worth it when you get to spend quality time with your loved one and see the look of joy and delight on their face that comes from doing something fulfilling, fun and worthwhile.