Fun and active ideas for engaging an Alzheimer’s patient
Gear activities to the patient’s ability to participate
Plan activities that the patient is interested in, such as art, cooking, walking, swimming, or gardening. Focus on enjoyment, not achievement. If the person is lucid enough, involve them in making music, doing puzzles or crosswords, or playing memory games, card or board games. Or, the patient may enjoy hearing music, contact with pets, or sitting outside in the garden.
Alzheimer’s patients no longer have the cognitive ability to understand your humor, they can still appreciate it. They may still smile or laugh and sharing that laughter can be a relief. Use the same modes of humor as you always have: teasing, nonsense, clowning. But know the boundaries.
Go for walks in the neighborhood, go for a drive, or spend time at a park. Walking is often therapeutic, although the pace may not be as vigorous as you might like. Develop a style of paying more attention to the beauty and the novelty of your surroundings as you walk.
Maintain an active social life
Counteract isolation and loneliness, encourage family and friends to stay involved. Take the patient to family gatherings if it’s comfortable to do so. Schedule visitors, to avoid surprises and have something to look forward to. Even if the elder with dementia does not recognize visitors, the contact is valuable for them.
Seek out organized group activities
Senior centers and adult day care facilities usually provide opportunities for structured activities such as exercise, sharing meals, group games and socializing. Some programs are set up specifically to meet the needs of dementia patients. This will provide social stimulation for the patient and respite for you, the caregiver.
As symptoms progress, unfamiliar people, places and activities can be upsetting or confusing. Routines are reassuring to Alzheimer’s patients. Some recommendations are to structure the day. Provide consistent environmental cues about the time of day. Help the person look forward to milestones. Be near the person, patients feel most comfortable if their caregiver is nearby.