It isn’t uncommon for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia to pull back from their favorite activities – especially during the early stages of the disease. In addition to improving their quality of life, continuing to participate in activities can benefit your loved one in a variety of ways. By making simple adjustments you can help your loved one continue to enjoy activities – even as their disease progresses.
This blog shares the benefits of activities for adults with dementia, how you can adjust activities for your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, and ideas for activities you can enjoy together.
Why are Activities Important for Adults with Dementia?
Activities can provide a sense of purpose and independence, as well as help to lessen any agitation or anxiety your loved one might be experiencing. Loneliness and isolation are often associated with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia – activities can be a simple way to incorporate more socialization into your loved one’s daily routine.
On a practical level, activities can help your loved one maintain skills they use every day. Writing, drawing, singing, or dancing – activities can also be a great way for your loved one to express their feelings.
Depending on the type of activity, caregivers may be able to enjoy a few quiet moments alone, or spend time bonding with their loved one.
How to Adapt Activities for Adults with Alzheimer’s Disease
Adapting activities for your loved one doesn’t need to be complicated or time intensive. As you plan, keep in mind that your loved one may be worried about choosing the “right” activity, or concerned they won’t be able to remember how to start or finish it. To help alleviate any pressure your loved one might be feeling, emphasize enjoying the experience rather than the end result. To get started, try these suggestions from the Alzheimer’s Association:
- Assess their skills. Understand your loved one’s abilities and suggest activities that are appropriate for their skill level.
- Match the activity to their energy level. Early morning is typically the best time for higher energy tasks like cleaning or gardening. Save lower energy tasks like reading or listening to music for the afternoon or early evening hours.
- Follow their interests. What does your loved one enjoy doing? If possible, modify those activities so they can continue to enjoy.
- Set the stage for success. Your loved one may need assistance with starting an activity or remembering the correct sequence. Be ready to give guidance, but allow them to do as much as possible on their own. Give plenty of time for the activity and try to remain patient.
- Keep safety in mind. Adjust activities based on your loved one’s physical limitations such as impaired sight or hearing, or limited mobility.
- Have a back-up plan. Be prepared with a few different activities, just in case your loved one isn’t interested in the one you suggest.
Keep in mind that you likely will need to adjust activities as your loved one moves through the stages of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
Activity Ideas for Adults with Dementia
Look for opportunities throughout your day where you can involve you loved one. Can they help you set the table, or dry the dishes after a meal? Do they enjoy gardening or other types of yard work?
Need more ideas? Alzheimer Scotland shares some additional activities that individuals with dementia may enjoy, including:
- Paint, draw or write. If your loved one enjoys being creative, consider purchasing an art kit that you can do together. A trip to your local craft store, or a quick search online will yield dozens of art projects that you can try. Does your loved one enjoying writing? Encourage them to write their favorite memories down, so they can be shared with other members of the family.
- Sing or Dance. Do you know what type of music your loved one enjoys listening to? If you have a Spotify account, consider creating different playlists that can be used for different situations – relaxing, bedtime, etc. If your loved one enjoys moving to the music, create a mix and join them on the dance floor!
- Read or listen to a book. If your loved one is able, reading can be a relaxing activity. Audiobooks are a great alternative if reading is too difficult or frustrating for your loved one. Many libraries offer audiobooks that you can borrow using your library card with the Overdrive or Libby Try suggesting books based on their interests or recommend books by their favorite author.
- Play a game. Puzzles, as well as easy card or board games can be a fun activity for you and your loved. If they have trouble using their fingers or have difficulty seeing, look for puzzles and card games with larger pieces and easy-to-read lettering.
- Create a memory box. Fill an empty shoe box with pictures and other mementos (playbills, tickets to a sporting event or concert, etc.) from your loved one’s past. Looking through the box together can be a good activity – especially when they are anxious, or uninterested in other activities.
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