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Choosing Activities for a Person Living with Alzheimer's Disease

By Mandy Quinn, The Cottages Senior Living
As the number of people affected by Alzheimer’s grows each year, there is an increasing need to understand the activity needs of someone with Alzheimer’s disease. Activities are a key component of daily living, as it provides a routine. They can be soothing and calming, which in turn can lower feelings of aggression or agitation. However, this routine and the type of activities need to be modified as the disease progresses in order to continue to live a more peaceful and enjoyable life.

In the early stages of Alzheimer’s it is important to stay connected with family and friends. After diagnosis, a person is recommended to continue with activities and hobbies that they enjoy with slight adjustments. For example, rather than having a dinner party at a busy restaurant with 12 people, a more intimate gathering of 4 – 6 at someone’s home would be more enjoyable. This would also be a great time to join a support group and discuss feelings and concerns with others facing the same situation.

Starting in the early stage of the disease, consistency is key in order to mitigate confusion. As the disease progresses, writing and handling objects may become more difficult. As daily activities require more assistance, it will be more productive to focus on enjoyment of an activity, rather than the completion of a task. Step-by-step instruction are good for keeping people involved, such as coloring, washing vegetables for dinner, watering plants, or flower arranging. The person with Alzheimer’s needs to feel like they are contributing, so household duties such as sweeping or dusting furniture are a great way to keep them engaged. Moderate exercise is also a great way to stimulate the brain, such as playing horseshoe or beanbag toss. Tossing a ball back and forth can assist with interaction and coordination.

People living with moderate stage Alzheimer’s will spend time reminiscing of the past. Ask questions to allow them to open up about their past experiences. This is a great time to document stories about family history. Picture books and photo albums can be a great way to stimulate conversation. Some additional ideas for soothing activities could be listening to music as well as singing. Caring for a baby doll can soothe an agitated person. Some people try to keep a baby doll, play crib and doll clothes available for comfort.

As the disease progresses to the severe stage, round the clock care is needed to keep the person safe and calm. They may experience loss of verbal skills, so engagement through sight will be the most soothing. At this time, movies with peaceful animals and calming landscape environments, as well as dolls to embrace, will be beneficial in most cases. Soothing, quiet music can create a calming atmosphere.

Most importantly, try to keep the activities calming and relaxing. If you see that a particular activity is agitating or upsetting, move onto another. Keep in mind that the Alzheimer’s world is their new reality. Providing care in a supportive environment, with stage-appropriate activities, is the optimal way to ensure the best quality of life for the person living with Alzheimer’s disease, as well as the caregiver.