Activities Can Provide Meaningful Benefits
An Alzheimer’s diagnosis can hit your family like a ton of bricks. What happens now? Will everything change? Will our family lose our independence and our privacy? One of the things we all want to do is to change things at little as possible for as long as we can. Something that seems to work is to continue to engage in the activities you love. Whether this is playing chess or solving a crossword puzzle, make it a goal to keep your loved one active throughout the day as maintaining a fulfilling daily routine is crucial for increasing anyone’s quality of life. If you’re a caregiver, your loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia doesn’t have to give up the activities they love. While battling this disease, you might need to make adjustments to each activity in order to better match their abilities. Here are some of my best suggestions:
- Consider his enjoyment. Does he like watching sports or do the noises and movements overwhelm him? Keep in mind that your loved one’s interests may change over time and take note of when he seems happy, anxious, or irritable and adjust his activities as needed. If football is no longer appealing, try finding enjoyment in calmer activities like watching documentaries or mysteries.
- Don’t forget about her abilities. Try to keep the activities that she enjoys in her daily routine. Modify these activities to match her strengths and abilities.
- Take note of if your loved one starts activities without direction. Does he begin their morning with a puzzle? If so, include puzzles in his daily routine.
- Be aware of physical difficulties. Does she become easily tired or have trouble with balance?
- Emphasize enjoyment, not achievement. Encourage activities that enhance your loved one’s skills and ability.
- Encourage involvement. Activities like setting the table or changing the laundry can help someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia continue to feel like a valued member of the household. These activities can also provide a sense of success.
- Relate activities to work life. If your loved one worked in an office, she may enjoy activities that organize a space like sorting mail or color-coding folders.
- Keep the time of day in mind. Your loved one may find specific activities easier to complete in the morning or night. For example, bathing might be easier in the morning.
How you approach
If you notice that your loved one is losing interest or becoming irritated, it is most likely time to change or stop the activity.
- Help start the activity. Some individuals might still have the desire and energy to partake in an activity but can struggle to take the initiative to begin.
- Show support. You may need to show your loved one how to participate in an activity and break your explanation into basic steps.
- Be flexible. If he expresses discontent with the situation, it may be due to fear of doing the activity. Don’t force him to continue. If he wants to try the activity another way, allow him to continue and make the needed adjustments later.
- Help with challenging parts of an activity. Jump in during the hard parts. If your loved one is having trouble measuring an ingredient, finish the measuring, then ask her to do the mixing. This allows her to know she is an important part of the household. Do be careful about how many requests you are asking her to complete.
- Try not to criticize. Encourage him to engage in activities that bring him joy, even if it seems insignificant or redundant to you.
- Make connections. If you ask her to send a thank you card, she may be uninterested. By saying “I am making a thank you card” and extending an invitation to join you, she may be more inclined to partake in the activity.
- Encourage self-expression. Incorporate activities that allow self-expression. These activities could range from painting, dancing, drawing, or music.
- Make lively conversation. While you’re doing household tasks, talk about what you’re doing. Regardless of how much she can engage, communication is beneficial.
When it comes to cognitive decline, helping your loved one stay active is crucial. Not only do activities enhance overall health and wellbeing, but they can also reduce feelings of irritation and disorientation. Always remember that your loved one wants to be doing things they enjoy, but sometimes just need help starting their day.