Activities for People with Alzheimer’s

Activities are the “things that we do.”  These include getting dressed, doing chores, playing cards and even paying bills.  They can represent who we are and what we’re about.  Therefore, allowing the person with Alzheimer’s to participate in these activities can help him/her to maintain feelings of value and importance.  Activities can structure time and make the best of retained and existing abilities.  They can also help to lesson undesirable behavior such as wandering or agitation.  Planning activities is very important for an Alzheimer’s patient.  When planning activities, think about:

  • The person
  • The activity
  • Your approach

The Person
Consider the person’s likes and dislikes, strength and abilities and past interests.  As the disease progresses, keep activities flexible and be prepared to make adjustments.  Keep in mind that the person’s ability to follow instructions, perform steps in order, and maintain focus on the task at hand.  As the person’s dementia progresses, they’ll need more support from you to coach and support them through activities in your day.

The Activity
Make activities part of your daily routine.  Ask the person with Alzheimer’s to help you complete a task – like folding towels.  Focus on enjoyment and personal satisfaction, not achievement.  Find activities that build on remaining skills and talents.  Help the individual to feel like a valued part of the household – like setting the table, wiping countertops or emptying wastebaskets.  Relate the activity to the individual’s work life.  A businessperson might enjoy organization activities such as putting coins in a holder or assembling a mailing.  A farmer would probably enjoy working in the yard.  Try to be flexible and acknowledge the person’s changing interests and abilities.

Your Approach
Offer support and supervision.  You may need to show the person how to perform the activity and provide simple step – by – step directions.  Help the person remain as independent as possible.

Follow these tips:

  • Help get the activity started.
  • Break activities into simple, easy to follow steps.
  • Assist with difficult parts of the task.
  • Let him know he is needed.
  • Stress a sense of purpose.
  • Don’t criticize or correct the person.
  • Encourage self-expression.
  • Involve the person through conversation.
  • Substitute an activity for a behavior.
  • Minimize distractions that can frighten or confuse the person.
  • Try again later. If something isn’t working, it may be the wrong time of day or it may be too complicated.  Adapt the activity and try again.

For some ideas of ways to engage your loved one, check out our list of “101 Activities to do with a Person with Dementia.”

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