Activities for Alzheimer’s

Let’s talk about activities to do with people with Alzheimer’s.  Life does not and should not come to a standstill just because a person has Alzheimer’s disease (AD). While they may have memory impairment and a decline in social skills, they’re still people with thoughts and feelings.

Adults who have parents with Alzheimer’s will find themselves in a very delicate and heartbreaking situation. On the one hand, they’ll remember all the memories they’ve shared with their parents, and on the other hand, their parents may not even be able to recollect these memories.

So, the children don’t really know what to do. How do you entertain and occupy a parent’s mind when they have difficulty concentrating and thinking, or even remembering who you are?

Today, I’ll reveal a few activities that can help people with Alzheimer’s. The key point to note here is that it’s not about what they achieve doing the activity that matters… but the fact that they’re involved in it that counts. It’s the doing that matters and not the end result.

Activities for Alzhiemer’s #1:  Gardening

This is a very simple activity that doesn’t require much thought and seniors will also be able to get some exercise from it. It’s important to ensure that they have hats and are not exposed to the hot sun for too long.

Some seniors may become obsessed with their gardening and want to spend hours on it. This too is not recommended. It’s best to have someone watching them while they engage in their gardening activities.  I gave my mom a flower garden in front of the house.  Mom loved flower gardening and had beautiful gardens all around her own home.  I wanted her to continue with flower gardening when she moved in with me.  Unfortunately, she was constantly watering that flower garden because she didn’t remember that she already had.  So that particular flower garden was only for one season.

As an alternative, I took my mom to a local garden shop a few times a year because she loved flowers and gardening.  While she was no longer able to garden, she still enjoyed looking at all the flowers the shop had. We’d spend a couple hours viewing the flowers and talking about them.  She appreciated the time out, and seeing all the varieties of flowers that were displayed.

#2:  Animals and pets

The thing about Alzheimer’s that’s hard to understand is that while there is cognitive decline and memory loss, many patients display the same love of animals that they had when they were younger and functioning optimally.

If your parents were attached to their pets, bringing them to a pet store or animal shelter to look at the dogs and cats will amuse and entertain them. Seniors even feel better when they stroke animals and play with them.

You can even bring them to the zoo to look at all the animals there and it will be a rewarding trip that makes them happy. It’s interesting trips like these that will perk them up and make them take notice.

My mom grew up on a farm, and loved animals, especially cats.  One of the first things I did when I moved my parents in with me was take my mom to a local shelter.  We found Bitsy, a gray tabby cat and adopted her.  Mom spent hours on the front porch every day talking to and petting Bitsy.

Though mom was no longer able to take care of a pet on her own, having a cat illuminated her world, gave her something to look forward to each day, and added a bit of joy to her life.  I still have Bitsy, and seeing her each day now provides me with wonderful memories of my mom.

Monotony kills… and people who are dealing with Alzheimer’s will benefit from being exposed to new sights and sounds. It will challenge their mind.

Activities For Alzheimer’s #3:  Music

There’s a saying that music soothes the savage beast. In this case, most people’s preferences for certain types of music doesn’t change much even when they age. The music they grew up listening to around the ages of 12 to 14 usually ends up becoming the music they love most.

If you know the music that your parents loved and listened to all the time, you should play these types of music around them. The songs and tunes may stir memories and make them reminisce or feel a sense of comfort from something that’s familiar, even if they aren’t sure what it is.

#4:  Window shopping

While seniors may not be interested in buying any new items, looking at attractive window displays will perk their curiosity. This is especially true during festive periods like Christmas, when shops go the extra mile to decorate their premises to attract customers.

If you’re shopping, you can always get your loved one to accompany you. Depending on what stage of Alzheimer’s they’re at, they may be able to give suggestions and help you with the shopping.  Things like pushing the cart at the grocery store will make them feel useful and will keep them from wandering off, too.

Activities For Alzheimer’s #5:  Include them in your life

A person with Alzheimer’s Disease should not be shunned or left to sit quietly in a home on their own. Include them in your family activities and celebrations. While they won’t need to do much, they’ll be able to meet the rest of the family members and feel the cheer.

A lot of it comes down to how they feel. When the mind starts to go, the heart is what matters. Make them feel loved and happy and carefree. They may not remember all the names and faces, but they’ll enjoy the attention and love.

#6:  Light exercise

Activities For Alzheimer's: Walking

Forget the treadmills and stationery bikes. Take them out on a scenic walk. Let them appreciate the sights and sounds. If they were nature lovers when young, on a subconscious level, the beautiful scenery will appeal to their soul.

My mom really enjoyed walking.  It was a daily routine for her to take a walk after eating her lunch.  In the later years, when she tended to wander off, I made a point to walk with her around the yard and point out the various flowers that were blooming.

Alzheimer’s doesn’t really change who they are at their core. They’ll usually still love the same things that they used to, even if they can’t express themselves or show it.

If you don’t wish to walk, you can take them on a drive through the country where they can gaze upon the landscapes and get lost in their own thoughts. These activities are a welcome break from looking at the 4 walls in their house or wherever they’re being cared for.

Activities For Alzheimer’s #7:  Out For A Meal

The restaurant doesn’t have to be a fancy or expensive one.  Just one that serves food that suits their taste.  I used to take Mom to Denny’s for lunch occasionally and she really enjoyed it.  Of course, I ordered for her, but she enjoyed looking through the menu.  Then, all the way home she would thank me for taking her out to eat.

#8:  Museums and Craft Shows

My mom was an artist.  She painted and did many drawings in her lifetime.  She also enjoyed crafts, so taking her to museums, art shows, art galleries and craft shows seemed to awaken that part of her.  It was like a light switch was turned on inside of her.  When my sister came to visit each year, she usually brought a simple craft project that she and mom would enjoy doing together during her visit.  Then mom would have the finished project to view and admire long after my sister had returned home.

Activities For Alzheimer’s Conclusion

At the end of the day, Alzheimer’s may rob the person of their memories and thinking skills. But at the root of it all, they’re still the same person… and if you appeal to who they are by introducing them to familiar sights and sounds, they will, in most cases, respond positively.

It can be a tiring and soul-sucking process to narrow down the activities that appeal to them. You’ll be required to have patience and a strong heart. But if you persevere, you’ll discover just what your loved one likes and you’ll both be rewarded.  Your loved one will enjoy the time with you and the activity.  You’ll have created more treasured, joyful memories of the time spent with your loved one.  Laughter with your loved one is one of the things I talked about one of my podcasts.  You can check out that episode here.

Once the sunlight breaks through the clouds, you’ll realize that all your efforts were worthwhile.  It’ll be rewarding just to see your parents/senior smile and be happy for that short while.

What the mind can’t remember, the heart never forgets.

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