Recreational Activities for Dementia & Alzheimer Patients
Can caregivers of people suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease interact with those under their care to help slow the progress of the symptoms?
This week I read an excellent article which addresses the frustration of experiencing Alzheimer’s. It outlines positive effects of daily mental stimulation from failure-proof activities.
Read more to find out what constitutes failure-proof activities and why they are so important for those suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of Dementia.
Therapy: Moving Beyond Boredom, Frustration, and Isolation
Autism, Lyme, Dementia, (including Alzheimer’s Disease)… the list goes on…
These are among the diseases which blindside families every day around the world. Each of these diseases strikes at the mind, body and emotions of the patient, and some have causes which are not completely understood.
We must continue to research causes and cures for these diseases, but how are patients and family members to cope with the impact of them now, in their daily lives?
How are they to move beyond coping, to enjoying life?
When children struggle with the sensory overload that often accompanies autism, more and more, parents are receiving support and seeing improvement through music and movement therapy for their kids. Occupational therapy is also helpful in building the child’s skills and confidence. This is good for the emotional wellbeing and health of the whole family.
There is also a growing body of professionals, who are addressing the need of various therapies for the elderly.
Therapists recognize the damage which feelings of boredom, frustration, and isolation inflict on the elderly who suffer from various types of dementia. They support family members who may feel equally isolated as they struggle to provide faithful care for their loved one.
- Occupational therapists help patients figure ways to maintain daily routines which create a sense of dignity and control.
- Music and movement therapists provide activities to stimulate the mind, promote stronger bodies and sustain healthier emotions.
However, as these therapists know, not all activities are created equal. Some activities become overwhelming and lead to frustration which can increase the feelings of depression and isolation.
The objective is to offer simple activities, which help reinforce the patient’s self-esteem while relieving boredom and frustration. This, for the caregiver, involves being alert to the preserved abilities of the patient and helping develop and use the skills he or she still has. The more involved Alzheimer’s patients remain with the world around them, the more resourceful they will become at finding ways to keep their world from slipping away. AIGS.com
Failure-proof Recreational Activities: Therapy That’s Fun!
The most important aspect of a failure-proof activity is that it doesn’t frustrate.
Be open minded about any activities you present, if something doesn’t work, change it up or ditch it. It isn’t worth getting your feelings hurt over it. These ideas can be used (sometimes with modifications) nursing homes, or with in-home care. Keep note of what was a hit and what wasn’t.
Of course, that may change too, so be flexible and think of this as a worthy challenge and adventure.
Here we go:
- Compile a track of oldies that are favorites to play, you are sure to get some toes tapping.
- While they’re listening to some great music, why don’t you pull out a stretchy band! Use one long stretchy band for the group (you might want to have them sit), or a single band per person. Stretching in time to the beat is a great way to build up muscle and get the circulation going.
- Hand out colorful scarves next, or beautiful ribbons streamers. I know, I know, we think these are for kids, but I’ll tell you, the times I sneak away with one of these to dance with, it makes me smile. That swirling color is mesmerizing.
- Speaking of oldies, some people love to play Corn Hole. Corn Hole uses bean bags which are tactile, soft and shouldn’t do too much damage if someone gets a little wild with their toys. You can build a corn hole using instructions, or use buckets or bowls or cardboard boxes for the holes.
- Watch old movies together. When you enjoy old movies together, you’re-not-doing-nothing. You are communicating the value that your loved one has to you.
- Walks are an excellent way to reduce stress for the elderly who able. However, if this is not a failure-proof activity for him or her, don’t agonize over it, move on to another option.
- Listen to stories. When you take the time to listen time and time again, you are allowing your loved one to feel connected.
- Have a reading time (this is good for a group or individual, as long as you have a way to make yourself adequately heard). Read old local newspapers, if you can get your hands on them, read magazines and classic books and poetry and the Bible.
- Have a sing time and take requests! Churches often are willing to come into Nursing Homes and sing hymns, find out if there is one near you that will send volunteers.
- Buy or print free from the web some beautiful coloring pages. It’s amazing what’s out there now! Provide plenty fresh crayons.
- Paint together and create a place on the wall to hang them using a long string anchored to the wall at two points. Hang the pictures using paper clips or clothes pins.
- Provide a piano, or a keyboard with headphones, whichever works best. Many people can still play instruments when other skills seem spotty. Need a guitar or other instrument? Ask around to see if someone wants to sell theirs, or will donate.
- Bring in someone who specializes in pets for therapy. Some people find pets very relaxing.
- Ask a school or homeschool co-op if they can send a choir, ensemble or instrumental group to come and play one afternoon.
- Go for a drive on a beautiful day (I love doing this in Autumn).
- Play a board game or puzzle. If one is not the right fit, move on to another. Find inexpensive classics at garage sales second-hand stores.
- Cook familiar foods together and let your loved one do the parts she or he is comfortable with.
- Create a calendar of local events that your loved one might enjoy. If outings are stressful, then don’t sweat this, do something fun at home.
- Have an ice-cream social with all of the toppings.
Here is a link to the article which discusses the role of Failure-Proof Alzheimer’s Activities (I highly recommend it.) Failure-proof activities are beneficial:
- For stimulating the brain.
- Slowing progress of the disease.
- Lessoning frustration.
- Giving purpose, enjoyment and hope.
- Preventing the spiral into isolation.
These are additional links which I found helpful.
- Recreational Activities to Reduce Behavioural Symptoms in Dementia
- How can occupational therapy improve the daily performance and communication of an older patient with dementia and his primary caregiver?
- Ideas for Nursing Home Activities
- Group Movement Activities
To you who are struggling with Dementia-related diseases in your loved ones: My heart is with you.
To those who are researching, writing, providing therapy and creating tools for all of us who are caring for our loved ones, young or old: Thank you. You help us know we are not alone.
The Songaminuteman: Beauty in the Midst of Alzheimer’s Disease
Mac McDermott shows us the perfect example of what a failure-proof activity can look like and the enrichment can bring to your family and others. Be inspired what he has to say on his Facebook About Page
Dad was a singer all his life – he was a Butlin’s Redcoat and then travelled around singing in clubs around the country. He worked in a factory after he got married and still did the bit of singing on side. His nickname is The Songaminute Man – simply because of how many songs he knows.
In the last few years his memory has deteriorated a lot – often not recognising family and with many aggressive episodes.
However, now when we’ve got him singing again he’s back in the room. It’s these moments that we treasure.
The plan is to share as much of Dad’s singing as we can and hopefully help raise money to fund the work of the Alzheimer’s Society – more specifically to go towards paying for a person at the end of the phoneline to help other people like us.
You can donate here: www.justgiving.com/songaminute
Janet Stephens, co-founder of Bear Paw Creek, is an important provider of movement props for therapists and activity directors. Bear Paw Creek makes colorful, high-quality movement props for use in stimulating and fun activities. You can get some today to use with your recreational activities in nursing homes or as part of a nursing home ministry in your church.
What ideas or insights do you have about the topic of failure-proof activities? Let us know what you think in the comments!