Tuesday Tips for Caregivers – Planning Daily Activities with Somebody with Alzheimer’s Disease
Planning activities for the person with Alzheimer’s is best when you continually explore, experiment and adjust. Consider the person’s likes dislikes; strengths and abilities; and interests. As the disease progresses, keep activities flexible, and be ready to make adjustments.
The strategies for planning activities focus on the:
Keep the person’s skills and abilities in mind. He or she may be able to play simple songs learned on the piano years ago. Bring these types if skills into daily activities.
Pay special attention to what the person enjoys. Take note when the person seems happy, anxious, distracted or irritable. Some people enjoy watching sports, while others may be frightened by the fast pace or noise.
Consider if the person begins activities without direction. Does he or she set the table before dinner or begin sweeping the kitchen floor mid-morning? If so, you may wish to plan these activities as part of the daily routine.
Be aware of physical problems. Does he or she get tired quickly or have difficulty seeing, hearing or performing simple movements? If so, you may want to avoid certain activities.
Focus on enjoyment, not achievement. Find activities that build on remaining skills and talents. A professional artist might become frustrated over the declining quality of work, but an amateur might enjoy a new opportunity for self-expression.
Encourage involvement in daily life. Activities that help the individual feel like a valued part of the household- like setting the table, wiping counter tops or emptying wastebaskets- provide a sense of success and accomplishment.
Relate activity to work life. A former office worker might enjoy activities that involve organizing, like putting coins in a holder, helping to assemble a mailing list or making a “to do” list. A farmer or gardener will probably take pleasure in working in the yard.
Look for favorites. The person who always enjoyed drinking coffee and reading the newspaper may still find these activities enjoyable, even if he or she is no longer able to completely understand what the newspaper says.
Change activities as needed. Try to be flexible and acknowledge the person’s changing interests and abilities.
Consider time of day. Caregivers may find they have more success with certain activities at specific times of the day, such as bathing and dressing in the morning. Keep in mind that your typical daily routine may need to change somewhat.
Adjust activities to stages of the disease. As the disease progresses, you may want to introduce more repetitive tasks. Be prepared for the person to eventually take a less active role in activities.
Offer support and supervision. You may need to show the person how to perform the activity and provide simple, step-by-step directions.
Concentrate on the process, not the result. Does it really matter if the towels are folded properly? Not really. What matters is that you were able to spend time together, and the person feels as if he or she helped do something useful.
Be flexible. When the person insists that he or she doesn’t want to do something, it may be because he or she can’t do it or fears doing it. Don’t force it. If the person insists on doing it a different way, let it happen, and fix it later.
Be realistic and relaxed. Don’t be concerned about filling every minute of the day with an activity. The person with Alzheimer’s needs a balance of activity and rest, and may need more frequent breaks and varied tasks.
Help get the activity started. Most people with Alzheimer’s still have the energy and desire to do things but may lack the ability to organize, plan, initiate and successfully complete the task.
Make activities safe. Modify a workshop by removing toxic materials and dangerous tools so an activity such as sanding a piece of wood can be safe and pleasurable.
Change your surroundings to encourage activities. Place in key locations scrapbooks, photo albums or old magazines that help the person reminisce.
Minimize distractions that can frighten or confuse. A person with Alzheimer’s may not be able to recall familiar sounds and places or may feel uncomfortable in certain settings.
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