Making Activities Manageable for Senior Care Dementia Sufferers is Very Important
As I was preparing for attendance next month (May 5,2014) at the Southeastern PA Alzheimer's Convention, one of the breakout session topics caught my eye. It is entitled, "Expanding Activity Options for Individuals with Dementia: Creative Options for Your Tool Kit" (being presented by occupational therapist Catherine Piersol, Ph.D., OTR/L).
This topic caught my attention because with our senior care dementia clients finding appropriate activities that keep them engaged and stimulated can be quite difficult. We recently heard from a family that they were so appreciative of a caregiver because she, "helped entertain mom... didn't just keep her out of trouble." Clearly, caregivers want to do more than sit and watch the person. And activities that provide meaning and success for the patient can improve their mood and even their cooperation with performing essential tasks like activities of daily living.
But as the disease progresses, many activities are just too difficult for the patient to complete, even with assistance. So, the trick is to simplify activities that would have previously been enjoyable to the dementia sufferer to a level where they can still perform those activities, with a little support from the senior care provider. This helps the person maintain a sense of enjoyment and meaning.
Since there are endless possibilities of types of activities, I will focus on simplifying outdoor activities now that Spring is nearly here, after such a long winter of being stuck inside! Some activities are shorter duration, and some longer. For longer duration, consider using a wheelchair to minimize the physical stress for the senior care receiver.
For people who enjoyed gardening, try these activities:
- Pick up sticks in the yard
- Plant seeds in small pots to germinate on the windowsill
- Pull weeds
- Plant herbs in small pots - the scents can be stimulating
For people who enjoyed nature:
- Put out a salt lick if you live near deer population
- Fill a bird feeder
- Put out corn ears to watch for squirrels
- Feed the ducks at a local pond
For people who enjoyed physical fitness and exercise:
- Take a walk
- Wade in a swimming pool
- Hit golf balls (or putt them); you can use plastic balls for safety
- Toss a large soft ball or balloon
For people who liked to travel:
- Go for a ride in the car
- Visit a local park
- Visit a travel agency in the local mall to look at the destination posters
For people who loved animals:
- Go to a small local zoo (Elmwood Park Zoo in Norristown or Lehigh Valley Zoo near Allentown, for example)
- Visit the SPCA
- Visit Pet Stores
For more information, there are some general guidelines and more ideas for senior care activities at AARP.org
If you are a senior care provider for a dementia patient, you may want to consider attending the Alzheimer's conference. You can click here to Register. If you do attend, why not stop by our table and say hello? See you there!