Alzheimer’s disease is often known as “the long goodbye” not only because of its ability to affect someone’s cognitive and functional abilities, but also their emotions and moods, behaviour, and physical abilities, leaving behind a shell of a once-vital person that family and friends barely recognize. This can be tough to witness, but there are some ways you can continue to engage with the person in your care and spend quality time together.
Alzheimer’s disease affects everyone differently, so it’s often difficult to predict how it will progress, the symptoms (and the order in which they appear), and the duration of each stage (early, middle, late, and end of life).
Since there is no cure, people with Alzheimer’s, and their caregivers, rely on treatment plans prescribed by the doctor, plus lifestyle changes to slow the progression of the disease.
Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s can be as rewarding as it can be emotionally and physically challenging.
t’s difficult to watch someone you know struggling to perform everyday tasks and your natural reaction may be to just take over. However, research shows that people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s can still acquire and process new information, helping them to learn or improve their performance on cognitive tasks, so it’s important to let them try the task themselves, as long as it’s safe for them to do so.
You can help slow the decline of their memory and cognitive abilities, and help them to remain as independent for as long as possible, by keeping them busy with games and activities that stimulate the mind and challenge their mental, functional, and physical abilities.
There are tons of activities and games that you, as a caregiver, can do with the person you’re taking care of.
DementiAbility method activities
DementiAbility activities are a series of games and activities specifically for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients that have been adapted from the Montessori Method.
Originally designed for use in the classroom, when DementiAbility is applied to someone living with Alzheimer’s (which is just one of the forms of dementia), this method can mean increased independence, higher self-esteem, and a sense of fulfillment that they have a meaningful role in society.
Art therapy activities
Various forms of art such as music, visual arts, drama, and writing, are a great way for caregivers of people living with Alzheimer’s to engage creativity, improve behavioural issues, and provide an outlet for self-expression.
Listening to music is one of the simplest and most cost effective ways to spend time with the person you’re taking care of. It requires almost zero effort on your part to turn on the radio or the music app on your phone, and play songs that the person in your care finds enjoyable and familiar.
Art projects such as painting, drawing, and sculpting can give someone with Alzheimer’s a sense of accomplishment and are a tactile form of self-expression.
If the person in your care is in the middle to late stages of Alzheimer’s, you may need to help them get started by showing them how to perform each action. Remember to keep the project on an adult level, use non-toxic materials, and avoid sharp tools.
Make conversation as they create their masterpiece and provide encouragement, but give them plenty of time and space if they need it to finish their work.
Some of the best sensory activities to do with a person with Alzheimer’s aren’t the kinds that have rules or a points system. They’re the everyday activities you normally do around the house.
Everyday activities – You can probably do these everyday activities quickly on your own, such as setting the table, dusting, and making the bed, but asking the person you’re taking care of to “help” you gives them a sense of purpose and pride.
Letting the person in your care take on simple tasks around the house shows them that they’re a valued member of the family, one whose contributions are still very much needed and appreciated. Such as a hand massage, tending a garden, going for walks.
Jigsaw puzzles, dominos, playing cards, dice, and word puzzles are simple games that can be easily adapted as Alzheimer’s recreational activities for the person in your care.
Reading – Books and magazines on topics that interest them can be good to promote discussion. Try to find books that have large print and lots of colourful pictures, but are not childish. Audio books are a great alternative to printed books.
Life story book or memory box – You can work with the person you’re taking care of to create a “life story book.” Gather pictures from family and friends and put them all together, along with notes about each one, into a photo album of memorable events in his or her life. A simpler version to create is a memory box, which is a special box where you place their favourite objects, pictures, and keepsakes. The person you’re taking care of can look at these items whenever they want, hold each object, and recall or ask you why these items have a special significance. In times of agitation, taking out the memory box or life story book can have a calming effect on Alzheimer’s patients. This is also a nice way to incorporate a legacy building activity to enjoy for years to come.
Whatever activities you choose to engage in with the person in your care, remember that each activity should be meaningful, not just busywork, and should be appropriate to their manual dexterity and ability to process logic.
Find a balance between cognitive and tactile activities because when the mind and body are both stimulated, the person in your care may find them more interesting.
Provide written and verbal instructions, and don’t be afraid to demonstrate the game or activity if necessary. Keep the activity area clean, uncluttered, and well-lit.
There are many activities that a caregiver can give to those that have Alzheimer. When doing so, we have to keep in mind the dexterity and the level of severity their Alzheimer is so that we won’t give them a task that may endanger them. Keeping in mind and considering these precautions is something important for caretakers, as well as patience, since caring for someone with Alzheimer can vary from person to person. And although there is no cure, there are things a caretaker that can do that can slow the progress of it. Taking it slow and adjusting to the needs of the individual is valuable and very important.