As Alzheimer’s progresses and skills and abilities diminish, the person living with the disease may start to suffer from feelings of worthlessness or isolation, expressing their frustration and restlessness with difficult behavior. For those caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, finding ways to lessen these feelings can be a struggle.
According to Nancy Clanton, Community Relations Director at Tuscan Gardens® of Venetia Bay in Venice, FL, keeping a loved one engaged and entertained throughout the day is a crucial part of successful caregiving. “When you’re caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, it’s important to help them find ways to express themselves and feel a sense of accomplishment, no matter how small,” says Nancy. “The types of activities you plan will change as the disease progresses, but with creativity and careful planning, you can discover the best methods for creating engaging days that bring your loved one a sense of purpose, self-worth, joy and normalcy.”
The Importance of Engagement
Staying mentally and physically active may not slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, but it can help to improve motor skills, lessen behaviors like agitation or wandering and, most importantly, enhance your loved one’s quality of life. The AARP.org article, “Activities for People with Alzheimer’s Disease,” says:
“There will always be part of that individual who wants to help, participate and succeed. Although as the caregiver you will want to find activities that take into account lost abilities, you should always focus on the person and not the disease. Even if your loved one does not remember the activity, the joy he feels from taking part in a project, big or small, leaves a positive effect and contributes to an overall sense of happiness.”
Those in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease may withdraw from things they used to enjoy and require their caregiver’s encouragement to stay engaged. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, it helps to talk with your loved one about their concerns regarding social engagements, pastimes or other activities they stopped pursuing. This will allow you some insight into your loved one’s mind and give you a foundation for planning activities that will keep your loved one happy while making the best of their current abilities.
Guidelines for Planning Engaging Activities
Not to be confused with mere “busy work,” activities for those with Alzheimer’s should have a purpose – exercise, self-expression, promoting independence, enjoyment, relaxation – anything that will improve your loved one’s quality of life. Remember that as the disease progresses, you may have to simplify tasks and activities, adapting them to your loved one’s current abilities.
When engaging your loved one in an activity, memory care experts suggest the following guidelines for success:
- Keep past interests in mind. Plan activities that your loved one used to enjoy, such as knitting, taking care of the garden or baking.
- Pay attention to their mood. Take note of whether your loved one feels happy, anxious, confused or irritable during an activity. This can help you determine what will be most engaging.
- Consider what your loved one does naturally. If they habitually read the paper with their morning coffee, make sure that option is available, and consider it part of their daily routine.
- Focus on enjoyment, not achievement. Although it’s good to plan activities that provide comfortable challenges for your loved one, it’s more important that they enjoy what they are doing. Make activities failure-free. The goal isn’t to accomplish a task perfectly, but rather to bring fun and meaning into their day.
- Encourage involvement in daily life. Ask your loved one to help you with daily tasks. Folding towels, setting the table or cleaning up can help them feel like a valuable part of the household.
- Be flexible. If you notice that a certain activity is causing frustration or annoyance, try something else. It’s a good idea to have alternative plans in mind to suit your loved one’s moods and energy levels.
- Consider the time of day. Select the time of day most appropriate for an activity. If your loved one has more energy in the morning, go for a walk. If they are more alert in the evening, try reading together or working on a puzzle.
- Establish a routine. Take note of your loved one’s favorite activities and incorporate them into their daily routine. Make activities fresh by applying new content to enjoyed activities. For example, if your loved one likes art projects, switch out colored pencils for water colors.
As a caregiver, it’s important to remain patient and encouraging with your loved one. Provide ways to promote self-expression and communication. Involve them in conversation, even if you do most of the talking. Remember not to criticize or correct them, but instead offer to help with more difficult parts of an activity.
Possible Ideas for Engagement
An activity is simply anything we do throughout the day, either together or alone, as part of our daily routine or as a break from the normal. Here are just a few examples of activities you can do with your loved one:
- Hobbies and crafts: Paint, draw, garden, knit, play an instrument or sing
- Exercise: Walk, swim, do yoga or tai chi, dance
- Play games: Play sorting games or solve puzzles
- Daily chores: Do laundry, wash dishes, clean up
- Help others: Volunteer together, start a food or toy drive
- Reminisce: Look through old photos, trinkets or souvenirs, talk about past times
- Entertainment: Listen to music, watch favorite films
- Pet therapy: Spend time playing with a pet
- Sensory activities: Give a massage or manicure, comb hair, talk
Engaging Every Day with Meaningful Activities
“At Tuscan Gardens® of Venetia Bay, we understand how important it is for those living with memory loss to be engaged through daily activities,” explains Nancy. “One of the defining features of our memory care programming is Heartfelt CONNECTIONS™, created around the belief that each resident’s retained abilities are far more important that what has been lost. We emphasize positive, life-affirming activities and develop personalized programs tailored to each individual’s abilities, likes and interests.
“We promote capabilities. We build self-confidence. We bring joy and fulfillment. This program, along with the compassionate support of our team, makes a significant difference in the lives of our residents.”
The Art of Living Well
At Tuscan Gardens® of Venetia Bay, we’ve mastered the art of living well. We’ve perfected the balance of personalized support and an uplifting lifestyle, helping our residents experience independence, joy and meaning every day.
Offering supportive independent living, assisted living and memory care services for families in Venice, Florida, Tuscan Gardens of Venetia Bay was founded with one simple, yet profound goal – to create a community worthy of our parents. In all we do, we are guided by the principles of family, culture and engagement, working to represent the remarkable way of life our families deserve.
Luxury, intimacy, opportunity, passion and beauty combine to create what the Italians call sprezzatura – a culture of effortless elegance. The essence of our community is made up not only of mere aesthetics, but an artfully designed lifestyle to bring out the best of what each day has to offer. From dedicated care that respects residents’ individuality and dignity to a lifestyle that nurtures their love of life, Tuscan Gardens was built to be more than just a residence, but a place to call home.