People with dementia can still engage in familiar activities—although caregivers may have to adjust them in some way to match the person’s remaining strengths. Participating in various types of recreational activities—from art to poetry—can also be an effective way to help manage behavioral symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Many can be done one-on-one in the home setting; other can involve additional family members, including various generations.
Here are some steps to get started:
- Prepare any necessary supplies in advance.
- Find pastimes that were meaningful to the person prior to the disease.
- Engage in activities that pose a reasonable chance of success, by taking into consideration a person’s current abilities.
- Tap into over-learned skills, such as appropriate household chores or work-oriented activities.
- Plan activities that are short in length and age-appropriate.
- Keep the environment free of distractions.
- Include activities with a sense of structure, which provides reassurance.
- Give directions that are simple and one step at a time, and include non-verbal cues.
- Limit choices. If you’re going for a walk around the block, allow the person to decide whether you start to the left or right, for instance.
- Keep conversations structured and families, such as holiday celebrations and music icons.
- Adjust the activity, based on a person’s verbal and non-verbal responses.
- Validate any frustrations and try restructuring the activity.
- Take a multi-sensory approach, especially as sensory functions start to decline.
- Plan intergenerational activities that foster helping behaviors and are developmentally appropriate for the child and engaging for the person with dementia, and choose a time when both participants will be at their best (for example, after a meal).
- Be patient and flexible.
- Focus on enjoyment, not achievement.