When caring for Alzheimer’s clients, our goal is to keep them active -- both physically and mentally -- for as long as possible. This is primarily done through a variety of activities geared specifically for those with memory impairments. Besides working and building on their existing skills, these types of activities can help boost their self-esteem.
These don't necessarily have to be structured, large-group activities such as bingo or movie night, but simpler, small-group tasks will actually benefit the individual more. Activities help persons with Alzheimer’s disease to:
- Remain mentally and physically active
- Provide distractions from the stress of the illness
- Focus on life's positive aspects
- Carry out simple, everyday tasks
- Express their feelings (in some instances)
Suitable Alzheimer's Activities
The following is a general list of activities used to stimulate Alzheimer’s patients. While most activities are more for those with a mild cognitive decline, those with a more moderate impairment may only be able to complete some of them:
- Organizing items by color, size, and shape, such as buttons, beans, socks, poker chips, bottle caps, etc.
- Molding: Using Play-Doh or clay to make anything
- Stringing: Using string and looped dry cereal to make a bird feeder
- Cooking: Baking cookies, making a fruit salad, tossing a vegetable salad, making simple sandwiches, ice cream sundaes, smoothies, etc.
- Tossing: Lightly throwing or kicking a ball to each other; tossing beanbags to one another
- Printable pages are available online; just print and color; helps with fine motor skills
- Crocheting/knitting: For residents already skilled in this craft, this is a great way to spend an afternoon
- Pet therapy: Residents bond with animals such as dogs, cats, birds, fish, rabbits, etc.; the residents can help feed and care for the pets too
- Life skills: Folding clothes, sweeping, dusting and setting dining room tables are great ways to help a patient boost his or her confidence
- Exercise: Walking is usually the best exercise for Alzheimer's patients, although on some occasions dancing is great too
- Music therapy: A good song soothes the soul; playing a variety of songs, especially oldies, is a great leisurely activity
A Note About Sun Downing
Memory-impaired patients do their best when their activities are in the early part of day otherwise they may be subject to sun downing, a state of confusion that occurs near the end of the day and into the night. People with dementia-style diseases often find this condition aggravated when they are tired, in low lighting, or when their internal clocks are disrupted.