Activities For The Person With Alzheimer Disease

Submitted by Jodi Melsness, Home Care Solutions

Activities are an important tool benefiting many clients with AD. The purpose of promoting activities is to improve emotional well-being and self esteem. They also encourage physical exercise, spiritual health and mental stimulation. Activities are a great way to lessen boredom, agitation and maintain social practices.

Activities should be planned around the persons needs and should always be voluntary. It may take a few times for the person to join in on the activities. The room should be quiet and as few distractions as able. Try to keep the activities in the same area/place every day.  Make sure that a bathroom is close by for the client.

When first starting to work with the client, have a general understanding of previous enjoyment and past lifestyles. You may have a client who previously was an artist or a client who played the organ at her church. Involving them in a simple activity, that they can enjoy, may reduce anxiety or agitation. Always remember safety when planning an activity. Try to avoid sharp utensils or any small parts or objects.

Activities should:

  • Be planned for short periods of time
  • On a one-to-one basis or a group setting
  • Be non-competitive
  • Be geared to the client’s abilities and be voluntary
  • Require only a few simple items
  • Have a purpose (wiping off tables, hitting a balloon)
  • Allow for quiet time. Do not over stimulate

When it comes to activities, there are many choices that may fit your client’s needs.  Below are a few that may be of interest to your client. As you get to know your client, you will find which activity best fits his/her needs.

Music Therapy: When choosing this activity for your client, consider the age and/or era. Music can include singing, dancing and even just listening. It can be amazing to put on “Big Band” music and watch your client suddenly tap their toes to the music or even get up and want to dance.

Pet Therapy: Utilizing pets is a common format in a nursing home or even with home care. Birds, cats, dogs or even fish usually bring out positive responses in clients with AD. Using small animals encourages sensory stimulation, social interaction and reminiscence. I have a client currently who researched getting a dog for months. “Molly” has been here for three weeks and my client and caregiver couldn’t be happier.  The dog hardly leaves her side and she even sleeps on a pillow, right beside my client. Pets provide unconditional affection and can be a pleasant pastime.

Spiritual Activities: When considering participation in spiritual activities, consider the client’s faith so that the client can relate to the setting and service. If you know that the client would enjoy a visit from the clergy, try and set up a time where they could attend service regularly or a private visit from the clergy. Many have received strength in the past from their faith and it is important to encourage their spiritual beliefs.

Arts and Crafts: Many clients enjoy time spent doing arts and crafts. The session should be non-competitive and their results should not be compared with anyone else’s. Many prefer a group activity which encourages socialization and involvement. Activities could include painting, making cards, quilting, using clay and art projects. Many clients look forward to this and enjoy time spent working on their projects. Remember to accommodate per clients individual need.

Physical Activities: There are many reasons why physical activities are so important to a client with AD. Just by increasing physical activity, you can reduce anxiety, increase range of motion, facilitate bowel regularity and increase appetite. Activities can include: going for walks, balloon toss, bowling (modified), active ROM and water therapy.

Community Activities: We have many clients with AD who look forward to their outings on a weekly basis. When the outing occurs, it should be well planned and accepted by all participants. Staff or family should identify places that will accept clients with AD. Choose a least busy day and choose places with low stimulation. Have staff or family take medications along if it is appropriate. Many outings can be as simple as a ride in the van to look at lights during the holidays, riding to Target, getting a haircut or visiting an ice cream parlor.

Intergenerational Programming: Whether in their home or in a nursing facility, most clients with AD love to be around children and it can be a positive experience for both parties. Many schools can “adopt” a patient and they can visit them weekly. I know when I have brought my daughter to visit clients, their whole demeanor changes.  It may bring them back to when they raised their children and can have a wonderful effect for them.

Remember, the overall purpose of activities is to increase self-esteem and well-being. Focus on their strengths, rather than on their limitations.