Activities for an Alzheimer's Patient

I work as an activities assistant in a nursing home. Some of my patients have Alzheimer's/dementia. I have trouble finding craft/activities for them. Coloring gets very boring and I know they want to do more. I am also on a tight budget. With the warm weather coming I would like to start a garden club, but they are in wheelchairs. I am at a lost for ideas.

By Joyce from Pittsburgh, PA

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March 1, 20110 found this helpful
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I know you said you were on a tight budget, but perhaps you could get some donations to build raised beds for the garden. I visited a senior citizen's home once and there was a great garden area made up of raised beds and large container garden options as well.

Also, have you thought of researching memory games designed to help dementia patients? I believe that there are some specifically used for them. Perhaps, something as simple as sitting in a circle and introducing yourself, then the next person introduces you and themselves and so on.

Barbara

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March 2, 20110 found this helpful
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Wonderful that you want to do this. National Gardening Association's Kid's Garden News has an archived article: "Gardens are for Everyone. . ." that has excellent ideas for gardeners in wheelchairs. Try searching their site, kidsgardening.com. You might be able to adapt some of these ideas to your budget. For instance, plastic guttering is relatively inexpensive and could be put in a frame at a working level for wheel chairs, or maybe used as indoor window boxes.

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March 3, 20110 found this helpful
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I also work as an activities assistant in a nursing home, here in FL. I know what you mean about trying to engage the dementia patients. We just did our gardening project yesterday. It went well. We planted sunflowers...which grow quickly and are stunning to look at. I'm hoping to get a garden club or boy scout troop to come in when it's time to transplant them into the ground to assist with that part of the project.

Other ideas about dementia patients, if possible and if they aren't too aggressive or combative, I've found they like to be given a job to do. Ask them to help you hand out supplies for an activity. Most don't do well in group settings, although we recently had a spelling bee and an Alzheimer's patient came in second place.

I understand the anger from KansasCindy. My dad also suffers terribly from Alzheimer's and since I live several states away, it is heartbreaking to think of my "once powerful, strong, CEO father" coloring in a nursing home. So, I am on both sides of this....as a daughter of a patient and as a worker in a nursing home.

I would love to bounce ideas with you, if you'd like to stay in touch. Please contact me through a message .

Good luck! I know exactly how hard your job is, how exhausted and overwhelmed you feel.

God bless you!

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January 9, 20140 found this helpful
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I work at an AL facility but we also have quite a few in wheel chairs but you might be able to find some one like we did that will donate time and the materials to make crates. They will lift the pots off the ground, so the can get to them more easily it would lift the plants up enough that they would be able to reach without bending over in the chair.

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March 1, 20110 found this helpful

Have them paint a flower pot and when dry they can plant plants in their flower pots. Maybe do other painting under supervision. Perhaps sorting beads and possibly making simple beaded bracelets. They might like playing with play dough. Or modeling clay. Maybe sing some simple songs and they might remember them and sing along, at the very least this might be soothing to them.

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You could try children's puzzles, the kind with large pieces. There are different sizes depending on the age of the 'child'. The patient can start at one level and as necessary go down to easier puzzles. Might I suggest you contact local groups, such as the Elks, Moose, VFW, etc explaining your budget problem and ask for donations of specific items or cash to buy them. Or, if your local newspaper has such a column for give-aways or requests, ask for the items wanted.

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March 2, 20110 found this helpful

A Nintendo DS is handy for some activities. There are games that help train the mind and they are fun.

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March 2, 20110 found this helpful

...Read Mother Goose. Many patients will remember and say the poems along with you.

...Puppets are wonderful. You can get cute hand puppets at Dollar General for $1. For more complicated hand puppets (those where you can move the head and two or even four paws, for example), you can operate it yourself. Go from one patient to another. I used a small bunny that would run up the patient's arm, sit on a shoulder and chat, nuzzle an ear--they loved it. (Less than $5)

...Another puppet was a life-sized puppy, quite realistic, that talked to them, listened intently while panting, scratched his ear, etc. (about $25)

...Throw bean bags at a target.

...Throw hoops over a post.

...Sit in a circle and kick a large beach ball around--no fair using anything but your feet unless (1) you can't or (2) the ball is headed out of the circle. You can kick the ball to anyone; it should not be in a pattern and should be kept in motion throughout the game.

...Throw tennis balls at a velcro target.

...Read stories. Tell inter-active stories, encouraging patients to add details, ask questions, etc., (what do you think happened next?) as you tell it.

...Sing, especially well-known songs from their era or hymns. Amazingly, patients who can no longer speak making any sense can often sing all the verses of an old hymn.

...Go on a train ride: set their seats up in a double row, have everyone make train noises in unison, talk about the scenery, etc.

...Read the classifieds: "who would like to find a job today? Okay, let's find Mabel a job...." This can lead to great hilarity--choose the most inappropriate jobs you can, questioning Mabel about whether she'd like to do that, etc. Then find a job for someone else--or a new house, or a puppy, or something for sale.

...Make a fire pit with a circle of rocks or bricks or something fake, lay sticks or small branches in the middle (or rolled up construction paper or posterboard)and use red and yellow cellophane for the fire. Sit around it and tell spooky campfire stories, sing old camp songs, pretend to roast marshmallows (you can also make s'mores in a microwave....)

...Ask questions about what pets people had--as adults or as children. Talk about them. Remember when lots and lots of people bought baby chicks and ducks for Easter (55-60 years ago)? Some may have had a horse, a donkey or a cow for a pet. This can be quite stimulating.

...As someone mentioned, a baby doll can be great--can also quiet a fretful patient. Wrap the doll in a receiving blanket. Most important feature is realistic eyes.

...Talk about their favorite activities as children, their wedding days, the birth of their children, etc. These further back memories are often much more accessible to them than current ones.

...For the patients who have slipped the furthest away, hold their hands to engage attention and talk briefly with them. If they can't respond, just tell them you love them, that this is a wonderful and safe place, etc. You'll know what to say based on the patient's needs....

...Nine years in a nursing home activities dept. --shoe

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March 3, 20110 found this helpful

Alzheimer's is a devastating and often misunderstood illness. As much as I appreciate health care workers that try to find group activities that help them feel good, I honestly think each case is different. IMHO they each need stimulation from personal life experiences and should not be lumped into "group" activities as a sole basis for treatment.

Before my Aunt was stricken with Alzheimer's in the 1990's she was a big city journalist, a small plane pilot, an adoptive parent, a socially active wife and a civic minded woman who came of age in the 1940's. Coloring, and puppet displays were not something she gave a damn about after her Alzheimer's diagnosis, and none of these like minded pre-school exercises kept her entertained or active in her final years.

I regret that I was unable to help her during these years, but I think her husband did his best. None-the-less, he had no say in influencing her activities in the rest home of which he eventually had to commit her to . . . and it was a high dollar place . . . but few workers gave a damn about my Aunt's sensibilities.

The only control my Uncle had was to visit early each day and pick out matched outfits each morning that none of the staff gave a diddley darn about. (Seriously, even though it was a high dollar facility, many of the aides had no problem dressing her in pink plaid pajama bottoms and a red floral shirt for the day as they just grabbed the first items they saw in the drawer or closet. I find this attitude highly offensive.)

My uncle was irritated by this, too and eventually made sure his wife faced each day as well dressed and coordinated as she did for all the years before this disease, to help her maintain a sense of pride. Some of the staff made obnoxious fun of him for doing so, but my Aunt always had better days when he did so.

She also had better days when she was given familiar family photos to arrange in collages and on days when she remembered at least a portion of a memory via songs and family stories. She rarely had a good day when forced to participate in a group thing of cuddling dolls wrapped in blankets or group activities that made her talk about a particular, long gone pet, as others (other patients) dominated the conversations. (Yet she remained too polite to interrupt!)

I know I'm taking this a bit too personal, but for those of you involved in the health care of Alzheimer patients, please take into account their individual personalities first and foremost before thinking a childish group activity is the best solution. Bless you for your efforts, but please keep your minds wide open. Again, this is a devastating disease and it deserves the most imaginative minds to address it accurately. Thanks.

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March 4, 20110 found this helpful

I spent two months in a nursing home after my car wreck eight years ago. We had a great Activities dept. They regularly brought in musical groups, made up holidays, and seemed to actually care what folks liked. They'd read the newspaper headlines and those gathered would vote whether they wanted the article read. (This included obituaries.) Bingo was on offer at least once daily, but simple board games or Scrabble might also have been welcome. I'm a Jeopardy fan (although not an Alzheimer's sufferer,) so would've enjoyed that... whether the place had the board game or let us watch on TV. Or, Wheel of Fortune, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, Concentration or like games might be more your patients' style.

For folks who prefer solitary activities, perhaps simple puzzles or decks of cards could be made available. Really, anything to keep the mind stimulated should help. Last but not least, I know from personal experience that people with family apt to show up are better attended, even in the best nursing homes. Overworked and underpaid and sometimes unqualified, aides treated me much better when they learned hubby would cause a stink!

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March 4, 20110 found this helpful

Hello again. @ PainterLee, (and others?) my apologies if my post sounded "angry" as frustration was the emotion I had hoped best to describe: Alzheimer's and dementia are horrible health inflictions to human beings and leave their loved ones scared and frightened.

Yes, I was passionate in my post, but my intent was to alert caregivers and family members that the best days my Aunt had in her final years were when her particular, past defined, personality was taken into consideration for productive daily activities. I really liked a lot of the suggestions posters offered, but again just wanted to stress the importance of individual attention for these patients.

Bless all of you that kindly care for and/or have loved ones suffering from this truly tragic fate.

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March 6, 20110 found this helpful

I hope this can provide some help for those who wish find activities that respect the dignity and individuality of the persons with whom they work. I work as an activities coordinator for people with autiism, Though not dementia, there are similar difficulties in finding appropriate, engaging activities.

Here are some guidelines ihave established for myself in choosing activities.

1. There should be an end product that has meaning to the participant.

2. Ideally, the end product should be one valued by society,

3. The activity should capitolize on the strengths of the individual.

4. The initial steps should be simple enough for initial success, but there should be room in the activity to improve and build skillls.

5.The activity should have opportunities for instant and delayed gratification. ex: preparing a nice soil bed or garden design is fairly quick. Planting and waitin for seeds delayed. Its good to have something for now, and something to wait for. Counting time visually helps.

I teach pottery which incoporates, now, in the design,execution of the piece, and the sensory experience of working with clay; the future inwaiting for pottery to dry and bisque fire. Glazing is another "Present' activity, then another wait for the final product after the glazed fire. Our participants work is sold and makes a connection from potter to consumer as well. The participants a re reinforced by sales and also motivated to build their skills and improve.

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March 6, 20110 found this helpful

P.s. here's a pic of a potter selling his work at our kiln opening.

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Anonymous Flag
January 27, 20160 found this helpful

I work at an assisted living facility in a small town, last year I was granted a small budget for a spring project. I recruited the assistance of my husband and we built a raised garden bed for my residents. We planted 2 different types of tomatoes, peppers, herbs and spices. The residents loved being able to tend to the garden and all reaped the benefits as we used the items in our facility kitchen for our resident meals.

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Anonymous Flag
February 21, 20160 found this helpful

Try a no dig garden, You can make a garden on an old bedframe, that way residents are able to reach it from their wheelchairs.

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Anonymous Flag
April 8, 20160 found this helpful

Build a humm bird garden. Put out hummingbird feeders and they will enjoy seeing

hummingbirds

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Anonymous Flag
April 11, 20160 found this helpful

I do 100 piece puzzles with them, and make butterflies from Coffee filters use makers to decorate thems. Garden club we made a raised garden and I got little rakes, hoes that kids used for them to make the rows to plant the garden

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