Caring for a spouse or family member with Alzheimer’s has many challenges. Keeping them safe, bathed and well fed can be difficult, but finding ways to keep your loved one busy and engaged during the day can be just as difficult.
My Spouse Doesn’t Want To Do Anything
In the early stages of Alzheimer’s family members may notice their loved one withdrawing from activities they used to enjoy.
It is important to realize that people with memory loss often do have the desire to participate but can become withdrawn. They may no longer be able to perform the activity on their own or can’t remember how. A person who insists they don’t want to participate might be doing so because they are anxious or afraid.
To stave off boredom, caregivers need to take an active role in planning and initiating appropriate activities on a daily basis. This can mean modifying activities they used to enjoy or working with them to complete the task.
If your spouse used to enjoy long walks in the park but now seems dis-interested, suggest a short walk around the block or a walk to the mailbox for example.
Incorporate Activities That Provide A Sense Of Purpose
People with Alzheimer’s and dementia want to contribute to everyday life and be a valuable part of the family. If there are day-to-day activities they can still complete on their own and seem interested in doing, encourage them to do often.
Activities like sweeping, folding laundry, stacking newspapers, wiping kitchen counters or tables are activities many people find their loved one enjoys and can complete. If they enjoy sweeping the kitchen floor it is perfectly acceptable to ask them to help you sweep more than once a day.
Let the person know what they are doing is helpful and meaningful. For example, if they are wiping the kitchen table say “Thank you for helping keep the table clean.” Even if it is the 10th time the table has been cleaned that day.
Don’t Worry About The End Result
Caring for someone with memory loss is hard and it isn’t uncommon for family members to not understand what their loved one can or cannot do. Especially during the early stages of the disease when some days may seem better than others.
If someone is engaged in an activity they enjoy and doing it differently than they used to, don’t emphasize the end result or worry if it isn’t perfect.
They may like to set the table but you find it set with different sized plates, soup spoons, and no forks. Don’t worry about what needs correcting or make a point to show them what they did wrong, just encourage them to continue. Keeping them engaged is more important than showing them what they did wrong. Even if you correct them several times they might remember the next day.
Pay Attention To Mood
If you pick an activity and find your loved one become agitated don’t force them to continue. You can stop and try another activity. Caregivers should also pay attention to the time of day and mood. Most people have certain times of the day when they are more apt to participate or just seem happier. Take note of these and try to encourage more activities during these times.
Activities to Try
The Alzheimer’s Association has a list of 100 activities caregivers and loved ones might want to try. Some include:
- Simple baking recipes incorporating measuring and stirring
- Craft projects like stringing Cheerios, stringing beads or coloring can be soothing
- Sorting – anything from cards, socks, beads, checkers, buttons or different color shapes cut from construction paper
- Spending time outside taking walk, or helping in the garden. Pulling weeds, then planting seeds or their favorite flowers
- Singing familiar songs from the past and reminiscing about their family or favorite memories.
- Clip coupons or cut pictures from old magazines or catalogs
Visit our Typical Day page for more ideas and an overview of The Memory Center activities program, which has been specifically developed to inspire purpose, validate actions, and invigorate while providing the highest quality of life for residents.