Draw with a Spinning Top

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These fun tops work just like any other top toy, but with a fun extra-they draw as they spin! Just lay down a sufficiently large piece of paper and watch the top trace its path as it’s spins! It’s fun to experiment with spinning it faster or slower to see how the design changes, which might help keep someone with a short attention span engaged longer than if it was just a normal top toy. You can also use the resulting art as part of another activity-maybe making cards or a mobile.

Spinning tops can be bought online or at your local toy store.

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Make “Puppy Chow”

puppy chow

Puppy Chow, also known as “Muddy Mix” or “Monkey Munch”, is a super easy, super delicious treat. But be warned: This recipe is NOT for the diabetics among us! I like this recipe as an activity for people with memory loss because it’s pretty simple, can be done without the stove, and it’s not a big deal if the ingredients aren’t measured exactly. The recipe, courtesy of Food.com, is as follows:

Ingredients:
9 cups Chex cereal (any kind)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter, melted
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 -2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Directions:
1. Measure cereal in large bowl and set aside.
2. Microwave chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter for 1 minute on high.
3. Stir and cook for 30 seconds longer or until smooth.
4. Add vanilla.
5. Pour mixture over cereal, stirring until coated.
6. Pour mixture into large Ziploc bag and add powdered sugar.
7. Shake until well coated.
8. Spread on waxed paper to cool.
9. Eat. Store in Ziploc bags or large sealed bowl (as if it will last that long!).

Of course, this activity can be modified for someone in almost any stage of dementia. Someone with only mild memory loss may be able to do all the steps independently. Someone the moderate stages may be able to measure all the ingredients and stir/shake as needed, but may need help remembering the order of the steps or need help operating the microwave. Someone in the late stages of the disease may be able to stir or shake after seeing a short demonstration or some hand-over-hand assistance.

Be sure to reminisce as you cook. You could ask about favorite sweet treats, what they liked to cook (or what they hated to cook!). Their children’s favorite snacks, how they learned to cook, etc.

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Go Swimming

senior-games-

Summer is officially in full swing, so that means it’s beach/pool time! Swimming is great exercise because the water offer resistance, yet it’s low impact. Those with memory loss can certainly enjoy a day of swimming (or wading, or just sticking a toe in!) in the water. As with any activity, you’ll want to make appropriate precautions based on the person’s level of impairment. This can range from just making sure they wear extra sunscreen, as many medications make you more prone to burning in the sun, to chosing a less crowded location where teh person is less likely to get overwhelmed, to making sure someone is always providing supervision for safety. Whether you choose a beach or a pool; to swim laps or doggies paddle; wear swim trunks or a speedo, taking some time to enjoy the water can be a fun way to break out of your usual daily routine.

While you’re out, be sure to ask questions that encourage the person to reminisce. You might ask:
How did you learn to swim?
What is your favorite memory involving swimming/the water?
What did bathing suits look like when you were growing up? What do you think about today’s styles?

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Play Old Maid

old maid

While I don’t necessarily like the name of the game, I do have to admit that it is fun to play. It’s rules and objective are very similar to Go Fish, but with a twist. Like in Go Fish, players want to make pairs which are discarded from their hand. The last players to get rid of all of the cards in their hand, loses. The difference is that in Old Maid, there is one card without a match-the old maid. The players who ends up with this card at the end of the game, loses. Old Maid can be played with a speciality card deck, such as the one in the picture above, or with a regular card deck with all but one of the Queens removed or with a Joker added. Also, unlike Go Fish, in which players are generally dealt 7 cards and then draw from a deck, in Old Maid all the cards are dealt to the players and they take turns drawing from each other’s hands. Because of this, the game is best played with 3 or more players, otherwise, every draw is guaranteed to be a match to something in your hand!

For those in the more moderate stages of the disease, having a lot of cards to have to scan may be challenging, so playing as “teams” may be less stressful. Or, try playing with half of a deck to simplify the process. Of course, if you have a speciality deck, they might enjoy just looking at the funny pictures.

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Go to a Baseball Game

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The weather is warming up and the days are getting longer. That can mean only one thing-baseball season is really heating up! So why not take the person with dementia to a baseball game! Any fan knows that watching a game in person is even more fun that watching it on TV, and even non-fans might catch the excitement in the stadium. If they done, well, then they can always enjoy the food, the people watching, or if you’re lucky enough to be in a newer stadium like our Detroit Tigers, the other things to do like the carousel or the fireworks! A baseball game is a great options for people with memory loss in the later stages because unlike a movie or a concert, no one cares if you talk, get up and move around, or even if you fall asleep! If the person with memory loss is unsteady on his/her feet, be sure to get handicapped seating so you don’t have to climb the stair in the bleachers, which often don’t have railings. Many stadiums also have benches rather than seats with backs, so you might want to check on that before you order tickets. You might also want to consider bringing a seat cushion as those hard seats can be uncomfortable to sit on, and the person with memory loss may not be able to ignore or work through feelings of discomfort as well as someone with normal cognition.

All those caveats aside, attending a baseball game really is a fun way to spend and afternoon! Just ask this lucky lady who caught a home run ball!

Last but not least, going to a baseball game is a great way to start reminiscing. You can ask about games they may have attending in the past, old favorite players, if they played baseball as a kid or if they coached their child’s team, etc.

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Box with Bozo

Bozo

Bozo, the world’s most famous clown, first appeared in 1946 in the first-ever read-along book, Bozo at the Circus. Bozo and his wide red hair was franchised as a local TV show in the 1950’s and 1960’s and had many popular toys. Hopefully, this popularity translates into some remaining long-term memory of the clown in the person’s with memory loss’s memory, though it’s certainly not necessary to have fun with this inflatable boxing set. This activity is nice for those who might have some extra energy to get out, who might be feeling a little agitated or upset and need a safe outlet to expel some of it, or even just for those who are no-verbal and appreciate an activity where no talking is required! Be sure to ensure the surrounding area is relatively clear so avoid breaking anything or injuring the boxer. You can punch without the inflatable “gloves” but they do offer a nice extra cushion for someone who might get overzealous or has sore hands from arthritis or other conditions.

Don’t forget to ask questions that might spur on reminiscing, such as if they remember the Bozo Show from TV, other memories involving clowns, if they ever boxed in the service or even if they got into any fights at school!

You can buy the Bozo inflatable punching bag here and Bozo’s inflatable boxing gloves here.

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Play Super Slam Basketball

super slam

Another fun game for the man with dementia in your life (or the lady, if she’s into sports or just has a competitive spirit) is Super Slam Basketball. In this tabletop game players use a spring loaded flipper to launch balls into the net. The electronic scoring device and timer keeps track of your points and counts down your time- nothing for the person with memory loss to have to remember except to shoot! Of course, it’s fun to challenge a fun, but it’s also fun to play by yourself! Again, the simple objective-score points-and ease of playing-just hitting the flipper-are both perfect for a person with memory loss who may be easily frustrated or overwhelmed by more complex tasks. You can buy this or similar games at toy stores or online.

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