Paint Rocks

lady bug rocks


Painting can be a relaxing activity that captures your person’s attention and keeps them focused. By keeping your person with dementia zeroed in on an activity, he/she is more likely to feel content, and behavioral concerns are less likely to appear. Recent research suggests that artistic activities may help individuals with dementia to express complex emotions, particularly when language ability fades. Art also provides intellectual stimulation for the person, which may help to keep cognitive powers sharp (although nothing can prevent dementia from progressing).

Furthermore, painting or (in this case) painting rocks is an activity that can be easily adjusted depending on the person’s remaining strengths and abilities. For instance, someone in the early stages of the disease may be able to execute a multi-step project over the course of a couple of sessions. The first session could consist of cleaning and sanding stones. The next session may involve painting a base color on a couple of rocks. The last session may include finer details (such as those seen in the ladybug picture).

Someone who is further progressed may do better with a shorter-term project with fewer steps, such as only painting rocks in solid colors or arranging (already painted) rocks in a decorative way. Even watching you paint or admiring your finished handiwork, might be pleasurable activities for someone in the later stages of the disease.

garden markers 2 garden markers

Materials you will need:

  • Smooth rocks (either found outdoors or purchased from a craft store)
  • Assorted acrylic paints
  • Paint brushes (various types)
  • Palette or mixing tray (e.g. paper plate, tin foil, styrofoam cup)

Helpful Hints:

  • As dementia progresses, the individual will need more supervision and guidance.
  • Consider using simple patterns for your design. Or you could add in more intricate details yourself, if desired.
  • Wear a painting smock or old set of clothing that is ok to get dirty.
  • Check out library books (such as those by Lin Wellford) for inspiration and step-by-step instruction.
  • Be alert to signs of frustration or boredom. Adjust the activity, so that it is a good match for the person based on their remaining strengths.
  • If the activity goes awry or causes the person to become agitated, be prepared to stop.
  • Your finished rocks can be used as decoration, such as on a countertop or in a garden. A functional use for painted rocks is to use them as garden markers for various plants/herbs (pictured above).


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DIY Pomander Balls

pomander ball


Feeling crafty? Make a homemade pomander ball! Pomander balls, commonly seen at weddings and baby showers, actually have very interesting historic roots. Learn more about the history behind the pomander here.

Buy rosettes at a craft store, create your own by shaping pieces of tissue paper, or punch/cut out flower shapes from scrapbooking paper. Use crochet pins to fasten each rosette into place on a large to medium sized styrofoam ball. Use the pomander ball as a centerpiece or tie a ribbon around the ball to be used as a hanging decoration.

Step by step instructions can be found here.

Remember, it’s the process not the product. Our primary goal is that the person enjoy themselves; it is not important that we create a flawless finished product. If it’s becoming apparent that the person is becoming confused or frustrated, leave the remainder of the activity for another day. In fact, it may be easiest to plan the activity over the course of several sessions, versus trying to do everything in a single sitting. If your person is further progressed in the disease, they may get more pleasure out of watching you do the activity or admiring the finished product. Be flexible and have fun with it!



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What is Korsakoff Syndrome?



Korsakoff Syndrome is a chronic memory disorder caused by severe deficiency of thiamine (vitamin B-1). Thiamine helps brain cells produce energy from sugar. When levels fall too low, brain cells cannot generate enough energy to function properly.

Korsakoff syndrome is most commonly caused by alcohol misuse, but can also be associated with AIDS, cancers that have spread throughout the body, chronic infections, poor nutrition and certain other conditions.

Korsakoff syndrome is often — but not always — preceded by an episode of Wernicke encephalopathy, which is an acute brain reaction to severe lack of thiamine. Wernicke encephalopathy is a medical emergency that causes life-threatening brain disruption, profound confusion, staggering and stumbling, lack of coordination, and abnormal involuntary eye movements.

Because the chronic memory loss of Korsakoff syndrome often follows an episode of Wernicke encephalopathy, the chronic disorder is sometimes know as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. But Korsakoff syndrome can also develop in individuals who have not had a clear-cut prior episode of Wernicke encephalopathy.

Korsakoff syndrome and its associated thiamine deficiency is not the only mechanism through which heavy drinking may contribute to chronic thinking changes and cognitive decline. Alcohol misuse may also lead to brain damage through the direct toxic effects of alcohol on brain cells; the biological stress of repeated intoxication and withdrawal; alcohol-related cerebrovascular disease; and head injuries from falls sustained when inebriated.

Causes and Risk Factors

Scientists don’t yet know exactly how Korsakoff syndrome damages the brain. Research has shown that severe thiamine deficiency disrupts several biochemicals that play key roles in carrying signals among brain cells and in storing and retrieving memories. These disruptions destroy brain cells and cause widespread microscopic bleeding and scar tissue.

Most cases of Korsakoff syndrome result from alcohol misuse. Scientists don’t yet know why heavy drinking causes severe thiamine deficiency in some alcoholics, while other may be affected primarily by alcohol’s effects on the liver, stomach, heart, intestines, or other body systems.


Some experts recommend that heavy drinkers and others at risk of thiamine deficiency take oral supplements of thiamine and other vitamins under their doctor’s supervision.

Many experts also recommend that anyone with a history of heavy alcohol use who experience symptoms associated with Wernicke encephalopathy, including acute confusion, prolonged nausea and vomiting, unusual fatigue or weakness, or low body temperature or blood pressure, be given injectable thiamine until the clinical picture grows clearer.

Once acute symptoms improve, individuals should be carefully evaluated to determine if their medical history, alcohol use and pattern of memory problems may be consistent with Korsakoff syndrome. For those who develop Korsakoff syndrome, extended treatment with oral thiamine, other vitamins and magnesium may increase chances of symptom improvement.

Abstaining from alcohol is a cornerstone of effective long-term treatment. Those with Korsakoff syndrome have a reduce tolerance for alcohol and may be at high risk for further alcohol-related health problems.

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Play Shamrock Bingo



Get in the St. Patrick’s Day spirit, and play some Shamrock Bingo! Many free printables, such as this one, can be found online. Try to avoid bingo cards with busy designs – they may be too confusing for the person with dementia. The example above is ideal because there are only a few squares, they do not contain words or numbers, and most of the images are recognizable. Be alert to confusion or frustration in the person, and help them through this if it occurs.

You might consider serving green jello or shepherd’s pie before or after the activity. Make a day of it, and get your Irish on!

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Make a Wine Cork Ball


Wine cork balls are decorative, yet inexpensive and easy to make. Your biggest obstacle may be finding enough wine corks for your project! Consider collecting any wine corks that you, friends, family, or neighbors may use. Another option is to purchase wine corks in bulk from such vendors as Amazon.

Step-by-step instructions for this craft can be found at the website below:

As you work through the steps of this project, be mindful of safety concerns, such as use of the hot glue gun. This project may not be suitable if your person might attempt to bite or swallow the wine corks. Provide supervision, guidance, and reassurance throughout the process. Also, consider breaking up the activity into multiple sessions over many days, versus doing everything at once. You can use your finished product as a decorative accent to your living space or as a centerpiece. If you are feeling adventurous, you could add ribbon or faux vine, leaves, berries, grapes, etc. to change the look.

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Practice Mindfulness Based Meditation

Mindfulness 2

Mindfulness refers to being fully aware of the present moment — on purpose and without judgment. When we focus our full attention on the present, we are less likely to worry about past or future events. In addition, some research suggests that practising mindfulness routinely may provide significant benefits, such as a greater sense of well-being, reduced stress level, and better physical and mental health outcomes.

In a society that places high importance on multi-tasking and non-stop streaming of information, focusing on one moment at a time is a challenging feat! Follow along with the mindfulness-based meditation exercise below, or make modifications in order for it to be a meaningful experience for you.


Try it out!

Sit in a comfortable position.

Close your eyes and take a few slow breaths in and out.

Slow down your mind and bring your focus to the sound and feeling of your breath.

Pay attention to the rising and falling of your stomach with each full inhale and exhale.

Calmly assess your current physical state. Are there any muscles that are tighter than normal? Is your body still carrying any weight or stress from the day?

Let go of these thoughts and feelings.

Do not burden your body and mind with negative thoughts.

You are relaxing in this moment. 

Breath out the discomfort and focus on the tranquility of your body.

Focus on how good your body and mind feel to relax.

Want to learn more? Look into the work of Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn (the pioneer of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) or check out this website for more ideas on how to incorporate mindfulness into your day.


Christopher A. Pepping , Analise O’Donovan & Penelope J. Davis (2013) The positive effects of
mindfulness on self-esteem, The Journal of Positive Psychology: Dedicated to furthering research and promoting good practice, 8:5, 376-386

Kabat-Zinn, J., & Gazella, K. (2005). Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD: bringing mindfulness to medicine. Alternative Therapies In Health & Medicine, 11(3), 56-64.

Marion Martin (2010) Mindfulness- and acceptance-based behavioral therapies in practice, British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 38:1, 133-135

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Start a Team for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s

To learn more to register for the Greater Michigan Chapter’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s, click here.

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