Archive for Activities for Moderate Dementia

Play with a Pet

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You probably know that pet therapy is an emerging area of research and application in care of people with dementia. While therapy dogs have special training and certification, any well-behaved dog cat, or rabbit can potentially bring a little joy and a lot benefits to a person with memory loss. While companionship is an obvious benefit, pets may also help with agitation, depression, and anxiety. It’s not uncommon to watch someone transition from emotionless to animated or from agitated to calm when a pet enters the room, especially if it triggers pleasant memories. However, keep in mind that the opposite reaction is possible as well!

Of course, to some caregivers, the idea of adding another thing to care for, no matter how cute and cuddly, sounds pretty overwhelming, so don’t feel as if you have to adopt a pet to get the benefits. Even having a friend bring a well-behaved pet for a visit is a great option. Of course, it’s important to be mindful of the pet’s temperament and energy level. In general, too much jumping and/or excessive barking may do more harm than good. Also, be sure that the animal is a good “match” for the person with memory loss. A 90 pound woman who’s unsteady on her feet probably shouldn’t walk an excitable St. Bernard; someone with thin skin and on Coumadin might want to stay away from a cat with sharp claws; someone who throws things when angry should probably be supervised around a small yorkie…you get the idea. Of course, animals are unpredictable, as can be people with dementia, so supervision if probably wise, especially in the beginning while everyone is getting to know each other.

Other tips for success:
1. People in the later stages of the disease may respond better to animals that remind them of animals that remind them of former pets. But be warned: they might not like having to leave the “family dog” behind when they leave!
2. People love to feed animals, so be sure to have appropriate treats available for the person with dementia to feed the pet or you might find that they get a lot of people food!
3. Even those in the late stages of the disease can enjoy petting a soft dog, cat, rabbit, gerbil, etc. Even just hearing a cat purr across the room can be soothing, so don’t feel like the animal has to be right next to the person to have a positive effect.
4. Don’t forget to reminisce!

More information about pet therapy can be found at:
http://www.everydayhealth.com/alzheimers/how-animal-therapy-helps-dementia-patients.aspx

http://www.alzheimersproject.org/About-Us/News-Photos-and-Calendar/Latest-News/Pets-and-Dementia

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Keepsake Cookbook

Do you and your loved one love cooking? Maybe baking is what makes you feel at home. In either case, there is something to be said about the feeling you get when taking your first bite of a home cooked/baked treat.

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Creating a cookbook with your care partner can be a fun way to reminisce and leave a legacy for generations to come. It can be as simple as compiling old recipe cards or as intricate as creating a recipe book online complete with pictures. Keep in mind that this project doesn’t have to be finished overnight. It can simmer for days, weeks, or months to come!

Step 1: Choose your recipes

What are your family’s trademark recipes? Is there anything that has become a traditional birthday dinner, holiday dish, or rainy day snack?

Step 2: Choose your Methods

You might want to talk with your loved one and decide on a type of cookbook that will best combine your creative style with your skill set. You could write out individual recipes on index cards to insert in a scrapbook, create a larger more intricate scrapbook, or use online websites (e.g. Shurtterfly.com) to make one digitally. Feel free to exercise creative freedom, engage others in the process, and make changes based on skills and abilities.

Step 3: Write your book

Try making the dishes as you go! Talk about the smells, colors, and textures of different foods. Use this time to reminisce and identify fun memories associated with your recipes. Feel free to include these stories in your book! Additionally, if your loved one needs more assistance in the kitchen, be sure to break down each task into clear simple steps.

Step 4: Share your book with others

A cookbook made with you and your loved one is a beautiful representation of your family’s traditions, history, and relationships. You can use this book and its recipes to share your story with other family members and friends.

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Spring Cleaning

Spring Cleaning

It’s that time of year again! The tulips and daffodils are in bloom, the sun is shining, and the weather is warming up to beautiful breezy temperatures. With all of the freshness of blooming nature, why not use this season to bring freshness into your home?

Not only does Spring Cleaning give you an excuse to scrub those areas that get little attention during the closed-in cloudy days of winter, but it can also reduce stress. Clutter and mess can be especially anxiety provoking for people with dementia as it can result in over stimulation. With too much clutter, people can be distracted by their surroundings, confused by the number of objects that they need to ascribe meaning to, and clutter can be a signal that there is work to be done. Additionally, clutter in hallways and walkways can be a fall risk. So, while working to clean and de-clutter your home, why not engage your loved ones in helping?

Ways to involve people with dementia in spring cleaning:

  1. Folding, hanging up, and putting away laundry
  2. Washing dishes
  3. Wiping down tables and countertops
  4. Dusting
  5. Sweeping
  6. Sorting through old magazines

Additional Tips:

  • Break down larger tasks into simpler individual steps
  • Encourage people to be as engaged as their skill set allows
  • When sorting through or dusting pictures, magazines, etc., use this opportunity to reminisce. Just be sure to avoid saying, “Remember when…?”
  • Take breaks when necessary. People with dementia often respond more readily to your emotions than your words, so be careful to not convey exasperation, anxiety or anger with your body language. Try to view these activities as fun and energizing!
  • Engage people in cleaning tasks that they’ve done frequently or enjoyed in the past.
  • Always pay attention to any safety hazards that could come up while cleaning.
  • Remember that the value is in the process rather than the result. If your loved one’s task isn’t finished exactly the way you like it, that’s OK. Use these activities as a chance to engage physically, mentally and socially with your loved one and worry about the results later.

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Register with Alzheimer’s Association TrialMatch

Clinical trials are essential to advancing Alzheimer’s disease research at a time when Alzheimer’s is reaching epidemic proportions. Through clinical studies conducted over the last 20 years, scientists have made tremendous strides in understanding how Alzheimer’s affects the brain. It is only through clinical studies that we will develop and test promising new strategies for treatment, prevention, diagnosis, and ultimately, a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

To learn more about how to participate in clinical trial, watch the video below about TrialMatch (a free, clinical-trial matching service).

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Make Your Own Holiday Presents – Gifts in a Jar

 

red presents

I seriously cannot be the only person who has not done their holiday shopping yet…right? Well, if you’ve procrastinated like me, or if you have a few people still remaining on your gift list, consider an easy, do-it-yourself present that your person with dementia may enjoying helping you with. In searching the internet, I encountered dozens of potential ideas for this post, from diy christmas ornaments, to cookie recipes, to personalized coffee mugs and more. If you are reading this and not already familiar with Pinterest, let me just say….I LOVE Pinterest! I’m actually what you would call pin-sessed. Not only is Pining a fun (and addicting) past time, but there are a plethora of activity and recipe ideas which you and your person with Alzheimer’s may enjoy trying. Just saying!

So after doing my research, I finally settled on a “gifts in a jar” theme. These really appealed to me because of their versatility (did you know you can make so many different gifts in a jar??) and their easy execution. Chances are, you probably have many of the things needed for this activity already in your home.

In the example below, this diy gift in a jar contains a “fudgy brownie mix”. Honestly, who wouldn’t want to receive that as a present? Your person with dementia can assist in this activity by dumping in the different layers of ingredients, one at a time. This will probably be easiest if you offer guidance and supervision throughout the process. For instance, you could pre-measure the quantity of flour needed for the bottom, position a funnel over the mouth of the jar, then assist your person in pouring the flour in through the funnel. It may work best to repeat the process of pre-measuring, funnel, and guided assistance with the remaining layers. Of course, the amount of hands on supervision you provide will vary depending on what stage of the disease your person in living with. Your person may also enjoy nibbling on the chocolate chips (which are added to the jar last), or reminiscing about pleasant memories involving food and baking. Many older adults experience a great deal of fulfillment from sharing their stories with others, and it is important to offer opportunities which encourage this.

Homemade-Fudgy-Brownie-Mix-in-a-Jar

Below I’ve included the ingredient list for this gift in a jar, as well as recipe instructions for the recipient of this gift. For more details, please visit the SixFiguresUnder official website. Happy Holidays everyone! 🙂

Homemade Fudgy Brownie Mix

  • 1 cup + 2 tbs flour
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  •  1/3 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Instructions for Using Homemade Brownie Mix

Mix contents of the jar with:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2/3 cup oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Pour into a greased 9″ square pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until an inserted knife comes out clean.

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Play with Gak or Silly Putty

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This blog is no stranger to sensory-based activities. And why not? As dementia progresses, sensory stimulation is a prime way to foster meaningful connection, particularly as language ability fades. So here goes, another fun-filled sensory activity sure to tap into your creative side!

Does anyone remember playing with Gak or Silly Putty as a kid? And by ‘play’ I mean stretch, goosh and mush, and use the silly putty to lift the newsprint off of newspaper or comics. These can be great choices of activities because there is no right or wrong way to perform, and there is no established beginning or end point. In many ways, it really is fail-proof. However, always ensure safety and be cautious that your person does not try to ingest the putty/gak.

Gak and putty can be purchased at many toy retailers. Also, the web is chock full of DIY gak and putty recipes (usually with as little as 4 ingredients). Another plus, if you make your own, you can experiment with different colors.

Take, for instance, this homemade gak recipe accessed from livingwellmom.com, which takes less than 5 minutes to make and requires only school glue, water, Borax (can be found in the Laundry aisle) and food coloring (optional).

Happy gak-ing everybody! 😉

 

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Enjoy A Cool Glass of Delicious Lemonade or Iced Tea

lemonade

It’s July. For most of us, this time of year is filled with sunshine, beaches, barbecues, and the like. In fact, what would summer be if it lacked the many traditions that have become so ingrained in our culture? However, many individuals with Alzheimer’s disease might be excluded from such activities. If it has become difficult to go on outings, for instance, or to leave the home for extended periods of time, our traditional ideas of ‘summer fun’ may be out of the question for our family member with dementia.

iced tea

Bring summer indoors by enjoying a cool, crisp, delicious glass of ice-cold lemonade or freshly brewed iced tea. These summer staples are not only refreshing and oh-so-good, but they may bring back memories and feelings from summers long ago. Sip on these cool beverages with your loved one while encouraging them to reminisce about the past. Or just chit-chat while you sit in your most comfortable chairs. Even individuals that are no longer verbal will likely enjoy this special treat and companionship. Another bonus: fluids are extremely important to physical health and cognitive function, and yet many elders do not get enough. Use this activity to encourage your loved one to stay hydrated through the hot summer months.

strawberry lemonade

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below is a recipe taken from foodnetwork.com, which boasts the Perfect Homemade Lemonade. Try this or another recipe for you and your loved one to enjoy. If your person is able, they might like to help you by juicing the lemons. If sugar is a concern, consider using a sugar alternative or swap the lemonade for ice water with a wedge of lemon. Have fun, and stay cool! 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups sugar
  • 4 cups fresh lemon juice
  • 2 lemons, sliced
  • Ice for serving

Directions:

In a large saucepan, heat the sugar and 4 cups water until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is hot. Allow to cool, and then place into a large drink dispenser or jug. Add 2 gallons cold water, the lemon juice and lemon slices and stir to combine. Refrigerate and allow to chill completely.

 

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