Posts Tagged Chore

Sort Junk Mail


Sorting the mail is one of those daily activities that is so ingrained, many people with dementia continue to look forward to a visit from the postman or often worry that they are missing important bills, even if they haven’t been handling nay financial matters for years.  If you know someone like this, they may enjoy spending time sorting through the “junk” mail (after you’ve removed anything important that shouldn’t be lost).  Some people with memory loss like to actually open and read it, while others are content to just sift through it/file it for later.  Either way, it can be an enjoyable way for them to spend some time, whether minutes or even hours, because handling mail is a familiar ritual that doesn’t feel like an activity, but rather a household task.  This feeling of helping out can be very important to those with memory loss, who may feel as if all of their responsibilities have ben taken from them, leaving them as only receivers of help, not helpers–a shift in self-image that is difficult for many.  As for caregivers, this activity is great because it doesn’t require any special materials or even a trip to the store to prepare.



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Peel Apples



These “old fashioned” peeler and corers are a fun and easy way to prep a large quantity of apples in a hurry.  Whether you’re looking to make a pie, a crumble, or a big batch of applesauce, this contraption somehow make it but easy and fun!  Even better, once an apple is place in it, even those in the late stages of the disease can move the handle to peel and core the apple perfectly every time.  So get peeling (and cooking and eating!)

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Rake Leaves

This activity not only takes advantage of a person’s long term memory and desire to be helpful, both of which are well-preserved even into the more moderate stages of the disease, it also is a great way to get out and enjoy the last of the nice weather.  Grab a rake and start making piles or stuff them into decorate bags such as this

If raking is too physically challenging for the person with memory loss, why not have them supervise and join everyone for cider and doughnuts when the job is done?

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Plant Spring Bulbs

Fall is the time to plant bulbs to ensure a beautiful spring.  Not only is this a great opportunity to go out and enjoy the warm weather before the cold winds start blowing, it also is a great time to reminisce with the person with memory loss.  Old gardens, favorite flowers, occasions involving planting or flowers are all great conversation starters.  Those in the early stages should be able to complete this activity with little or no guidance, as long as you don’;t care what the final planting arrangement is.  THose in the more moderate stages will need you to be very directive, showing them where to dig and how to place the bulb in the ground.  Those in the late stages may only be able to place the bulb in the ground, or even just sit and watch, but will surly enjoy being outside and listening to you narrate the task.

Oh, and if you’re a member of Sam’s Club, you’re in luck.  They have a great deal on bulbs right now!  Of course, if you buy six packages like I did, the savings isn’t as great as it would be if you only bought two, but what would be the fun in that?

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Shuck Corn

Shucking, or husking, corn is one of those chores almost all of us have done in the. It’s fairly simply, pretty hard to do so poorly that it ruins anything, and helps a person with memory loss feel useful.  For all these reasons (and more), shucking corn is a great activity for a person with memory loss.  Depending on their level of impairment, they may need some help getting started or switching from one ear to the other, but I bet it would still take a weight off the cook’s shoulders to have some help with this chore.

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Water the Garden


As Summer heats up, that means more time spent keeping your plants alive through generous watering, so why not let the person with memory loss help?  As I’ve said before, being able to contribute is very important to most people well into the disease, and watering is  a “fun” chore with few risks.  If the person under waters, you can always come back later and give the plants an extra soaking.  Better yet, have the person with memory loss water them again! 

Those in the later stages of the disease might need your supervision to ensure success.  Or, you may find that you need to do some steps to keep frustration at bay.  However, whether the person can fill up the watering can, pour the water on the plants, or just sit and watch while you do it, there are lots of opportunities to reminisce.  Some sample topics:

  • What did you grow in your garden when you were younger? 
  • Do you prefer to grow vegetables or flowers?  Why? 
  • What is your favorite flower or vegetable? Your least favorite?

Even those who can no longer communicate verbally can enjoy sitting in the sunshine and smelling the flowers and plants (I especially love the smell of tomato plants).  Be sure to involve them by brining things over for them to smell, or, if you lucky enough to have extra flowers for cutting or veggies to pick, let them hold them while you work. 


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Match Socks



Laundry is one of those chores that never seems to get completely done, so why not enlist some help and have the person with memory loss match socks?  Whether doing the more complex task of sorting though different sizes and shades of black socks or the simpler task of matching one sock of each color to its mate, this is an activity that can give the person with memory loss a sense of purpose and contribution to the household.  Even if the socks aren’t really worn by anyone, just unmatched and given back to the person later, this is a good way to keep fingers limber and minds occupied. Even better, because this is a chore that is stored in long-term memory banks, even people in the late stages of the disease can generally complete this task and feel useful while doing so.



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Make the Bed


I’ve said it before and I will probably say it again, people with memory loss still have a need to feel useful.  Therefore, allowing them to do things for themselves or others is really important to maintain self-esteem and self-worth.  However, we all know that sometimes “help” can be not only more work for the caregiver, but also dangerous for the person with dementia, so finding the right job is important. 

In my eyes, making the bed is just that job.  As long as the person is steady on their feet, there’s not much that can go dangerously wrong.  Even better, because it’s one of the first chores most of us learn, it is well protected deep in our long term memory.  And if the individual is a veteran or retired nurse/housekeeper/nurses’ aide, even better!  Get ready to watch a bed get made so well you can bounce a quarter off of it!

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As I’ve mentioned before, people with dementia have so much taken away from them, it’s not uncommon for them to feel frustrated that they can’t contribute to the house like they used to.  One simple chore that many people with dementia can do, especially those who like to pace the floors, is dust.  Simply give the person with dementia a rag or feather duster (new dusting products, like swiffers will likely be unfamiliar to them, and therefore not give the “cue” to dust) and let them loose on a dusty room.

For those that have trouble getting started, you may need to remind them what to do by guiding their hand over the surface to be cleaned a few times.  However, after a few seconds, muscle memory should kick in. 

Remember, even if its’ not the best dusting job in the world, it’s still good for people’s self-esteem to feel like they are contributing, so try not to do any “retouching” while the person is watching.

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Clip Coupons

If you get the Sunday paper, you know how full they are of ads.  If you’ve ever clipped th coupons from them, you know it can add up to big savings. 

This activity, like so many others, relies on past experience to help the individual stay successful even into the moderate stages of the disease.  Don’t worry about if they clip the “right’ coupons, if they are enjoying the activity, let them clip them all, then you can sort out what you’ll use later.  The extras can be given to friends or families or in some areas, donated to food pantries, VFW Halls (coupons are generally good beyond their expiration date when used on a military base), or churches.  If you’re worried about safety, you can certainly get a pair of round tipped “safety” scissors, though that probably won’t be necessary for most individuals. 

For those in the later stages of the disease, you may have to point out the “cut here” line to ensure you get the whole coupon, but you may be surprised at how long this cost-saving skill is retained. 



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