Written by Josh Horsman
Caring for a loved-one with Alzheimer’s Disease presents a range of challenges on a daily basis and, if we’re honest, it can be draining and disheartening at times. That said, it’s important to remember that life doesn’t end at the point of diagnosis and many people find creative ways to live well with Alzheimer’s. Taking part in meaningful activities on a daily basis is not only fulfilling for someone with Alzheimer’s, but an essential part of their care.
Cognitive decline is hastened when people lead sedentary lives without constant brain stimulation. Such activities also provide happiness and improve the mental health of both patient and carer. People living with Alzheimer’s are quick to forget experiences and interactions, but that’s exactly why individual moments become so important. For carer’s, the aim should be to create as many moments where both are happy, content and enjoying themselves. These moments will create the memories that are most cherished in years to come when your loved-one is no longer here.
For some inspiration, here’s a collection of activities you and your loved-one with Alzheimer’s will love doing together:
Memory-loss is the most recognizable symptom of Alzheimer’s Disease and likely the most frustrating for your loved-one. However, these reminiscence activities are designed to help recall long-term memory, often those from childhood. This helps to fight stress and agitation, bringing happiness and calm.
Create a Memory Box: A memory box is a box in which you put items that will remind your loved-one of elements of their life and history or treasured people and places. Then you can have them rummage in the box and pick out items to discuss. The idea is to use items made from different material to make a sensory experience that will stimulate their brain in several different ways.
Listen to Music: A universally soothing activity, listening to music from their past will help them remember the good times associated with the music. Not sure how music ties into memory? Just think – do you remember how you learned the alphabet?
Dig Out the Photo Albums: Taking the time to look through photos with with your loved ones is a great way to help your loved one to relive memories from their youth or to recall more recent events, people and places.
Exercise is especially important for older adults as those who are active are less susceptible to physical decline which can lead to falls, other injuries and mobility issues. Exercise also improves mood which can be extremely valuable for someone with Dementia.
Dance: Scientific studies have shown that dancing regularly helps to reduce your risk of Dementia, but it’s also helpful for people who are already living with the condition. The combination of exercise and music is extremely stimulating for the brain.
Take a Stroll: Being out in nature can have a valuable calming effect on someone with Dementia and the change of environment stimulates the brain in a way that staying indoors cannot.
Chair Workouts: Did you know that you don’t need to leave your living room, or even your chair to get a challenging workout?! Especially suitable for those with limited mobility, there are a variety of ways to exercise whilst sitting. For some great chair workout ideas, see the workout section on the MindMate App.
Gardening: As with walking, gardening is a great activity because it provides a change of environment for your loved one and allows them to spend time in nature. But in addition, gardening also burns calories, providing a bonus workout for you and them. Helping out in the garden also helps your loved one to feel useful, which helps to ease any frustration they may have.
Art and Craft: Arts and Craft not provides a fun activity you can do with your loved one, but it also provides them with a creative outlet. Expressing creativity stimulates their brain and also allows them to show their emotions and relieve stress and angst.
Training your brain through challenging and stimulating games and puzzles has already been proven to reduce a healthy person’s risk of cognitive decline in future, but now early research studies have also suggested that such activities may help to slow cognitive decline in people with Dementia. Regardless of the tentative nature of these conclusions, the evidence that brain training has a positive impact on brain health is significant. Try these stimulating activities regularly with your loved one:
Jigsaw Puzzles: Doing Jigsaw puzzles enables those with Dementia to use their problem-solving and spatial skills, two key areas which are often significantly affected by their condition.
Crosswords: Crosswords are a low-stress workout for memory and problem-solving skills and they’re an activity that is ideally suited to being done together by two or more people.
Brain Training Apps: Tablet computers are valuable tools and the role they can play in Dementia care is often overlooked. There are countless apps available for people with all types of illnesses, but especially valuable for Dementia patients are brain training apps which provide daily activities for regular mental stimulation. The games and activities within such apps target all the different areas of the brain and train key cognitive skills.
Quizzes: Quizzes are help and challenge the ability of your loved-one to recall information, something which can be challenging for people with Dementia. Regular training in this way can help their brain to stay sharp for longer.