For many people with Alzheimer's, the progression of the disease means giving up favorite activities and interests. However, it is critical that they remain as engaged and active as possible, no matter what stage of the disease they are in. Although activities won’t slow the progress of Alzheimer's or prolong life, they can make the time more enjoyable by lessening depression and agitation and increasing motor skills.
No matter what activities you choose, they should be based on the skills and abilities of the patient and done in a way that promotes success. There is no need to force a new activity. Establishing routines is often more successful than trying new things frequently. And, as the disease progresses activities may continue to feel familiar even if the patient doesn’t remember doing them before.
Revive a hobby
Rather than picking a random activity or dreaming up new ideas, look to favorite hobbies to inspire activities. Developing an activity around a hobby the patient has enjoyed in the past greatly increases the chance that they will participate and gain from the experience. Keep in mind that some hobbies will need to be simplified. For example, present someone who loved to assemble puzzles with an option containing a few large pieces.
Art activities present an excellent chance to concentrate on fine motor skills while expressing emotions in a safe way. Plus, because art projects have a tangible end result they can provide a sense of accomplishment. Art activities can be successful even for people who didn’t previously see themselves as creative. People with Alzheimer's disease often look at things with a less critical eye, so they are able to relax and enjoy the process without judging the results. Sculpting with clay or even playdough can be excellent sensory activities while painting with watercolors, drawing with crayons, or gluing together a collage are also fun choices.
Everyone benefits from exercise, but the mood-boosting endorphins can be especially beneficial to those with Alzheimer's. Physical activity also promotes sleep and enhances appetite. Careful attention will need to be given to ensure that exercise is safe and appropriate for the patient, but many will benefit from brief walks and strolls outdoors. Yoga, simplified with a few poses, will also help to stretch the muscles while relaxing the mind.
Walk down memory lane
Talking about the past and finding ways to relive it can help to keep the moments crisp and alive. However, as memories start to fade trying to recall them can before stressful and lead to agitation, so be sure to keep the activity light and enjoyable. Try looking through a photo album or watching a home movie and encouraging the patient to talk about the events and people pictured. This is also a good chance to jot down stories and antidotes. Watching a favorite movie or listening to a much-loved song can bring up associated memories.