Adapting Activities for Individuals with Alzheimer's

How to Adapt Activities for Loved Ones with Alzheimer’s Disease

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Adapting activities for loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease is a fundamental aspect of caregiving. As each person’s experience with the disease is different, it’s crucial to consider their unique needs and capabilities and therefore, personalize activities to suit their stage of the disease and their interests.

There are numerous strategies and approaches that can significantly enhance the quality of life for both the affected individual and their caregivers, all leading to a more meaningful and enjoyable engagement, which will be discussed in more detail below.

Try to plan activities for the same time each day

As the disease progresses, your loved one’s ability to understand and adapt to changes in their environment can become increasingly challenging. When faced with unfamiliar situations, individuals with Alzheimer’s may experience heightened levels of anxiety and agitation. A consistent daily routine, with activities planned for the same time each day, can contribute to a more comfortable and supportive environment, significantly reducing these feelings.

Moreover, when they know when and how to engage in familiar activities, they may require less hands-on assistance, allowing them to maintain independence for as long as possible.

Engaging in activities at the same time each day can also stimulate cognitive function and memory in individuals with Alzheimer’s. Repetition helps reinforce neural pathways, allowing for better retention of information and improved cognitive ability.

Consider your loved one’s past interests

When caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, it’s essential to remember that the person they once were is still very much a part of who they are today. While the disease may have diminished their cognitive function, their past interests and hobbies can still trigger emotions and memories, bringing them joy and connection, even if they can’t recall specific details.

However, it’s important to adapt those activities to their current abilities. For example, if your loved one used to be an avid gardener, consider setting up a small indoor garden with easy-to-maintain plants or engaging them in simple gardening tasks like potting or watering plants. If they enjoyed cooking, opt for easy-to-follow recipes with minimal steps. Going to their favorite restaurant, park, or shopping mall may also be an option.

Minimize distractions to make your loved one feel comfortable

Due to cognitive decline and sensory sensitivity, distractions can be quite overwhelming for individuals with Alzheimer’s. A cluttered or noisy environment can increase the risk of challenging behaviors, making them more susceptible to feelings of confusion, anxiety, and agitation.

Here are some tips to help you create a distraction-free environment for your loved one:

  • Remove unnecessary items from the living area to reduce visual and physical clutter.
  • Designate a specific area in the home where your loved one can engage in activities without the noise from other parts of the house.
  • Reduce background noise by turning off the TV or radio when not in use.
  • Offer limited choices when it comes to activities, meals, or clothing.
  • Stick to a daily routine as much as possible to provide a sense of predictability.

 

Reducing distractions can help create a more comforting and peaceful environment, improve your loved one’s ability to focus on a specific activity, or complete simple tasks independently.

Figure out if your loved one can do the activity alone or needs help

Adapting activities for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease requires a regular assessment of their ability to engage in the activity. Understanding their level of cognitive and physical function is crucial for providing the appropriate level of support, safety, and enjoyment.

Observe how your loved one approaches various tasks and activities, and note where they may struggle. Pushing them to engage in activities beyond their current capabilities can only lead to frustration and agitation. Recognizing their limitations and offering appropriate assistance can prevent these negative emotions.

In addition, activities that your loved one could once do independently may now pose risks (e.g., cooking or using tools). Offering supervision or assistance may help prevent potential accidents.

If possible, ask them how they feel about specific activities and whether they would like assistance or prefer to try on their own. If they can partially complete an activity, offer assistance as needed without taking over completely. While providing support when needed is essential, it’s equally important to encourage and maintain their independence whenever possible.

Don’t push an activity if your loved one gets frustrated

Adapting activities for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease also requires patience, understanding, and flexibility. Cognitive and physical impairment can make it difficult for them to perform tasks they once did effortlessly. When faced with a task they find challenging, pushing them to continue can have several negative consequences, including:

  • Increased anxiety. Pursuing an activity that’s causing frustration can worsen their emotional state, making them anxious, overwhelmed, and distressed.
  • Loss of confidence. Frustration can destroy their self-esteem and confidence, diminishing their willingness to engage in activities.
  • Risk of agitation. Pushing too hard can escalate into agitation or aggression, which can be distressing for both you and your loved one.
  • Reduced enjoyment. Forcing an activity can turn something that should be enjoyable into a source of stress and negativity.

 

Pay close attention to their emotions during an activity. If you notice any signs of frustration, it’s essential to respond with empathy and understanding. Let them know that it’s okay to feel this way and consider taking a break from the activity.

Keep it simple and be patient

Simplicity and patience are also key when adapting activities for loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease. Since the disease affects their memory and problem-solving ability, simple activities with clear instructions may help reduce the cognitive load on your loved one, making it easier for them to participate and enjoy the experience. Simple activities are also more likely to be completed independently, fostering a sense of self-esteem and accomplishment.

Complex tasks can only lead to frustration and anxiety, while too many choices can lead to confusion. For instance, you may present two or three choices rather than an open-ended list or incorporate sensory activities like finger painting, aromatherapy, or listening to calming music to help minimize negative emotions.

Our team at Arbor Trace Memory Care Center in London, Ontario can assess your loved one’s capabilities to determine the level of assistance and create a personalized plan that suits their specific needs and stage of the disease.

We’re also taking steps to create a calming, distraction-free, and supportive environment, which not only helps reduce anxiety and agitation but also promotes independence and enhances their overall quality of life.

Contact us to schedule a tour for the Arbor Trace memory care community and discover strategies for adapting activities for individuals with Alzheimer’s.

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