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How To Help A Person With Alzheimer's Dementia Continue Their Favorite Activities

March 17, 2020 | in Life Changes & Sleep

Editorial Review Phoebe Stoye, A.B. in Neurobiology, Harvard College
Clinical Review Felicia Greenfield, MSW, LCSW
The Penn Memory Center

Everyone has hobbies. They can range from cooking, to hiking, to different forms of art. We can all agree that even though there are many types of hobbies out there, they each are capable of giving us positive thoughts and providing joy. With that, it's important to make sure loved ones with Alzheimer's or another form of dementia do not lose their ability to continue their favorite hobbies due to their condition. There are ways to help your loved ones keep a sense of familiarity with their favorite activities. Below are a few to keep in mind:

Meaningfulness in activites for a person with dementia

We all find meaning and purpose in things we love to do. People with dementia such as Alzheimer's are no different. When identifying an activity to do with your loved one, make it something he or she enjoys.

Consider their hobbies as well as their former profession. Did your loved one like to entertain? Perhaps they will find setting the table meaningful. Do they enjoy music? Listen to their favorite songs with them. A former math teacher might find meaning in numbers; a former nurse might want to help a person in need. Consider your loved one's passions and interests, and consider activities that are specific and meaningful to him or her.

If you need inspiration, check out these three at-home activity ideas to do with your loved one with dementia!

Timing your activities for better sleep & Sundowning

Just like some of us are morning people and some of us are night owls, people with dementia also have their own rhythms and "best" time of day.

Finding the right time to start an activity is one of the first steps in ensuring your loved one is able to successfully participate in the activity. Pick a time when he or she is content. If your loved one is restless or appears anxious, the activity will not be enjoyable for either of you. If the activity is in a public setting, go during a time when it is not busy and there aren't many distractions; overstimulation can cause your loved one to become more confused or anxious.

Some individuals with dementia experience heightened anxiety later in the day, sometimes referred to as "sundowning." Sundowning refers to the time of day—usually when the sun is going down—when a person with Alzheimer's becomes more restless. If your loved one displays signs of frustration or agitation, it may be best to avoid activities later in the day, in order to improve their sleep patterns and lower chance or severity of sundowning. Starting meaningful activities when your loved one is ready and eager to do them will go a long way towards ensuring success.

Adapting activites for a person with dementia

Adapting your loved one's hobby will also help in making sure the activity is still enjoyable yet safe. Safety is very important to remember as those with Alzheimer's or dementia may forget how to keep themselves safe.

Helping with arts and crafts projects by setting out the materials and gently guiding your loved one during each step of the project is one way you can adapt the activity. For example, this this caregiver shared a clever and loving way to stop her mother from driving when it was unsafe. Or, if your loved one enjoys working in the yard, you could spend an hour or two in the garden planting seeds for a small garden, rather than maintaining an entire backyard.

Keeping activities simple yet meaningful is the key to making sure hobbies are still enjoyable, but also safe and not overwhelming.

Continuing to do things your loved one used to enjoy can help trigger positive memories from the past and keep the mind stimulated. It can help both the person with Alzheimer's Dementia and their loved ones keep a close bond, rekindle old memories, and create new ones. It can turn long, boring days into fun, interesting ones, as well as bring family members closer together at a time where it is needed the most.