Memory Weakening – Know Their Ability Level

Memory Impairment ActivitesMemory impairment due to Dementia, whether Alzheimer’s, Vascular, Parkinson, Brain Injury or other cause make daily tasks more difficult.  Memory loss in aging seniors usually coexists with other cognitive losses such as reasoning, planning, sequencing – basic thinking and behavior.  It usually occurs in stages when it is due to Alzheimer’s disease.  Memory loss begins with some language skills – remembering a name or a thing, not recalling information very recently given and over years (or in some cases sooner) impairment occurs in other parts of the brain so that even lifelong knowledge is out of reach – such as recognizing a spouse or adult son or daughter.  Therefore, when planning activities with someone who has memory impairment, it is important to assess what they can still do and participate in and what they cannot.  For instance, they may not be able to recall the words of a song but they can still enjoy the music and maybe even dance. Routine is very important to the person with Memory loss as well as their caregivers — familial or hired.

Types of Activities to Consider

When considering the types of activities to engage in, begin with what the person knows, recognizes and enjoys. For instance, if they always enjoyed gardening, then a modified type of gardening may be the way to start. If balance is an issue or getting up from the ground, then it is prudent to do “table gardening”. The internet and gardening stores will have many ideas on how to create a table garden.

Take into account what your loved one did for a living. If they were working with numbers, and still can to any degree, then games with numbers may be enjoyable. If they always liked animals, then visiting a pet store or dog walk is a good possibility of how to spend time together. Key in on what their interests and hobbies were and are and use that as your guide to new, modified activities. The activity’s purpose is to bring pleasure, enjoyment and be stimulating to the person. Other goals and by-products include encouraging of self-expression, creativity, bring back some joyful memories, create and establish a connection with others, decrease stress, anxiety or frustration by engaging them with others around an enjoyable task. The objective is to foster a meaningful interaction, rather than just pass the time. Remember: safety first, so some things may need to be modified to meet their ability level. Also, since Alzheimer’s affects behavior and even our senses, what was once enjoyable, may not be overwhelming or uninteresting. Trial and error is in order to find the best fit of activity to the person.

Suggestions for Things to Do Together

Whether at a Day Care Center, or at home, there are still many things to try and to engage in. Be sensitive to the person’s ability, agitation level, need to get up and walk around and even the time of day. Most folks are better in the mid-morning or early afternoon.  For “Sundowners” you’ll like want to create a quieter environment for winding down from the day. Be aware of the temperature in the room and whether the person is hungry, thirsty or needs to use the restroom.

Music is nearly always a winner. Choosing the right type of music is the challenge. Best when it is uplifting.

Dancing, even when seated is a good way to exercise too.

Singing is also a favorite. Singing is controlled in a different part of the brain than speech. Don’t get caught up on whether all the words are right or not.

Arts & Crafts – large size puzzles, painting, maybe knitting are fun, if the person enjoys crafts.  A crafts store will have lots of ideas – just keep patterns simple and tools safe.

Organize the office, drawers, cabinets, closets – especially if the person took pleasure in organization.

Folding clothes, towels, sheets are a good task to do together as it is functional and repetitive.

So too is cleaning – sweeping, wiping a counter, putting things away, emptying the dishwasher – all give the person a sense of accomplishment.

Gardening or being out in nature – walking in a park or along the beach.

Read together – either books, magazine articles or the newspaper – just keep it to their level.

Review family photo albums and videos.

Watch a television program together.

Cooking or baking together.

Whatever you and your loved one come up with.

Memory Impairment Day Care Centers are a great place to visit to see what their daily schedules look like in terms of activities, games and tasks. You can also get a better idea of the props they use. Start out with just a couple of activities – one a day to see what is enjoyed and what is not. If your spouse, elderly parent or other family member resists or avoids the activity, take a break or drop it completely. Perhaps they have an idea which “could make the activity better”.

It is the journey, not the destination. Activities you can share are meant to do just that, spend time in a meaningful way together, not necessarily completing the task and certainly not to perfection.  A puzzle does not have to be completed. A room does not have to be straightened out in one day. Care sharing is many things. Whether you do it all yourself (which will catch up with any familial caregiver), enroll your loved one in a Day Care program, hire a caregiver or a combination, caring for another adult who has cognitive impairment and memory loss is a full time endeavor and is best when shared.

For the Caregivers, taking care of yourself, physically and emotionally is very important, as well as keeping your own memory sharp.