Merrian-Webster defines activity as involving mental function designed to stimulate learning and energy; usually done for pleasure and often involves other people. Think how difficult it is for those diagnosed with cognitive loss to perform purposeful activities such as self-care (bathing, eating, dressing, toileting, etc.) and socialization when the ability to initiate these interactions have been compromised. Dementia certainly affects initiating pleasurable activities and social interaction.
I’ve been an occupational therapist for over forty years. I’ve treated adult patients with a multitude of diagnoses often involving cognitive loss, but I would leave at the end of the day to return to my family’s needs. However, when my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at 87, everything changed. I could no longer leave it all behind and I had to deal with our new “normal.” I wasn’t prepared, but I had no choice but to learn how to cope. Now, looking back, I see it was my mother who continued to teach me how to move forward.
My mother’s cognition dictated what was necessary. I learned to be flexible in serving her needs with my goals of safety and purpose in mind. I wanted tasks that were challenging, not demeaning. I wanted to assess if they worked and provided a means to maximize communication between multiple caregivers. I wanted her caregivers to feel useful so their burnout was minimized. What I learned to do was limit choices so my mom could still have a sense of control over herself. As her condition decreased so too did the number of choices offered. I learned to stress positivity, to reinforce her reality.
My book deals with these issues; it provides examples of inexpensive, user-friendly activities that are not medical in orientation to help caregivers provide structure for their loved ones or clients. Structured activities and tasks described in my book, Activities to Do with Your Parent Who Has Alzheimer’s Dementia, help make it possible to offer socialization between the caregiver and the individual. Activities need not be complicated. In fact, they should be easily understood, broken down into simple one-to-two steps and end with success. With over 50 activities to choose from, my approach is to use what works for your Alzheimer’s patient and leave what doesn’t for another day. The experience can be quite beneficial and rewarding.
Mrs. Levy was the caretaker for her mother who suffered with Alzheimer’s Dementia for almost ten years. Her book, Activities to Do with Your Parent Who Has Alzheimer’s Dementia, is available at amazon.com. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org .