The following four activities are virtually guaranteed to reach persons at all stages of Alzheimer’s: 1) Being visited by a child, 2) Being visited by a pet, 3) Listening to or performing music and 4) Observing or creating artwork.
1. Being Visited by a Child
It’s a well-known fact that children can reach demented people at a deep emotional level that adults often cannot.
Children can play with people with Alzheimer’s. If you need some specific ideas check out the Alzheimer’s Association website, which has a list of 101 things a child can do with someone who has Alzheimer’s. (www.Alz.org)
2. Being Visited by a Pet
Much like children, animals can often touch demented people more deeply than people can.
For example. at a nursing home there was a late-stage Alzheimer’s patient whose face someone’s dog licked when he held him up for her to see. The visitor told her the dog didn’t usually “kiss” people he didn’t know, and she immediately answered, “Dogs are very selective.” That was the first lucid remark she’d made for months.
3. Listening to or Performing Music
After listening to music some are clearly more calm, in a better mood and more outgoing than before, which improves the quality of life for both the patient and the caregiver. Music has even been found to help those with dementia retrieve some memories their caregivers had assumed were lost forever.
Often times late stage Alzheimer’s patients can sing songs, including the lyrics, long after they’ve lost the ability to recognize loved ones, dress themselves, or remember what happened five minutes earlier.
4. Observing or Creating Artwork
If your loved one is able to go out, a trip to an art museum could also be very beneficial. Just looking at art, much like listening to music, has been shown to calm dementia patients.
In the late stage of the disease, Alzheimer’s patients can often still create striking art work that allows them to express themselves and connect with their loved ones – even when they can no longer speak.
You can arrange various types of art projects for your loved one. Common activities include painting with water colors, coloring with crayons, making scrapbooks or molding objects out of clay.
There is an online store, Best Alzheimer’s Products, that features games for those with Alzheimer’s. http://www.best-alzheimers-products.com/games-for-people-with-alzheimer’s.html.
For more specific ideas about how to use music to engage people who have dementia go to: http://www.alzheimersreadingroom.com/2011/11/music-and-alzheimers-disease-using.html.