Evidence has been accumulating for some time that physical and mental exercise may help slow or reduce the effects of Alzheimer’s. While researchers continue to try to draw direct and conclusive results based on this evidence, it is still beneficial to encourage a loved one with Alzheimer’s to stay active. Maintaining activity and interests may help invoke a feeling of purpose. Arranging activities with a goal can further heighten that sense of accomplishment. Some examples might include: grocery shopping while checking off a list, tending a garden and harvesting fresh vegetables from it, cooking or baking a favorite recipe together, doing a puzzle, cleaning the house, or playing a word game.
To identify appropriate and meaningful activities for your loved one, it is helpful to draw upon his or her lifestyle, hobbies and social interests. Also be sure to take into account any limitations that your loved one may have, but always keep focus on their strengths. This will enable you to truly create quality time together. The goal does not always have to be completing a specific activity, but rather creating moments of joy.
There are several ways to encourage and help your loved one to be active. Here are some ideas to consider:
- Choose Meaningful Activities. Aim for activities that may have more meaning for your loved one because he or she used to enjoy them. This is a way to leverage his or her passions and interests. AARP says, “A successful activity, whether it’s listening to music or playing a game, helps create meaning and pulls from past interests.” The more meaningful the activity, the better chance your loved one will engage in it. However, don’t be afraid to try new things as well.
- Make Activities Manageable. Try applying your loved one’s skills to smaller and more manageable activities, with limited decision making during the activity. Also, if he or she is content doing a certain thing, but it is not doing it exactly right, try to avoid correcting him or her. The goal is to engage them and encourage a sense of success.
- Tap Into Alternate Activities. If your loved one seems resistant to a certain activity, let that resistance guide you toward trying a different approach, or perhaps a different activity altogether. You may even suggest just taking a break from an activity and trying it again at another time. Ask your loved one how a certain activity can be altered to make it more enjoyable. That way, you find the activities that best suit your loved one.
- Establish a routine. Make a note of the activities that your loved one enjoys and establish a routine. If the activities are familiar, he or she may repeat an activity instinctively. Within the routine, try to mix up the activities from time to time to keep it fresh. You may also find that certain times of the day are better for your loved one to do an activity than other times.
You may need to assist your loved one in getting an activity started, so offer support by helping to organize and plan. You may also need to show your loved one how to perform the task and provide simple step-by-step instructions. Most importantly, no matter the outcome, always acknowledge the result in a positive way.