Activities. Are You Prepared?

By Robert Elmer III on February 29, 2016 in Uncategorized

It was the great Basketball Coach John Wooden who said “don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” When it comes to doing activities with your loved one(s) with Alzheimer’s type dementia, truer words have never been spoken.
In traditional dementia care communities and Adult Day Centers, they’re required to provide the residents “meaningful activities.” As we all know, what is meaningful to one, may not always be meaningful to another and that’s why professional and family caregivers need to be aware of what would be appropriate activities for those they are caring for. In the early days, when I was observing the operations of other dedicated communities before opening our own, I took great interest in this one lady. It was lunch time and she was busy clearing tables, rising dishes and then putting them in the dishwasher; all without any supervision. I asked a member of the staff if she were a family member, volunteer or a helpful visitor? No came the answer, she’s one of our residents. Besides surprise, my first reaction was to think, how would her family feel about mom doing the chores that the staff should be doing? It was then that I reminded myself that this was a great example of one of those meaningful activities for this woman. She had been a “super mom” all of her life and doing things like setting and clearing the table, rinsing the dishes and putting them in the dishwasher made her feel valued, appreciated and important. I also learned that she, along with a few of the other gals, loved to help the staff fold the laundry. As with all of their activities, even if they don’t do the best job in the world in folding towels always remember that the joy is in the doing not the end result.
Clearly, there’s more to activities than doing daily chores. There’s painting, playing a musical instrument along with live or recorded music, crafts, games and so much more.
If you enjoy doing activities with your loved one make sure that you’re setting yourself up for success. Make sure that your doing things in a clutter free and quiet environment if appropriate. Make sure that the project or game isn’t too complex or difficult for them to follow. That would increase their frustration level and that’s no fun for anyone. Make sure that instructions aren’t coming from to many others. You know what they say about cooks and the broth. Insure they have plenty of space and that no one is “cramping their style.” Just like with complexity, make sure that if it’s a crafts project you’re working on with them, that they can handle the parts or supplies and finally, watch your timing; avoid activities at times when they could be tired or hungry. Remember that not everyone is a joiner and in spite of how excited you you might be for 100% participation, you may have someone on your hands that will want to be near all of the activity but not be a part of it; that’s OK too. I heard a story once of an inexperienced Activities Director that insisted one of her residents get up and dance with her when the live entertainment started. She didn’t want to but the Activities gal insisted and helped her up out of her chair. Ten seconds into the dance, the resident hit her. They never knew, until then, that this lady was a Southern Baptist and to her, dancing was a sin. She couldn’t have told you what she had for lunch but she never forgot that part of her life or that part of her Faith.
Regardless of the goals and objectives you may have for your loved one when doing activities, we must always be aware of their strengths and limitations.
If you have any questions, please email me at Remember, Join the Journey.

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