During these unprecedented times when we are required to practice social distancing and shelter at home, families caring for a loved one with dementia at home face increased isolation and emotional challenges. Not being able to socialize in person with friends and extended family are difficult enough for everyone.

Keeping a sense of structure and consistency with routine as well as engaging in stimulating activities can help reduce tension and minimize stress for both caregiver and the diagnosed. Here are some ideas and activities for sheltering at home with a loved one who has Alzheimer’s/dementia.

Keep a routine. Try to keep consistent daily times for waking up, mealtimes, bathing, dressing, activities, and bedtimes. Let your loved one know what to expect and involve them in daily activities as much as they’re able.

Keep it fun. Incorporate favorite activities into your daily routine at a similar time each day. Some great activities for dementia patients at home include listening to music, especially from their past, that helps them remember good times. Dancing to their favorite music, playing a musical instrument or singing is very stimulating and creative.

Add cognitive games. Putting together a jig-saw puzzle reinforces problem solving, as does crossword or Sudoku puzzles. Simple board games, Bingo, and dominoes are also entertaining.

Read or watch favorite movies. Reading is a light exercise for the brain and stimulates the imagination. Rather than long books, short stories related to their past are a good way to rekindle long-term memories. In the same vein, watching movies or favorite TV episodes keeps them engaged and remembering.

Let them help with chores. Routine light cleaning chores can help loved ones retain their life skills and adds to the feeling of being productive. Food preparation and following a recipe can bring a feeling of accomplishment and purpose; however, caregivers should supervise any cooking. Setting or clearing the table and rinsing dishes are other ways to engage the loved one in important routine chores.

Stimulate the senses. Vary activities to stimulate different senses – sight, smell, hearing, touch and movement. Painting, gardening, playing with pets are some suggestions. Planning outdoor times can be very therapeutic. Go for a drive, take a short walk, visit a park, or even sitting on a balcony can be relaxing. 

Exercise. Modified exercises such as stretching, deep breathing and light cardio are important physical activities that increase oxygen and release the feel-good endorphins to the brain.

You’ll want to tailor activities to your loved one’s current level of ability so they don’t get frustrated. Many organizations that offer support and care for dementia patients and their families are utilizing technology to keep people connected. Now via live stream, these support groups, social activity groups and exercise and education programs are able to continue serving as an important lifeline.

Alzheimers Coachella Valley is currently offering two weekly support groups along with its social activity program, Club Journey, via live stream weekly. Silver Sneakers, available through most health care insurances, offers various live stream exercise lessons during the week. Check with your local chamber of commerce to learn about organizations that offer live stream help and support for caregivers. 

For more information, visit cvalzheimers.org or call (760) 776.3100.

1) https://www.helpguide.org/articles/alzheimers-dementia-aging/tips-for-alzheimers-caregivers.htm;
2) https://www.byyoursidecare.com/blog/memory-care/best-activities-for-alzheimers-patients;
3) https://www.agingcare.com/Articles/Alzheimers-disease-care-at-home-139990.htm

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