When a senior family member or friend has Alzheimer’s disease, helping them continue to feel connected to their social circle is important. Some researchers even believe that socializing and staying as engaged as possible may help slow the progression of the disease.
“We all need to feel a sense of meaning, purpose and accomplishment,” says Rita Altman, Sunrise Senior Living’s senior vice president of Memory Care & Program Services. “Your loved one living with memory loss is no different. Consider all that they are still able to do as you plan activities to enjoy with them.”
We have a few suggestions on how you can adapt social outings and activities to include a senior with Alzheimer’s.
6 Ways to Include an Adult with Alzheimer’s in Activities and Outings
- Adapt current traditions: If your friend with Alzheimer’s is part of your card group or book club, memory loss might make these activities difficult for them. Think about what you could do instead. Maybe you could change the format to a monthly movie night or a craft club? These are activities adults with Alzheimer’s can still enjoy.
- Focus on safety and security: For people with Alzheimer’s, busy, noisy environments often increase agitation and anxiety. That can cause them to unsafely leave the unfamiliar environment without telling anyone, as they wish to remove themselves from the frustrating situation. Instead of your girls’ night out activity being a trip to the local shopping mall or a busy restaurant, choose a less hectic group activity. It could be a potluck at your home, where you invite your friend over to assist or cohost. Making it easier for them to be a part of an event in a more familiar environment can help improve their self-esteem while also keeping them safe.
- Start new traditions: Adults with Alzheimer’s typically feel less anxious in places that look and feel familiar. A park they took their children to, a favorite family-style restaurant, or a familiar family cottage are all examples. Think about what you can do to plan activities and outings in those environments. While it might not be as exciting as trying a new restaurant each month or planning long weekends to new destinations, it is a thoughtful way to include your friend or family member.
- Learn to communicate: As the disease progresses, your friend’s ability to communicate will change. It’s important to take time to learn what you can do to stay connected. In this podcast, Rita Altman shares tips for using verbal and nonverbal communication techniques to engage with a senior who has Alzheimer’s disease.
- Alzheimer’s-friendly activities: Some activities are easier to participate in than others for people with memory loss. In general, music, baking, dancing to the oldies, gardening, and arts and crafts projects are meaningful activities for adults with Alzheimer’s. It might be a process of trial and error to determine which things your loved one enjoys and feels good participating in.
- Time of day: For adults with Alzheimer’s, there is often a time of day when anxiety or agitation peaks because they are becoming tired and having difficulty compensating. This is often because they formerly had a longstanding routine to do something or go somewhere at a certain time, such as leaving work to go home at 5:00 p.m. every day. When this occurs in the early evening or late afternoon, some refer to it as sundowning. To best include your friend in an activity, plan it for when they have their highest level of energy and are most able to enjoy engaging with others and the outside environment.
Our final suggestion is to learn more about the stages of Alzheimer’s disease. This will help you learn more about what to expect in the months and years ahead. Our article, “Defining the Stages of Alzheimer’s,” walks through the signs and symptoms associated with each of the seven stages of the disease.
Source: Sunrise Senior Living