Activities are the things that we do. They include getting dressed, doing chores, playing cards and even paying bills. They can represent who we are and what we’re about. Most people with Alzheimer’s disease still have the energy and desire to do things but lack the ability to organize, plan, initiate and successfully complete even simple tasks of daily life.
The objective of good activity programming is not only to serve the best interests of the participants but also make activities a rewarding experience for both the person with Alzheimer’s and health care professionals. If an activity is to be meaningful, it must have purpose, be voluntary, feel good to the participant and offer the person with Alzheimer’s a reasonable chance of success.
Activities can be:
A personal encounter — Making eye contact, exchanging greetings or passing in the hall are important to a resident or program participant only if they are meaningful, supportive and affirming.
Naturally offered by the environment — A gathering of chairs and tables naturally promotes spontaneous interaction between residents and their surroundings. For example, a chair by the window that looks onto a bird feeder encourages bird watching.
Daily housekeeping routines — Tasks such as folding laundry, raking, sweeping, dusting, clearing and setting tables, and making beds are good for people with Alzheimer’s disease because no new learning is required. These tasks can make the person feel useful and productive.
Self-care activities — Dressing, bathing, grooming and dining can be the most personally meaningful and comforting activities, yet are often the first to be removed from an individual’s control upon entering a long-term care facility. These activities help reinforce the individual’s identity and sense of autonomy.
Planned scheduled events — Planned normally by the activity staff, scheduled activities are often limited by the creativity, experience, abilities and interest of the participants and staff. Not all programs must be innovative and exciting. There is much value in just enjoying the company of others.
Spontaneous activities — Ad hoc activities can be used as a way to divert people with Alzheimer’s disease from difficult or potentially dangerous behavior or to diffuse the behavior. For example, an invitation to have a cup of tea may distract a person who is intent on leaving, or a walk through the facility can diffuse anxiety or restlessness.
Activities can be planned on a one-on-one basis or as group programs. One-on-one activities, which are useful for participants whose attention is difficult to maintain, provide intimate, private time to build relationships. Group activities promote socialization and a sense of belonging.
Activities should be planned to address the needs, history, strengths and challenges of each individual. Avoid focusing activities that serve the interest of the facility and lose sight of the participant’s needs.