If you step back and take a good look, there are many options for you. Just about anything you do together can be viewed as an “activity.” It often doesn’t take too much to make a person with Alzheimer’s feel useful.
You can do something as helpful as go grocery shopping. Have him push the cart, or hand him things to arrange in the cart. He also can help unload them for the cashier and then later load them into the car. Having him hold a bag while you’re unlocking the car or your front door also can build self-esteem.
Here is a list of activities you might like to try at home. Mix and modify as you find useful. You will have to consider cognitive ability and functioning levels, of course, so you don’t attempt something that will prove too hard or frustrating. Some of these things can be done with a partner, or alone. As time wears on, he will need a partner more often. With Alzheimer’s patients, it is always important to have a routine or schedule to rely on. Just don’t adhere to it too strictly if you see your husband’s mood or disposition is not suited for what you think you should be doing.
• Play music — Music can enhance memory. Play upbeat music you can dance to, if that is a desirable option. It’s good exercise. Calming music will help everyone relax.
• Write his life story with his assistance — Help him remember his life as you both organize photos and story lines. Include special events, family, awards, special events, accomplishments and more. Put everything in a durable book that your husband can carry around and look at often.
• Video break — There are numerous videos/discs designed specifically for people with Alzheimer’s in mind. For example, Innovative Caregiving Resources (http://www.videorespite.com/) has 10 interactive DVDs/videotapes that will typically keep the attention of a person with Alzheimer’s for their full duration (20 to 53 minutes). Visit the company online, by phone [(801) 272-9446] or by mail: P.O. Box 17332, Salt lake City, UT 84117.
• Exercise — Join a gym (to help both of you), go on walks, use an exercise video or audio program, putt on a portable putting green, bat an inflated balloon back and forth, play suitable games such as horseshoes (soft ones are lighter), bean bags or croquet. Your imagination is the only limit here.
• Play cards or board games such as checkers
• Relaxation — Have a relaxation period each day after lunch. Burn candles or incense (remember which scents get the best reactions), play calming music, gently massage warm lotion onto hands or arms. Consider this type of ritual around bedtime, too.
• Read enjoyable things — This could be something funny, inspirational, spiritual or just reflective. One person can read to the other, or you can read together.
For more information, an excellent resource is “The Indispensable Alzheimer’s Resource Kit.” It can be downloaded at no cost by clicking here.