Practical activities for interacting with an Alzheimer's patient
Reading is an activity often abandoned because of poor eyesight or a lost ability to follow along. Yet it can be a good way to keep one's mind active because it brings up topics to think and talk about, and it can be a source of pleasure and relaxation for a lifelong reader. Take some simple steps to help a patient enjoy the activity:
- Bring familiar periodicals when you visit and look them over together. She may have favorite sections (sports, weather, advice columns) that continue to give pleasure because she's so familiar with them. Use the topics as a springboard for conversation.
- Read aloud. The advantage of reading aloud over books on tape is that the latter can be hard to follow unless a patient's Alzheimer's is still early. When you read aloud to her, you can follow her cues and stop to answer questions, discuss, or rest. Choose her favorite books or authors to reread; try a chapter a day. This is a good activity for an older grandchild to engage in during visits with her grandparent.
- Furnish coffee-table books with large photographs or other artwork that's visually stimulating.
- See if her favorite reading materials have large-print editions.
Do chores together
You may not consider household activities stimulating or enjoyable, but they can be a great source of both pleasure and mental exercise to someone with Alzheimer's. Completing tasks, even simple or rote ones, provides a sense of achievement -- important because she may feel increasingly useless and out of control of her environment.
Activities that are often particularly engaging, especially if she has always done them, include sorting, folding, or putting away laundry; washing dishes or unloading a dishwasher; snapping beans or shucking corn; and raking leaves, watering flowers, or pulling weeds in the garden. Doing everything "for" a patient robs her of the opportunity to feel productive, and feeling useful is a basic human need. So don't feel guilty about using your time together on something as mundane as chores.