What are some fresh ideas I can use to keep my mother with Alzheimer's occupied?

A fellow caregiver asked...

my mom is at the stage where she still wants to be helpful, but doesn't realize her limitations. I had her roll yarn into balls for quite a while because it kept her occupied while I could get other chores done. I have had her sort coins for wrapping into rolls,shell peas and beans, sort old pens/markers as to whether they still write or not, sort craft paper by colors, etc ....but I need some new ideas. It takes several repititions before she learns a new task and if no one stays near her, she gets confused after 15 to 20 minutes. Any suggestions about how to occupy her? TV doesn't work because she really can't tell whether she is watching a commercial or a program.

Expert Answer

Monica is an occupational therapist and designer of adapted dementia products through her company MindStart. Activities for Persons With Memory Loss. In addition, she works with the Minnesota-North Dakota Alzheimer's Association and the University of Minnesota on dementia issues. MindStart provides age-appropriate and stage-appropriate dementia activities, such as games, puzzles, and books. The items are simplified to meet the needs of various stages of dementia while remaining dignified and familiar in appearance

It sounds like your mother is in the middle stage of dementia, where she does best with one step, repetitive tasks, with some oversight to stay on task. I commend you with the ideas you have done for her; you really have keyed into what she still can do and matched activities to that. Here are some more activities for Alzheimer's patients at this stage that I suggest: sort playing cards by suit, color, or number; sort colored socks; fold hankerchiefs or cloth napkins; sort large, colored buttons; sort quilting fabric swatches; wind ribbon onto spools; peeling corn on the cob; polish silverware (use non-toxic method); games or puzzles designed for persons with memory loss. At this stage, your mom likely will need help to get started and some cuing to continue. Also, try to avoid the use of small objects (i.e. small buttons) which may mistakenly be put into the mouth. Good luck - you are doing well!