Alzheimer's Association offers indoor activities to keep people with dementia engaged this winter

While many families are caring for their loved ones at home, finding ways to stay engaged and active indoors during the cold winter months can be challenging for many Americans, but it can be particularly challenging for the millions of people living with Alzheimer's or another form of dementia. According to the Alzheimer's Association, more than 230,000 individuals are living with Alzheimer's in Illinois.

Individuals at any stage of dementia can benefit from stimulating activities. Many activities can be modified to the person's ability. In addition to enhancing quality of life, activities can reduce common dementia-related behaviors like wandering or agitation.

“It is important you take your cue from the person living with Alzheimer's or another form of dementia,” said Melissa Tucker, director of Family Services, Alzheimer's Association Illinois Chapter. “Having a sense of what they like to do, are able to do and what their mood is on a given day are important factors to consider when offering an activity. If it doesn't work, you can always try something else.”

To help families enjoy quality time with their loved ones with dementia, the Alzheimer's Association is offering a list of fun indoor activities that all family members can enjoy.

• Have a game day: For some early- to mid-stage individuals living with dementia completing a puzzle, playing a card game or even a game of checkers or dominoes can be a stimulating and fun way to spend time indoors. Consider naming the presidents or locating states on a map of the United States. • Reminisce: People living with dementia, even late stages, can enjoy listening to their favorite music. A person may be able to tap a beat or sing lyrics to a song from childhood. Also, consider looking through family photo albums and ask questions about their childhood such as where they went to school? What pets did they have? Or what was their first car? These photos and conversations can bring back favorite childhood memories.

• Do something in the kitchen: Studies suggest smells can trigger more vivid emotional memories. Prepare a favorite meal or bake a favorite dessert. Engage the person in appropriate tasks, keeping safety top of mind. You can also ask the person to wash and dry dishes or for help setting the table.

• Be creative: For many people living in mid- to late-stage dementia, communication can be challenging. Consider painting or drawing activities that can allow the person with the disease to express their feelings safely. Also, consider using play dough or clay to benefit from tactile stimulation and creativity. Cut out photos from magazines to create happy memories in a collage.

• Do something personal: Everyone likes to be pampered. Give a hand massage, manicure or brush the person's hair. Watch their favorite television shows or find their favorite movie. If they love sports, find a sporting event or game to watch.

“If you notice a person's attention span waning or frustration level increasing, it's likely time to end or modify the activity,” added Tucker. “It's important to offer support and concentrate on the process, not the result. It's really about spending time with the person in ways that are meaningful.”

More tips on activities families can do with their loved ones can be found by visiting the Alzheimer's Association website at The Alzheimer's Association's 24/7 Helpline also provides reliable information and support to all those who need assistance. Call the toll-free Helpline anytime at (800) 272-3900.

Play bingo or a board game with a loved one whose memory is failing. Stock Photo
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