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Keeping Boredom at Bay

Whether you are a family or professional caregiver, it can be difficult to find activities to keep your loved one or client engaged. You may also have to deal with their frustration over their inability to do things independently. The best activities are projects that bring purpose and meaning to their life; everyone wants to feel useful and needed.

If you are at a loss for something to do, a good place to start is by looking at what they have always enjoyed doing. Did they love to go on walks, garden, put together puzzles, read or cook? Many of these activities can be modified to suit the health and physical and mental abilities of your loved one. Let them help you with meal planning for the week and go along on grocery trips or to the garden center to pick out plants. Put them in charge of watering the plants daily if they like spending time outdoors. Let them help when they show interest–you may be pleasantly surprised at what they can teach you about their favorite pastimes!

For people suffering from a progressive disease like Alzheimer’s, it is also critical to adapt their daily routine to the stage of their disease. It will be increasingly difficult for them to do things independently, or even to keep doing certain tasks at all. Making an extra effort to keep their routines familiar, say with coffee and a paper on the weekend mornings, can help keep anxiety at bay. They might not always understand everything they read, but they will likely appreciate the familiarity of the act. A routine also helps patients with dementia maintain a sense time, whether it is time of day or day of the week.

The following is a list of activities or projects that your loved one or client might enjoy:

  • Meal planning or prep: Take caution near the stove or oven and with sharp objects if they have dementia
  • Gardening: Consider whether or not your loved one can handle the physical aspects of the gardening, such as kneeling to plant or weed.
  • Walking: Any outdoor activity can help boost both your and your loved one’s spirits.
  • Visit a playground or park: If young children bring joy to your client, take them to a park where you can sit on a bench and watch the children play.
  • Puzzles: The size and difficulty will have to be adjusted for patients with Alzheimer’s or arthritis.
  • Reading: When reading becomes too difficult for them, invest in audio books or spend some time reading aloud to them each day (or both!).
  • Scrapbooking/organizing old photographs: As long as the photos don’t bring your client distress, this is a great time for reminiscing
  • Music: Put on your client’s favorite tunes every evening while you are cooking dinner, or consider taking them to an outdoor performance.
  • Help with chores: Find tasks that suit both the person’s abilities as well as their likes and dislikes.
  • Talking/Reminiscing: Spend some time learning about their childhood or other memorable experiences in their lives by putting aside time to chat and ask questions.

Other hobbies that may interest your client or loved one are fishing, painting, photography and playing cards or board games. You could teach them how to play solitaire and other games on the computer. Sometimes something as simple as sitting outside in the yard or on the porch if the weather is nice can be a pleasant way to pass the time.

The Alzheimer’s Association has prepared a helpful guide, Activities at Home, for planning daily activities with someone with dementia.