Staying active despite cognitive impairments
How do you maintain common hobbies and abilities? Advice from an occupational therapist.
If your loved one has Alzheimer’s or cognitive impairments, you may be wondering what activities he or she can take part in and, in particular, how to keep shared leisure activities going. It is essential for your loved one to remain active to keep his or her abilities. We talked to an occupational therapist to obtain some tips to help you achieve this and share some pleasant experiences with your loved one.
No need to rack your brain trying to find different activities; keep in mind that what is most important is the time you spend sharing an activity with your loved one.
Involving your loved one in daily activities will not only help him or her stay active, but also feel useful and valued. Activities such as preparing meals, gardening or household chores will help your loved one remain anchored in everyday reality. Reading a short article in a newspaper, asking your loved one what he or she did the day before or commenting on current events can help stimulate your loved one’s attention and memory.
It can be difficult for a person with cognitive impairments to learn a new activity. Moreover, your loved one will participate more readily in activities that are meaningful to him or her. Take the time to explore different options with your loved one and keep in mind that what does not seem interesting to you might be very meaningful for someone else. Think about what your loved one enjoyed before and his or her favourite activities.
Reminiscing about past experiences is an excellent way to spend quality time with your loved one. Looking at photos, for example, listening to music or singing songs he or she knows and likes.
As the disease progresses, the abilities of your loved one may decline and consequently he or she may have difficulty with some activities that did not pose any problem before. This can result in stress or anxiety. Before abandoning an activity altogether, think about ways to adapt it. Give one instruction at a time and reduce the activity to its simplest expression.
Meal preparation: If your loved one can no longer help you plan meals or find food in the pantry, this does not mean he or she can no longer participate in meal preparation. Instead, ask your loved one to perform certain specific tasks (chopping, mixing) and provide him or her with everything needed. If the instruction “set the table” becomes too abstract for your loved one, break it down: ask him or her instead “to get out the napkins and place them on the table.”
Card games: If your loved one’s favourite game becomes too complex, find variants to help him or her continue playing cards. There are many options between Bridge and War.
Community organizations offer activities, many of which are adapted to people who have cognitive impairments. Moreover, group activities help maintain social interactions.
Don’t hesitate to consult a health professional. An occupational therapist, for example, will be able to assess your loved one’s autonomy and suggest activities or personalized tips based on your loved one’s abilities.
You can also call Caregiver Support at 1 855 852-7784. Our professional counsellors are on hand to listen, provide information and direct you to resources and services in your area.
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