The brain is like any other muscle, it needs to be used and exercised. Even when someone has dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, the brain needs to be exercise to help slow the loss. There are many things that caregivers can do in the home or in a nursing facility to assist in hopefully slowing the decline. 5 easy activities that can be done are:
1. Cooking together- The action of cooking, and food preparation can be a great sensory experience and well as mentally stimulating. Healthy food and treats can be easily made with a few ingredients. It can also have to the wonderful side effect of stimulating appetite. Find a simple, familiar recipe. Have the individual read it one step at a time. Be very careful if anything needs to be cut, or cooked on the stove. Always supervise these tasks, but allow the person the chance to do them. The smells, touch and sights of food preparation can be a wonderful memory trigger for anyone, and lead to get opportunities for reminiscing with the individual.
2. Exercise- What were the individuals favorite activities? Try to continue them as much as possible allowing them to be active while supervised. Go for a walk in a quiet place, go bowling when there isn’t many people in the facility. Be careful not to let the person get overstimulated. Simple follow the leader type activities can be rewarding as well. Special precautions may need to be taken if an individual has the tendency to wander. Taking them out of the house for a walk may not be a good idea, for instance.
3. Music- Music is a great memory trigger. Many people remember a special person or moment when they hear a song. Singing is also great lung exercise. Many times an individual with Alzheimer’s who may have difficulty speaking a complete sentence will be able to sing an entire song. If you also involve dancing and movement with the music all the better!
4. Puzzles and games- Simple puzzles, less than 50 pieces. Word puzzles, math puzzles, etc. If it is something the individual enjoyed doing in the past, a simpler version of it is probably available to try now.
Word association games, flash cards, matching games, all can be very helpful. Many variations can be found. Be careful that you don’t use one that is too juvenile, but children’s learning games can be used very successfully with dementia care.
5. Art- Simple arts projects, if it is something they use to enjoy, can be very therapeutic. Again many children’s art supplies can be used very successfully. Many places offer adult coloring pages or pictures for water coloring as well. If an individual enjoy sewing, they may not be able to use a sewing machine now, but hand sewing with a needle and thread is probably still possible.
Overall the key to remember is anything someone liked to do in the past, can be modified to fit their current abilities. The more active and involved a person is in life and what is going on around them, the happier he or she will be. Working the brain with a variety of different activities daily, helps keep it active and may help slow the progression of the disease.