Brain Stimulating Activities You Can Do With Someone Who Has Alzheimer’s Disease

November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. Let’s get the ball rolling and start the conversation about this form of dementia.

What is Alzheimer’s disease and what causes it?

Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia that affects memory, thinking and behaviour. Symptoms include: 

  • Memory loss and difficulty in remembering recently learned information 
  • Challenges in planning or solving problems 
  • Difficulty in completing familiar tasks 
  • Confusion with time, dates or places 
  • Difficulty in balancing and experiencing trouble in reading 
  • Trouble following or joining a conversation, as well as struggling with vocabulary and familiar objects/names
  • Misplacing things and unable to retrace steps
  • Decreased or poor judgment in decision-making 
  • Withdrawal from work or social activities
  • Changes in mood and personality that cause them to be upset when they’re out of their comfort zone 

If these symptoms become severe, they can get in the way of completing daily tasks.

Alzheimer’s can happen due to a combination of age-related changes in the brain, along with genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. It can start as early as a person’s 30s, but is more common in older folk aged 60 and above. 

How can you help someone living with Alzheimer’s?

It’s important to keep Alzheimer’s patients actively engaged in everyday activities and tasks that challenge them mentally. These tasks are beneficial for both mind and body, and may even slow the progression of the disease. Being active and engaged can also help reduce sleep disturbances like insomnia, Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (EDS), circadian rhythm disorders, and more.

What kind of activities promote brain health? 

There are two kinds of activities that can support an Alzheimer’s patient’s brain health: Mental Activities and Social Activities. 

Mental Activities 

These activities keep patients’ minds active by exposing them to new topics and information. Mental activities include

  • learning new skills
  • adopting new hobbies
  • engaging in formal education

Social Activities 

Social activities are associated with a reduction in rates of disability and mortality. They can also reduce the risk of depression. They include:

  • participation in clubs or volunteer efforts
  • reconnecting with friends
  • making new friends with people in the neighbourhood

8 Activities You can Do with Someone Living with Alzheimer’s 

Here are some brain-stimulating, productive activities you can do with someone who has Alzheimer’s:

  • Baking or cooking simple meals together 
  • Cleaning the house or doing household tasks 
  • Rereading their favourite books with them 
  • Going for walks outdoors, in a park or at a botanical garden
  • Completing a jigsaw puzzle together 
  • Creating a memory box filled with knick-knacks from the past 
  • Caring for a pet or setting up a fish tank 
  • Picking up journaling to get them to pen down their thoughts or events of the day

If they’re experiencing difficulty in continuing an activity, let them know that it’s okay to take a break. You can also modify these activities to make them easier and more enjoyable.

Resources

Alzheimer’s Association®. (2020) 10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s [Accessed: 16 November 2020] Available at: https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/10_signs 

Alzheimer’s Association®. (2020) Stay Mentally and Socially Active. [Accessed: 16 November 2020] Available at: https://www.alz.org/help-support/brain_health/stay_mentally_and_socially_active 

Alzheimer’s Association®. (2020) What is Alzheimer’s Disease? [Accessed: 16 November 2020] Available at: https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-alzheimers 

Angela S. (2019) Activities for Dementia Patients: 50 Tips and Ideas to Keep Patients with Dementia Engaged. [Accessed: 16 November 2020] Available at: https://www.seniorlink.com/blog/activities-for-dementia-patients-50-tips-and-ideas-to-keep-patients-with-dementia-engaged 

Jennifer W. (2014) Stimulating Activities For Alzheimers Patients. [Accessed: 16 November 2020] Available at: https://www.alzheimers.net/2014-03-06-stimulating-activities-for-alzheimers-patients 

National Institutes of Health. (2020) What Causes Alzheimer’s Disease? [Accessed: 16 November 2020] Available at: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-causes-alzheimers-disease 

Saran C. (2019) Helpful Daily Activities for Dementia Patients: 50 Expert Tips and Suggestions to Keep Your Loved One Engaged. [Accessed: 16 November 2020] Available at: https://www.seniorlink.com/blog/helpful-daily-activities-for-dementia-patients-50-expert-tips-and-suggestions-to-keep-your-loved-one-engaged 

Winnie, P. (2019) Sleep Disorders & Dementia. [Accessed: 16 November 2020] Available at: https://practicalneurology.com/articles/2019-june/sleep-disorders-dementia