When Caring Takes Courage, Part Two

Activity Modification Care for People with Dementia

Caring Take Courage
Helping families understand dementia in a loved one. Mara Botonis

As described in our first article, “When Caring Takes Courage” a book by Mara Botonis helps families understand how their loved ones lives have changed due to dementia, but can still be enjoyable.

Here, from Botonis’ book, are some simple tips for activity directors and family members for offering engaging activities at every stage:

  • Keep participant’s skills and abilities in mind. Find activities that build on their remaining skills and talents. A professional accountant might become frustrated over their inability to recognize money, but an amateur might enjoy sorting coins.  Be aware of physical limitations. Does he or she get tired quickly or have difficulty seeing, hearing or performing simple movements?  By assessing resident’s skill level, you can better modify the way that you are asking them to participate so that success is assured. Can they sort objects by size or color? Can they button shirts and zip up jackets? Can they follow easy written commands or pictorial cues? Modifying activities to make them more or less challenging to fit the skill level of each participant can provide a sense of success and accomplishment for each individual.
  • Pay special attention to what each person enjoys, look for favorites. Maybe your resident always enjoyed drinking coffee and reading the newspaper, for example.  These activities may still be enjoyable on some level.  Even if he or she is not able to completely understand what the newspaper says, the act of feeling the paper in their hands, looking at the pictures and smelling the aroma of fresh brewed coffee may evoke positive feelings when participation in your current events group is no longer rewarding for them.   Repeat favorite activities, and establish a routine.  While doing familiar activities, such as sorting objects, or “reading” the paper, keep the procedures the same, but try different content from day to day to keep it fresh for your resident and for you.
  • Take note when the person seems happy, anxious, distracted or irritable.  If you notice a person's attention span waning or frustration level increasing, it's likely time to end or modify the activity.  Look for activities and tasks that can be broken into 10 minute blocks of time to avoid creating frustration or boredom. Let your resident’s behavior be your guide, if they want to continue with something, great!  The activity or task shouldn’t depend on the amount of time they spend doing any one particular thing, or actual completion.  Look for activities that are okay to leave undone.
  • Consider the time of day.  Activity Directors may find they have more success with certain activities at specific times of the day, such as bathing and dressing in the morning.   If something isn't working, it may just be the wrong time of day or the activity may be too complicated. Try again later, or adapt the activity.  Select the best time of day for your participants and offer options.  What segment of your resident population has more energy in the morning?  Which ones are at risk for increased agitation later in the afternoon (sun-downing)?  Plan on having engaging tasks ready to offer several times per day depending on their mood and interest.

    “When Caring Takes Courage” has received praise from national medical professionals.

    “I enthusiastically recommend Mara’s book.  This is a need to read guide for all current and future caregivers in our nation", said Dr. Paul Nussbaum, Board-Certified Clinical Psychologist Specializing in Neuropsychology, and United Nations Presenter on Brain Health, Co-Founder of the Fit Brains APP, and Director of the Brain Health Center.

    “I can't express enough how wonderful this book is. So much truly helpful information for anyone dealing with Alzheimer's and dementia. I stake my reputation on this... highly recommend this. I will be recommending this book to everyone,” said Theresa Checkosky Maher, RN, Instructor/Evaluator SUNY-Empire State College, Alzheimer's Association Support Group Facilitator, Hospice Worker, and Geriatric Care Expert with over 3 decades of experience.

    “In my book, “When Caring Takes Courage”, I share some general tips about how to make everyday activities more meaningful and enjoyable for both you and your residents without having to buy, do or finish anything that gets in the way of the primary goal here, which is just to have fun, “Botonis said. 

    For further information.

    She also has a booklet:

    Alzheimer’s Adapted Activity Ideas Booklet

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