The period between 3pm and mealtime is a time when residents with Alzheimer's or dementia often get anxious - they may want to go home, or be with their children. It is a time when they can really benefit by being occupied in activity.
A good way to fill this time is with “chore style” activities that typify the type of things that are often done at home at that time of day - things such as sorting clothes, polishing silver and other “household” chores. These activities are easy to set up and present and they don’t take a lot of concentration and energy to complete.
I have two bins that are overflowing with the materials for these “chore-style” activities. Each activity is packaged in a resealable plastic bag containing all of the required materials so they are easy to access. At around 3pm, I go to an area that has at least two card tables set up. I select two “chore-style” activities and I set out the materials, one on each table. Usually this is sufficient to attract at least one resident and I can start them off working with the materials at one of the tables. As residents pass by, they are invited to look at our handiwork and encouraged to help with one of the tasks, which they generally will do.
If this becomes a regular program in the calendar it very quickly becomes a comfortable routine which is an effective way to engage 4 to 6 dementia patients with minimal planning, prep time and cleanup.
Here are some easy to prepare and present chore style activities that I have found to be very effective for people with dementia. This list is by no means comprehensive, it is just a starting point. You may find other, similar activities that are more effective, or find that some residents prefer to do the activities in different ways than the suggestions below.
- cutlery tray
- set of plastic cutlery
- small bowl or basket
Put the cutlery into the small bowl and place it, along with the cutlery tray on the table. Put one knife, spoon and fork in the appropriate spot in the tray and ask the participant to sort the cutlery from the bowl into the tray.
- Small jello molds with top and bottom lid
- two bowls
Remove the top and bottom lids from the jello molds and place them in one of the two bowls, sorted by size. Place the jello containers and the two bowls on the table and ask the participant to place the lids from the bowls on the appropriate jello mold.
- basin of warm, soapy water
- wash cloth
- towel for drying
- absorbent mat for drying rack
- set of "dirty" dishes
Set the washing and drying materials on the table along with the "dirty" dishes. Ask the person to help by washing the dishes. If appropriate, ask a second person to dry them.
- basket containing a selection of items for folding
Folding laundry is a common activity in many facilities and here's a way to make it even better. Rather than using a basket of facecloths or towels, instead use a selection of items that is more representative of a family's normal laundry such as children's shirts and pants, boxer shorts, a nighty, a pillowcase and a sheet (which the group can fold together). This feels much more realistic and can be more effective.
- 4 place settings of silver cutlery
- small tube of toothpaste
- cloth to apply "polish"
- soft cloth for polishing
Put the silver, toothpaste and cloths on the table. Demonstrate by placing a small dab of toothpaste on the cloth, cleaning one piece of cutlery and then polishing it with the soft cloth. Ask the person to polish the remaining silverware. Polishing shoes is also a good "polishing" activity.
Sorting Playing Cards
- 2 decks of ordinary playing cards with different backs
Shuffle the cards together and put the stack on the table. Take one card from each deck and put it on the table so that the backs are showing. Ask the person to sort the stack by the colour of the card back. Our "Match the Suits" product includes everything needed for this activity and more.
- 6 or more coloured clothespins in a bowl
- a small bowl or container that approximately matches the colours of the clothespins
Place the bowl of clothespins on the table, along with the empty, coloured bowls. Take a clothespin and clip it to the edge of the corresponding coloured bowl, then ask the person to sort the rest of the clothespins. If they are unable to squeeze the clothespins to clip them to the edge, ask them to put them in the appropriate bowl. Our "Match the Pins" product includes everything needed for a variety of clothespin sorting activities.
Sorting coins of different denominations into bowls is another good sorting activity.
Some other sorting ideas...
- Sort picture hooks
- Sort tea packages
- Sort locks and keys