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I was at a memory care facility recently and the staff told me that they were having trouble finding activities for one of their dementia patients. The resident said that every activity that they offered was too childish, even though they were selected to be age appropriate. After sitting with the person and trying different things with him, it turned out that the real problem was that he was having trouble with his hands and couldn't pick up the pieces for the activities. Saying that they were "childish" was his way of avoiding the problem.

Once we established this, we modified the activities so that he could be successful at them and he was then much more interested in doing them. One of the messages that we emphasize in our DementiAbility training for dementia care is to always look for the reason behind the behavior. Often the stated or implied reason for not wanting to do something is not the whole story.


In another visit to a facility, I noticed that a resident was doing a word search puzzle but was only circling the vowel in the word rather than the whole word. It was obvious that she was finding the word that she was looking for because she circled only the vowel in that word. Rather than correct her, or encouraging her to circle the whole word, I simply congratulated her on finding the answer. For example, in looking for the word CAT the person circled the "A" in the word. I simply said "Good job", making no mention of her only circling the "A", and we moved on to the next word.

It is more important to concentrate on the process of the activity, rather than the outcome. In this case the person was finding the correct word (the process), even though she circled only the vowel (the outcome). Our expected outcome was that she should circle the whole word, but her outcome was just as good.

Success is a relative thing, and she was successful.


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