By Max Wallack
Puzzles to Remember
The following list of activities for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients is one of the most thorough I have ever seen. It was compiled by Chantelle Oswin, an activity director in Abington, England UK.
My activity program is purposely arranged to provide variety and choice, it takes into account individuals needs and I use activities that will provide meaningful stimulation, promote self-esteem and encourage positive and social interactions as well as providing sense of purpose and pleasure. Here are some of the activities are in rotation on my weekly programs at present.
• Fun and Fresh simply encouraging to get as many people out into the fresh air for walks.
• Fruity Friday I prepare a platter of unusual fruits and visit each person to taste or try-prompts good conversation.
• Musical Movement and Chair Exercise these are weekly sessions ran by a volunteer to stimulate exercise and enjoyment with music. Lots of Dancing, singing and Fun!
• PAT DOG VISIT Pets as therapy dog visits and provides comfort and promotes reminiscence.
• Ball Games simple fun using a beach ball that is good for keeping people active and provide movement for people with poor mobility.
• Cognitive Stimulation Therapy Group a weekly group that meets to do different discussions, games and reminiscence activities.( including practice’s for our choir)
• Quizzes and Crosswords memory stimulation and great activity for people who you don’t think are listening when they suddenly shout out the answer.
• Games of Hoy a simple fun card game like bingo with chance to win prizes always goes down well.
• Church Service and Holy Communion to fulfil peoples religious and spiritual needs with prayers and hymns.
• One to One time/Room Visits a very important opportunity to visit people who do not necessarily join in group activities or may enjoy something on a one to one basis.
• What’s in the box ? I use an assortment of well-known items to rummage through and stimulate discussions.
• Tranquillity Suite our snozaleen room provides opportunity for relaxation and sensory experience • Sweet Shop opens a chance for a resident to work in the shop and others to come and buy sweets and toiletries.
• Household Tasks encouraging residents to help with daily running of the home.
• Nail Care this is generally left to be done in my absence by carers but gives chance for nails to be manicured and painted
• Finishing Sayings and Rhymes Very easy to engage people in this activity as most people know answers to simple sayings and will answer without knowing it!
• Later Stage activity Hand massages, a sensory box, simple singing and tapping, dolls and soft toys, wool winding and rummage boxes, reading aloud.
• Residents Choice a weekly opportunity to generally ask if there is anything anyone would like to do!
• Getting to know you Conversation and reminiscing to find out more about the residents to fill personal histories and life story books.
• Picture card discussions a box of postcards, reminiscence pictures, photos to prompt memoires and discussions.
• Visiting Entertainment singers and musicians that visit to provide an afternoon of enjoyment.
• Birthday Celebrations inviting family to join for celebrations including, cake, card and decorations • Child Visit a little girl has been visiting weekly from the age of 2 (she’s now 5) to bring toys, fun and enjoyment playing and singing with the residents.
• Bean Bag and Other Sport Games a selection of target games, bean bags, parachute games, badminton, bowls, skittles.
• Cinema afternoons a film showing in the cinema screen with snacks.
• Sing-along Memories DVD a fun a homemade montage video of images and music for everyone to enjoy sing-along and stimulate memories.
• Day trips to places of interest, garden centres, towns, pubs,
Other activities that I may sometimes do:
Hobby Clubs covering hobbies that people may wish to continue such as knitting, sewing, gardening, woodwork, painting
Arts and Crafts a range of simple crafts or chances for creativity including Card making, Painting, beads, paper craft, drawing and colouring
Board Games-Jigsaw Puzzles, Dominoes, scrabble, Pairs Memory game, draughts, Cards
Baking Fun easy to make cakes and food session with cooking items, recepie books and discussion.
Flower arranging chance to get people touching, smelling and arranging vases of flowers to then place around the home.
Bingo Fun favourite that most people can relate to and enjoy.
Sing-along Musicals on DVD
Residents Coffee Morning a chance to chat to residents about life in the home and any opinions on food, activities, or other Reminiscence Themed Sessions items to prompt memories and conversation
Magazines Collage and book making cutting likeable pictures from magazines and sticking them in their own book of favourite pictures.
Bead Making- Threading beads onto string to make simple necklaces.
Sorting Activities anything that can be sorted into shapes/sizes or colour than can be used to sort (Buttons) Rummage Boxes Themed Boxes with pictures, Objects, materials and sensory objects.
Letter /card writing helping residents to continue communication with family and friends.
Mobile book Club A trolley with selection of books to offer out or enjoy reading together.
Higher or Lower Group card game using large cards.
Puppet Fun Having lots of fun with a range of puppets.
Wake up Shake up Morning exercise fun.
Poetry Reading Doll Therapy the use of soft toys and dolls to provide comfort.
There are many other activities that are not weekly in my program but that I do monthly or have done occasionally.
• Toddler Group we hold the monthly local toddlers group at the home provide refreshments and children to play as residents enjoy watching and interacting.
• Brownies Visit Local brownie group visits to sing play and interact with residents.
• School Visits From primary age to college many groups visit to provide company interact or sing to the residents.
• Animal Visit a range of different visit from people with animals to touch and hold and enjoy.
• Ice Cream van visit chance for residents to go and get a 99 straight from the ice cream van!
• Men ’s Club- room filled with activity for gents-sport, beer, snacks, TV, snooker, darts, papers, radio.
• Spa/Makeovers- beauty treatments. Foot spas, or trying on jewellery, hats, make up, scarfs and taking fun photos.
• Tea Dances with Ballroom dancer demonstrations and encouragement for residents to join in.
• Ice Cream Sundae Sunday- using the tea room as an ice cream parlour on occasional Sunday to give people chance to make own yummy ice cream sundaes.
• Pub afternoon entertainment/piano player with a bar open serving drinks and snacks on tables.
• Food preparation varying activities to give residents opportunity to help prepare and taste foods
• Smoothies/ fruit tea tasting
• Food tasting fun different foods to taste (with chef)
• Chocolate Tasting a range of different types of chocolate arranged on a platter to enjoy promotes happiness in everyone and good for people with weight loss.
• Activity Trolley full of fun to take into peoples rooms.
• Charity /fundraising fun days
• Talks or presentations bringing in people of interest to provide talks or reminiscence subjects i.e. MG Car Club • Fancy Dress Fun getting dressed up in fun costumes and hats to pose for photos.
• Aeroplanes and Lemonade making paper aeroplanes and lemonade in the garden.
• Volunteer Appreciation Day a day to thank all the lovely volunteers with a party and a gift presentation
• Social or Themed Food Events Cheese and Wine, Pimms and Strawberries, Italian, Indian, Chinese, fish and chips, Tea parties.
• Flower Show/ Vegetables show
• Cake Bake off
• Auntie Mays Fashion ’s find a local clothes supplier to set up stall for family and residents to come and try and buy new clothes.
• Table Top or rummage set up a table of items (cheap from charity shop) for residents to come and look through and take away/buy.
Got Talent Relatives, Family and staff perform their talents.
Choir practiced and ready to perform shows for summer and
Christmas EVENTS AND THEMED PARTIES Themed events are a good way to brighten a day with fancy dress, different food and entertainment.
Seasonal occasions such as Xmas (panto), New Year, Halloween, Valentines, May day, St David’s, St Patrick’s, St Andrew’s, St George’s, Easter, Mother’s day, Father’s day, Pancake Day, Bonfire Night, Remembrance days, Australia Day, 4th July (BBQ), Armed Forces Day, Beach Party with Cocktails, ice cream, punch and Judy and a Donkey!
Teddy Bears Picnic individual food box picnics in garden with children and favourite teddy, including a large teddy to cuddle (fancy dressed)
Around the World- entertainment, dress and food from around the world with a cruise ship decorations theme. Wild West country music, fancy dress, line dancing, decorations. War /1940’s Entertainment, fancy dress, reminiscence discussions and rationed food. Summer Fete/ Christmas Fair stalls, crafts, raffle.
Circus Day a variety of fun filled activities and entertainers, balloon modelling, face painting, Clowns, fancy dress fun and food. Day at the Races- Ascot/grand national, sweepstake/ bet on horses, use races DVD, dress in hats, and drink champagne.
Winter Blues Party with pjs, hot chocolate, Hollywood theme Entertainment, stars, red carpet, Oscars, fancy dress Plus m any more ideas I’m yet to try.
Simple interactions that make a difference/ brighten a day
Greet Person by name Read from Paper Look in a book Short Conversation/ask opinion or question Look outside window/notice bird/traffic
Share stories of own life and Photos/holidays Introduce to others as they sit together Offer tea/ coffee/biscuits
Look at family photo Sing a Song Do a little Dance Dress in something fun Put on some music
Bat a Balloon Feed Birds Wash a Cup Tell a funny story/ Joke/Pull a face Try on hats Notice bright clothing Put on lipstick Blow Bubbles Give a Compliment Observe Clothing/hair Give a Hug Walk together Sit Together/ Hold hand Ask for Help Tell them there Loved Shake their Hand Wave Smile
Daily Living is an Activity An activity is anything we do from waking up to going to bed and the smallest thing can be turned into a positive interaction or chance to keep busy.
I start most days by leaving the home in a “half done” approach for example: • Basket of washing to be folder/socks to pair • A rake and broom in garden ready to sweep leaves • Sink with warm soapy water and some cups and saucers • Cutlery and placemats by tables ready to be set • Leave basket of unfinished knitting around • Magazines left open on colourful pictures • Puzzles and games out boxes on tables
Most people living in the home will have run busy homes of their own and one of the best activities you can provide is to encourage residents to maintain life skills and ask them to help with tasks around the home. For Example; • Helping to make the bed • Being given a feather duster • Helping make tea/simple food preparation • Folding laundry/napkins • Polish/wash cutlery • Having a walk to take rubbish out • Putting flowers into a vase • Watering the garden • Hang out some washing on the line • Water the garden/indoor plants • Go out and feed the birds • Polish ornaments/clean brass • Use an old carpet sweeper
Remember it is the doing that is important and not the outcome, the point is not the task in hand but the feelings the person will get from helping.
Max Wallack is a student at Boston University and a Research Intern in the Molecular Psychiatry and Aging Laboratory in the Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics at
Boston University School of Medicine. His great grandmother, Gertrude, suffered from
Alzheimer's disease. Max is the founder of PUZZLES TO REMEMBER. PTR is a project that provides puzzles to nursing homes and veterans institutions that care for Alzheimer's and dementia patients.