8 Important Program ideas for Alzheimer’s and dementia

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8 Important Program ideas for Alzheimer’s and dementia

Posted on June 22, 2012

It’s important to offer a wide variety of activities for individuals with Alzheimer’s, and/or dementia and finding ways to incorporate them into activity programs can be difficult. Check out these suggestions and program ideas to make sure you are creating beneficial programs for the Alzheimer and dementia residents in your community.

1.     Arts & Crafts

Donatella Versace couldn’t have said it better when she made the statement “Creativity comes from a conflict of ideas.” We all have conflicts and confusion about situations and circumstances in our lives. The only difference between people who have Alzheimer’s or dementia is the ability to express all of the conflicts that are within. Where most of us have the ability to communicate and work out most of our problems verbally, people that have Alzheimer’s are unable to do so. By allowing them to do arts and crafts programs, you are creating an avenue for them to explore their emotions through their creativity and providing them with tools to work out these problems in a self-gratifying and productive manner which offers a sense of purpose. Another great thing about Arts & Crafts is that these programs can easily be altered and planned to cater to all levels of cognition.

  • Be sure to try open-minded art such as coloring with vibrant pastels, creating a beaded necklace with multi-colored beads, arranging flowers, painting, or playing with modeling clay.

2.     Outings

Being in touch with the community inspires a great sense of well being and purpose within all of us, and the best part is you don’t have to go far to find new things to explore. While the ordinary daily routines are great for structure and familiarity, exploring is another way to help your residents and offer self-esteem and a sense of self through discovery. Taking individuals with dementia on trips and outings is very important but can also cause confusion in some due to being in unfamiliar places. Be sure to plan your trips wisely and look for atmospheres that are less likely to cause additional stress and or anxiety. Outings offer a great avenue for reality orientation and help them tap in to what is going on around them.

  • Try planning trips to the zoo, sporting events, art museums, fruit picking, or visiting with family and friends.

3.     Music

People have known for a long time that music can trigger powerful memories or recollections and now a-days we have the studies to prove it. Many times emotions surface from the memories that are accessed through listening to music. Expression of suppressed emotions in Alzheimer’s sufferers, through music can assist in numerous ways, one of which is easing frustration. Along with emotions and memories, musical rhythm can assist in stimulating the timing process in the brain which may improve timing of motor actions through movement of arms or legs to the rhythm of the music, and creating a beat isn’t that hard to do.

  • Pull together some Tupperware containers and spoons or flip some buckets upside and have them create a beat of their own drum, plan a trip to a concert, watch music videos, or have them dance to lively music.

4.     Nature

Many benefits can be found from nature in the life of a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia. The fresh air is bound to help open up some of the other great senses such as sight, sound, touch, and even some incredible smells. Being outdoors also offers great opportunities for physical exercise.

  • Try watering a garden, taking a nature walk, bird watching, watching fish or just enjoying the scenery.

5.     Communication & Verbal Skills

One of the biggest challenges people with Alzheimer’s and dementia face is communication. With engaging conversations between familiar people being loaded with information that was once known that can no longer be processed accordingly, feelings of frustration can easily arise. These feelings can form from no longer being able to verbalize and organize their thoughts, and can often times lead to forms of agitation. Finding productive routes of communication and working on verbal skills will assist in soothing agitated feelings and allow other emotions to be expressed and processed constructively.

  • Reading a book, describing images seen in pictures, finding hidden countries on a globe and dictating a letter can encourage communication and maintain verbal skills.

6.     Games

Playing games can reinforce social skills and behavior and they can also bring people together. Though remembering rules to the games may be difficult for a person with Alzheimer’s disease, be sure to reinforce a feeling of fun and enjoy the process of encouraging social settings. Games aren’t always about rules, they’re about fun! Being socially active is very beneficial and it is healthy for the brain, and it stimulates connections between brain cells.

  • Offer games such as bingo, word games, treasure hunts, card games, or ball/beanbag tossing.

7.     Reminiscing

Talking and thinking about the past can be comforting to most people, whether they suffer from Alzheimer’s or not. Reminiscing about lifetime milestones or special celebrations is a great way to offer opportunities to create new memories from “walking through the past.”  Celebrations and special moments are what people tend to remember most, so why not allow them to relive the highlights!

  • Put together photo albums, talk about childhood memories or important figures in their lives, have a holiday party, reminisce about fashion and style through the years.

8.     Home/House related programs 

Is it not true, home is where the heart is? Home is where most of us can go to relax and rest our head from the busy day life has just offered. We also take pride in our homes and often feel a sense of accomplishment when taking care of everyday chores. People with Alzheimer’s or dementia have the ability to feel the same way. By offering small tasks that would be done around the house, you can work on self esteem, motor skills, attention, and you can also help enhance feelings of independence.

  • Offer home related programs such as folding clothes, polishing silver, stamping envelopes, setting a table, sorting buttons, or even caring for house plants.


For more information and other program ideas please be sure to check out The Alzheimer’s Activities Guide available through Forest Pharmaceuticals, Inc.