Caregiver tips: Staying engaged while staying at home

With stay-at-home orders in effect across Washington and Idaho, many families facing dementia are sheltering in place to protect their health and reduce their risk of infection. This has proven challenging for many caregivers, as they look for ways to keep their loved ones active and engaged while they’re at home for an extended period of time.  Below are some tips for choosing and engaging in activities you may enjoy together!

Tips for choosing activities
Need inspiration? Click here for a list of 37 Activities to Enjoy at Home.

Evaluate the situation
While you are thinking of activities to do with your loved one, start with a few questions: What does your loved one like to do? What are they able to do? And, what are they in the mood for today? Look for cues from them: Some days they might feel up to doing more or less than they were the day before, so take it one day at a time.

Encourage involvement in daily activities
Inclusion in daily activities will help your loved one feel like a valued part of the household. Activities like setting the table, washing the dishes or folding laundry can provide a sense of success and accomplishment. 

Adjust and modify your normal activities
Normal activities may need to be adjusted or modified to adhere to social distancing guidelines or stay-at-home orders. If visits to the library are part of your routine, try reading together or reading aloud from one of their favorite books. If a visit with family is the norm, consider looking at family photos or making a scrapbook together.

Focus on their individual enjoyment
If your loved one formerly worked in an office, they might enjoy activities that involve organizing, like putting coins into rolls, opening mail or making a to-do list. If your loved one is a former farmer or gardener, they may take pleasure in working in the yard. 

Encourage laughter and self-expression
Include activities into your day that allow your loved one a chance to laugh and express themselves. It’s often said that laughter is the best medicine. Try watching funny videos online, sharing jokes or tuning into your favorite sitcom. Inspire self-expression through activities like painting, drawing, music or conversation.

Tips for keeping your loved one engaged

Help get the activity started and assist as needed
Your loved one may have the energy and desire to do things, but may have difficulty organizing, planning, initiating or completing a task. You may need to show the person how to perform the activity and provide simple, easy-to-follow steps.

Concentrate on the process, not the result.
Does it matter if the towels are folded properly? Not really. Don’t worry about the end product. What matters is the kindness you’ve shared during your time together and that your loved one feels as though they’ve been helpful to you. 

Be flexible
When your loved one insists that they don’t want to do something, it may be because they’re not sure how to do it or they may fear doing it. If the person insists on doing it a different way than you’d prefer, let it happen and change it later if necessary.

Try again later
If something really isn’t working, it may just be the wrong time of day or the activity may be too complicated for your loved one. It is fine to stop what you are doing and try again later or adapt the activity to suit your loved one’s needs.

Ask for help
As always, know that the Alzheimer’s Association is here for you, especially during this difficult time. Our 24/7 Helpline (1.800.272.3900) is staffed around-the-clock by professionals who can answer your questions and provide guidance on any situation you are facing.

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In addition to the 24/7 Helpline, the Alzheimer’s Association Washington State Chapter is currently hosting a number of support groups by phone and educational workshops online.
For more information, please visit: COVID-19: Resources for You.

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