At ComfortCare Homes of Wichita, we recognize that activities in a Alzheimer’s or dementia care setting must be adapted to fit the needs and abilities of each Resident. Group games like bridge that are common at an assisted living facility are often not successful for Residents with more advanced dementia. Following the steps of a card game can be overwhelming for people with Alzheimer’s or dementia, because of their reduced capacity for sequencing and rationalizing as the disease progresses.
The ultimate goal of all our activities is for the Residents to have a moment of joy. Sometimes, the actual outcome is different from what was intended for that activity, and that’s okay. The important thing is that the Resident enjoyed the process. In fact, it is the process, not the product that we focus on, and we adapt all our activities to each Resident’s reality and skill level.
It is very important that Residents receive mental and physical stimulation for Alzheimer’s or dementia other than television, but we don’t force anyone into activities “just because”. Instead, we create opportunities for meaningful sensory connections through the types of things that pull people into their memories and positive thoughts. Often, it’s easier for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients to connect with things from their earlier years because their memories are regressing. We want to help Residents access those positive memories without being over stimulated.
Our activities team gets to know each new Resident’s background through the family. By learning his or her interests and former occupation, we can create a personalized music therapy program, as well as task and sensory boxes. Some Residents crave a sense of purpose and enjoy helping with things like housekeeping. We encourage these Residents to do so, with adapted activities that allow them to feel involved and successful at the same time.
Connecting with the senses is a powerful memory care tool. For example, if someone was a plumber or seamstress, giving them a box with pipes or fabrics helps him or her become fixated on something familiar that can be manipulated and interacted with using all the senses.
At ComfortCare Homes of Wichita, we maintain a variety of task and sensory boxes full of items that provide different sensations, from soft baby booties to an old oil can, and we continually adapt our sensory boxes and activities to meet each Resident’s needs and abilities.
When Residents experience high anxieties, establishing a tactile connection with objects from their past is a simple way to help them regain control. With Alzheimer’s or dementia patients, what could be viewed as negative behavior is often just another way of trying to communicate. To help with this, each ComfortCare Home, including Founders Crest, is equipped with redirecting tools or stations.
Redirecting stations work under the same idea as the sensory or task boxes. We use old pieces of furniture stocked with things common to Residents from their earlier years, such as trinkets, soft plush animals, old leather gloves, or even small tools and gadgets. By giving Residents familiar objects to “tinker” with and manipulate, we take the focus off whatever is frustrating them, and give them something positive and comforting to focus on. This small step can offer Residents a sense of control over their world.
For example, Founders Crest has aprons in the kitchen, because a Resident may walk into the kitchen and not be able to make the cognitive connection to what they’re doing there. But, seeing an apron could trigger their memories of moments in the past that explain what they’re doing in the present.
Music has a powerful impact on Alzheimer’s or dementia patients, even in later stages of these diseases. Residents who have previously been unresponsive will reconnect and even communicate while listening to music. It’s also another great redirecting tool, and music is sometimes the only thing that can reach a Resident and bring them to a happy place. Even more than medication, music makes Residents seem calmer, more directable, and even happy… or at least as happy as someone can be with a memory-impairing disease.
At ComfortCare Homes of Wichita, we use an iPod or other mp3 player with a personalized playlist of songs that were popular during a Resident’s teens and 20s. ComfortCare Homes of Wichita proudly helped establish the local Alzheimer’s Association chapter’s music and memory program, called The Roth Project: Music Memories. In fact, the program is named after two former ComfortCare Homes Residents.
Learn more about music therapy for Alzheimer’s patients in Wichita, and why music is an effective therapy for people with Alzheimer’s.