September 1, 2021
don’t know what to Do?
Tips for Visiting With a Memory-Impaired Person
If memory loss makes conversations difficult, there are many strategies and activities that you can incorporate into your visit to facilitate a fun and meaningful time together:
- Bring a joke or riddle book. Read jokes and riddles aloud. Give plenty of response time for each one. Note which ones they found funny to ask again during a future visit.
- Draw from a list of “Would you rather” questions. Several on-line sites have them.(1) You can enjoy a great conversation around questions like “Would you rather be able to detect any lie or be able to tell a lie without being detected?” or “Would you rather explore space or the ocean?” There are no right or wrong answers and each person can explain their choice.
- Look at pictures in a magazine or newspaper. Choose a magazine that would interest your loved one. Take turns making up a caption or make up a story about the objects and/or events in the picture.
- Ask questions about a time period they remember. Did they have any pets? Did they go to dances and what were they like? Create a simplified album of family photos to prompt stories. Re-read saved letters and greeting cards. Don’t correct any details.
- Play Music. Play their favorite songs and sing (dance if able) along with them. Use props like maracas, pom-poms, or tambourines to encourage participation. Play “Name that Tune” by matching lyrics with song titles or complete the nursery rhyme or song lyric. Research shows music is one area of the brain that remains even after verbal communication is limited.(2)
- Play games. Consider Go Fish, Uno, Dominos, or Connect Four. Don’t worry about rules or tracking points. If able, bounce a ball to each other, toss a balloon back and forth, or throw rings over a cone. The physical movement is healthy and utilizes a different part of the brain than language. The purpose is positive participation in an activity together.
- Assemble jigsaw puzzles. Choose the number and size of pieces based on ability. Find scenery or animals instead of child-oriented images. You also can turn family photographs into puzzles just about anywhere you get pictures printed.
- Go for a walk. Getting outside on nice days provides stimulation; but a walk around inside works too when the weather isn’t nice. Point out things you see.
- Relax with tactile items. Pop bubble wrap. (3,4) Harvest sunflower seeds.(5) Blow bubbles. Place a familiar object (such as sunglasses, can of soup, button, pen, keys) in a colorful bag and ask the person to guess what’s inside by feeling through the bag. String beads (base size of beads and string on current fine motor skills). Roll yarn into a ball or detangle one that has been loosely knotted.
- Sort items. Choose items based on interests: sort playing cards by color or suit, coins, sewing thread by color, dried beans, silverware; or match nuts with bolts, or socks in the laundry. Put magazines in date order (easiest if you use the same magazine so that the date is in the same location on each issue) or stack books in alphabetical order. Whatever object that is chosen, be sure to emphasize that the sorting is helpful (whether or not that is true).
- Cook together. Snap green beans, shuck corn, roll out dough, shell peanuts, or peel potatoes. Pull grapes off the stems and put them into bags for future snacks. Put together ice cream sundaes. Decorate cookies with icing and sprinkles.
- Substitute an activity for a behavior. For example, if the person rubs their hand on the table, provide a cloth and encourage them to wipe the table. If the person is moving their feet on the floor, play music so they can tap to the beat.
- Color or paint. There are many adult coloring books available. Some find choosing a color is the hard part so if that is the case, provide sample colored pictures to follow. Complete dot to dot books together.
- Provide activity boards (aka fidget boards or busy boards). You can purchase (many choices on Amazon, Etsy, or The Alzheimer’s Store) or make your own (check out Pinterest). Build with Lego blocks (if they have less dexterity, then try Duplos, which are larger). For people who like to wander or are more comfortable on the move, there are fidget aprons.
- Plant flowers or vegetables. Or water ones that are already planted. Arrange fresh or artificial flowers.
- Clip coupons. If the person is interested, they can then sort the coupons into categories. It doesn’t matter if the coupons will be used; people need to feel that the activity is productive and helpful. If you do end up using the coupons, let the person know how much money they helped you save.
- Read the newspaper aloud. Choose articles that your loved one would like—be it sports or an advice column.
To prevent your loved ones from becoming overtired, plan short visits. If you can, plan to end them at meal time. This way when you leave, they will be occupied and the transition may be easier. Adapt these options based on cognitive and physical abilities and don’t feel you need to do different things each visit. If there is a particular activity they enjoy, continue doing it. Focus on the enjoyment of your time together, not achievements or accuracy of stories. Often those with memory loss can remember voices from the past even if they cannot identify the person, so hearing your voice may be a comfort. Keep in mind that a person may not remember who you are but they will remember how you make them feel. By incorporating these tips, you can enjoy many pleasant visits with each other.
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Winter Growth’s founder dreamed of creating a community where seniors and adults with disabilities could continue to learn and grow – filling their lives with joy and purpose. For over 40 years, we have fulfilled her vision by providing unique, affordable Assisted Living/Memory Care and Adult Medical Day Care tailored to our clients’ individual abilities, interests, and lives.