Guardian Carers Feature on BBC News London

Boredom in Alzheimer’s: Stimulating activities for Alzheimer’s patients

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Boredom is a common concern with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. When left unchecked, challenging behaviours such as agitation and aggression can emerge as a result of boredom.

But there is no reason why the feelings of Alzheimer’s patients should be overlooked. There is a myriad of stimulating activities which can improve the quality of life of an Alzheimer’s patient.

The impact of boredom in Alzheimer’s patients

Boredom in Alzheimer’s is deeply linked to other concerns such as apathy, depression, anxiety, agitation, aggression, just to name a few. Many people who suffer from Alzheimer’s develop boredom, which in turn develops other difficult behaviours.

Boredom is actually one of the biggest challenges in Alzheimer’s and dementia care. This is because boredom is one of the main contributors to all the difficult and challenging behaviours of Alzheimer’s, such as agitation, aggression, anxiety or depression.

Despite it being so prevalent in dementia and Alzheimer’s, it’s not like boredom cannot be banished from a person’s life. It all comes down to understanding a patient’s likes and dislikes, knowing what their interests are, understanding their needs and knowing what their skills and abilities are. This way, an engaging care programme can be developed specifically for the person with Alzheimer’s.

It is often wrongly assumed that once a person gets diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s, their abilities and skills are diminished, which cannot be further from the truth. Dementia does indeed progress over time, but that doesn’t mean the person would not still love to do what they enjoyed doing when they were dementia or Alzheimer’s free.

This wrongful assumption leads to complacency which then only leads to more boredom and loneliness for the Alzheimer’s patient. The activities of the past simply need to be adapted to the evolving needs and capabilities of the individual with Alzheimer’s.

How to create stimulating activities for Alzheimer’s patients

Even if a person has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s it does not mean they have to spend the rest of their life in a chair or in front of the television. This will only shorten their life span and bring about sadness and misery. Not to mention the fact that boredom will lead to challenging behaviours from the Alzheimer’s patient.

It’s important that a patient who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s keeps enjoying the activities that bring them joy. Alzheimer’s patients should be engaged in their favourite hobbies and interests. If their capabilities are not the same as they used to, then simply adjust them to what they are currently able to do.

An Alzheimer’s patient should be encouraged to self-express and to form emotional connections and bond with others. Stimulating activities can help Alzheimer’s patients lessen their anxiety or depression as well as bring back fond memories.

Whether you are a professional carer or a family carer you should aim to create meaningful stimulant activities for the Alzheimer’s patient, activities which they will truly enjoy and which will benefit them, not just something to fill the time.

When thinking about what stimulating activities to do with an Alzheimer’s patient, think about what they used to enjoy in the past. Remember that some of these activities may need to be modified for their safety and security or based on their skills and abilities. Also, aim to analyse how they react and engage to these activities, as they may not enjoy something they may have loved in the past anymore.

Stimulating activities for Alzheimer’s patients

There are many ways in which you can keep boredom at bay for Alzheimer’s patients. There is no right or wrong answer in the treatment of Alzheimer’s. It’s all down to trying multiple things and figuring out what works best for the patient. Some ideas you may consider are:

  • Be mindful of the person’s feelings and emotions
  • Look for ways to grab their attention
  • Engage them in meaningful activities
  • Help them create connections with others
  • Use touch such as hugs to make them feel cared for
  • Use their name

In terms of stimulating activities which you can do with an Alzheimer’s patient, there is no right or wrong answer, once again. As mentioned above, you need to test and see how they react and engage to activities they used to love in the past, for example, or to new activities. Some ideas of stimulating activities for Alzheimer’s patients are:

  • Doing arts and crafts
  • Read books they used to love
  • Read the papers
  • Bake or cook simple recipes together
  • Play musical instruments
  • Play music they used to love
  • Sing songs together
  • Play puzzles or other board games
  • Do gardening
  • Watch family videos
  • Look at family albums

It’s essential to remember to keep in mind that if the Alzheimer’s patient does not seem to particularly enjoy a certain activity, does not want to engage or they are bothered by it you should try to take a break and try later or at another time.

Communication is essential in Alzheimer’s as well, so do communicate with the Alzheimer’s patient, asking them how they feel and whether they would like to change the activity in order to make it more enjoyable for them.

What you should remember when trying to combat boredom in a patient with Alzheimer’s and trying to engage them in stimulating activities, is to have patience. Focus on the activity itself and not the results. If the Alzheimer’s patient enjoyed the time spent doing a certain stimulating activity, then it was a success.

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