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"I'm dying of boredom"

Posted Jan 18 2011 3:04am

"I'm dying of boredom" is what a gentleman in an Alzheimer's special care unit told researcher Wendy Wood.  Wood's research, published in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy, showed that nursing home residents  with dementia spend 70-80% of their time with nothing to do.

Richard Taylor, a psychiatrist diagnosed with dementia and author of Alzheimer's From the Inside Out, shares his insight on why persons with dementia are often inactive.   He says "persons withdraw prematurely because it is easier, safer, and they don't know what else to do.... They will need others to find/create activities of daily living that lead them to a sense of self-fulfillment."

Providing opportunities for persons with dementia to be active is very important.  Research shows activity involvement provides cognitive stimulation, improved sleep, reduced anxiety, and increased quality of life.  It also provides support for caregivers and can help manage behaviors without the use of medications.

Based on my experience as an occupational therapist, working both with persons with memory loss and caregivers, I can offer the following 3 tips on how to promote activity engagement for persons with dementia.   Think of these 3 R's:

Routine -Doing the same things at typical times each day provides some structure and stability to the unorderly world of persons with dementia. Even if it is for 15 minutes each, try to incorporate social activity (look at a photo album and reminisce), physical activity  (take a walk), and sensory activity (smell the roses, listen to music).

Reduce - Persons with dementia need things simplified in order to be successful. Think of "reducing" the directions you give to using only short, simple sentences.  Likewise, reduce the steps in an activity you give.  For instance, the persons only puts the plates on the table when it is being set.  Last, reduce the level of abstractness of the activity.  Instead of giving a basket of clothes to put away, give them only the socks and direct to which drawer they go in.

Reassure - Persons with memory loss have many moments of frustration and disappointment.  They need a lot of reassurance, even if they are not doing the activity quite right.  "Can you help me with this?" is a reassuring way to invite them to do the activity with you.  "You are doing great! Thanks for your help." will also help reassure and create positive feelings while doing the activity.

Whether the person is making the bed, putting napkins on the table, sanding wood, sorting socks, or basics like brushing their teeth, it is activity that will engage the person and create moments of joy.




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