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Keeping persons with dementia "Doing Things"

Posted Feb 04 2011 3:38am

In the process of developing MindStart-Activities for Persons with Memory Loss, I came across many different activity concepts in dementia care.  These are some from Jitka Zgola,  an occupational therapist, and author the the book Doing Things: A Guide to Activity Programming for Persons with Alzheimer's Disease. 

  Two key concepts she embraces are:
1. The joy of purposeful activities should not be denied to even the most impaired persons.
2. It is the responsibility of the caregivers to plan appopriate activities that respond to the needs, strengths, and deficits of the clients.

So how do we do that?  Jitka suggests looking as dementia activities as therapeutic.  They are not just entertainment or a divergence for persons with dementia. They should be meaningful to the individual, which in turn will helps maintain self-esteem and sense of self.  She offers 4 criteria that can lead you to a meaningful activity for the person with dementia:
1. The activity should not degrade the person's self -image.  In other words, it should not be demeaning.
2. The activity should be voluntary.  Persons with dementia may need coaxing to participate, but they should never be forced.
3. It is helpful if the activity has a purpose - for example setting a puzzle versus watching tv.
4. The activity should offer the person a good chance of success.  In other words, it should not be something that is too difficult for the person, which can lead to frustration and decreased self-worth.

Jitka offers us a lot of good concepts and ideas based on her work as an occupational therapist with persons with dementia.  As a fellow occupational therapist working with persons with dementia, I wholeheartedly concur, and work hard to incoporate these concepts into the design and marketing of MindStart products.  MindStart activity products are dignified, purposeful, and graded to meet the needs of persons at varying stages of dementia, so that they are set up to succeed.  Our website is

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