How to Make Therapeutic Activities Work Better for People with Alzheimer's

Christine Kennard Health Pro
  • Key to making the most of therapeutic activities is engagement and good communication skills. Where the activity takes place matters less than the quality of the relationship between the person with dementia and the therapist/caregiver.


    We know that the benefits of activities are enormous, no matter what the stage of Alzheimer's. We also know we have to adapt activities and change the way we deliver caregiver skills. Activity validates people. It recognizes them and allows them creative expression, if the activity is chosen carefully to match their interests, needs and abilities.


    How Caregivers can be More Effective Delivering Therapeutic Activities

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    There are three stages to a therapeutic activity that you need to think about; preparation, engagement and the outcome evaluation.



    Preparation for a successful therapeutic session involves skills such as persuasion, finding the type of communication that will lead to participation and finding the right level of interaction. It may also mean preparing the environment so the person is safe, secure and has everything to hand they rely on.



    The engagement phase of an activity looks at how the caregiver/member of staff connects with the person with dementia. You want to attend to their contribution yet have the time spent together flexible. It is important the environment allows for opportunities to change or flow into other interesting and engaging things. So time baking a cake could change into cleaning, washing plates, eating and so on.



    This phase allows you to evaluate how things went and build up ideas for future activities using skills, enjoyment, interactions that you noticed were stimulating and engaging. Therapeutic activities help use skills and promote a better quality of life.


    Caregivers Central Themes for Success in Therapeutic Activities

    • Be responsive to signals given by the person with Alzheimer's and bids for attention. Be easily available to them so that the activity takes place at a time when they are more functional.
    • Caregivers should encourage exploration and engagement with their immediate environment.
    • Caregivers need to be able to sooth, comfort, show physical closeness to the person with Alzheimer's. Most people find stroking their arm, hand, allowing them to see your facial expressions promotes better engagement and improves understanding between you.
    • Caregivers should be able to express their emotions freely to encourage playfulness, happiness and promote one to one enjoyment of each other's company.
    • Caregivers need to react positively to any behavioral signals to continue, change an activity or stop it. This helps keep their attention and enjoyment of time spend with another person who gives them time and attention.
    • Time frames for the activity/activities should be flexible. Stopping the session at an appropriate time may help in future sessions and allows the person with dementia have some control about ending them.


  • More Information

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    A therapist, is a person with special skills, obtained through education and experience, in one or more areas of health care. A caregiver often has little formal education in the area of dementia care, but acquires invaluable experience and learns huge ammounts about the subject through that. It means caregivers can be very effective in the delivery of therapeutic activities. Here is some more information;

    Tips on Matching Exercise to People with Alzheimer's 

    Using the Arts to Enrich the Lives of People with Alzheimer's


Published On: March 31, 2011