What types of activities are best suited for those with Alzheimer's or dementia?

It is important to match activities to interests and cognitive ability in order to increase participation and satisfaction for those with Alzheimer's disease or dementia. If they're not, it's unlikely that person will participate.

For individuals with mild to moderate cognitive functions, integrate music in all types of activities, especially through sing-a-longs, dancing, entertainment, drumming and exercising. Music of the person's era will motivate the individual and also stimulate dialogue and reminisces.

Additionally, mental stimulation games, such as word games, trivia, spelling bees and magazine scavenger hunts, can be very successful for individuals with mild cognitive functions.

Incorporate cooking activities, which can arouse the senses and provide a means of stimulating exchanges between the affected individual, caregiver and family members. Aromas can invoke special memories of family times and holidays, and some individuals enjoy preparing recipes and also tasting the finished dish.

Gardening is another favorite activity and quite manageable for those experiencing mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. Planting and tending gardens can give the them a sense of purpose and builds self-esteem.

Since many individuals with Alzheimer's disease become socially isolated, social events such as parties, arts and crafts and even spiritual activities can provide opportunities for fellowship and enjoyment and give the individual a sense of belonging. Reminiscing, history talks of his or her era and pleasurable outings are all means of keeping the individual engaged and active.

With technology so prevalent, computer activities have the potential to make unoccupied time meaningful and enjoyable and also improve specific cognitive performance, such as hand-eye coordination, processing skills and creativity. Whether a novice or somewhat technologically inclined, using a computer provides an increased sense of productivity and accomplishment.

Integrating music in activity programming is also important. The Music and Memory program, for instance, matches the individual with a playlist of songs to provide them with listening pleasure.

Additionally, incorporating sensory activities is essential in late stages of the disease. Aromatherapy can be used for effect, such as lavender for calming and peppermint for stimulation. These scents can be infused into lotions and creams for gentle massages, which soothe the affected individual and also keeps him or her connected to the caregiver.

Sensory kits, such as "A Day at the Beach" kit, features items like a CD that plays ocean waves, seashells and/or sand for touch and tactile stimulation, coconut tanning oil for smells and fruit smoothies for taste.

Affected individuals with low cognitive function may also find comfort in attachments, whether it is a special blanket or stuffed animal, and holding or clutching these types of objects can be a coping strategy for them.

In all activities, accommodate the individual's personal likes and things in which the individual would derive pleasure and enjoyment.

Questions about Alzheimer's disease or a related disorder can be sent to Dana Territo, the Memory Whisperer, director of services at Alzheimer's Services of the Capital Area at advice@alzbr.org or visit the organization at 3772 North Blvd., Baton Rouge.