By Lexi Russell

Older gentleman looking into the distance in a dimly lit room

Post-Acute and Long Term Care facilities have the opportunity to improve the lives of their residents with Alzheimer’s Disease. Though Alzheimer’s has no known cure, the quality of life of those with Alzheimer’s can be improved through programs, attention, consistency, and many other factors.

November is National Alzheimer’s Awareness month. In the month of November, we make a special push to teach about Alzheimer’s, and we work to bring to light the measures that can be taken to improve the lives of those living with this disease.

First of all, resident-centered activity programs are extremely helpful to those with Alzheimer’s. If led by compassionate, and highly trained, staff the activities can provide comfort, solace, relaxation, companionship, and, in some cases, can lessen symptomatic behaviors. If the activities include family members or local peers, they even improve the community.

Planning a successful activity program for those with Alzheimer’s can be challenging. Because consistency is key, successful programs should be part of the resident’s overall routine. Activities should be adaptable for safety, resident’s ability, behavioral changes, mood, and ability to stay focused that day. Well-trained, compassionate staff should direct physical guidance and prompts, be flexible in their approach, and work to optimize each resident’s sense of success while minimizing the resident’s frustration and agitation.

Planning activities to meet these needs can be challenging. Each stage of dementia must be kept in mind, and how the stages impact each resident’s cognitive function and ability to participate. It is vitally important to make each activity failure-free so residents leave feeling uplifted and successful.

Residents with mild dementia benefit most from activities that maintain or improve their functional and cognitive abilities. When residents suffer from mild Alzheimer’s or dementia, they are often aware, and embarrassed, by their memory loss. Activities that include recalling words, learning something new, thinking abstractly and decision making are very difficult for those at this stage and should be avoided. If one of these activities is done, staff should be aware that it may take them longer, and they may require prompts and other aids to help their memory process.

For those with moderate dementia, activities should be catered to their deterioration in cognitive function. This loss of cognitive function often includes extensive memory loss and disorientation, poor language ability, and loss of safety awareness. These residents need many reminders, redirection, cues, and direct physical guidance to complete tasks.

Residents with severe dementia, activities should provide stimulation, comfort, solace, and relaxation, and should avoid stress, recall, and cognitive function. These residents may enjoy listening to music, or a similar, stress-free, activity.

Residents with Alzheimer’s require a special level of care, with their activities, safety, and other concerns. These residents benefit vastly from living in a community that can cater to all of these concerns and provide resident-centered activities and inclusive, personalized programs.