During an occupational therapy session this week, my patient with dementia, George, was asked to complete an activity - make a piece of toast. This was a part of a standardized cognitive/functional assessment that I was completing with him. He did not understand my initial directions, so he needed the task simplified:
The bread, knife, butter, and toaster were all set directly in front of him.
I handed him the bread then pointed and told him to put it in the slot on the toaster.
I helped him press the toaster lever down.
I helped him get the toast out, ensuring he did not burn himself.
I handed him the knife, then directed him to scrape up some butter.
With toast in one hand, his other hand held the knife and began the buttering motion that he had done hundreds of times before, with no cues from me needed.
What did this task tell me about George? Of course, I knew that he needs assistance for tasks, going one step at a time. But I also knew that certain, familiar activities that were in his 'muscle memory', like buttering the toast, could happen without my prompting or assist. This step of the task he could do independently! In fact, he directly went from buttering the bread to cutting it in half, diagonally - again no prompts given.
Finding the activities the person with dementia CAN still do is key to keeping them active. Buttering his own toast would be a great task for George to do every day, maintaining his feeling of self-worth and keeping him engaged in the tasks of life.
Names in the article were changed to protect privacy. If you would like to use this article in your own newsletter or on your web site, you are welcome to reprint it in its entirety with an active link to our web site and the following author info: “By Monica Heltemes, Occupational Therapist and Owner of MindStart. Providing cognitive stimulation, engagement and joy for people living with dementia - visit www.mind-start.com."