You might think of it in regards to the activities you have going for the weekend - a family outing, errands to run, a movie night. Or if you are parent, you might think of your children's activities - karate, piano lessons, Girl Scouts.
If you are a professional working in a facility, you likely think of the facility's scheduled activities, planned for the residents. Activities for people with dementia has a different meaning than the examples listed. It has a much broader meaning and a much bigger impact.
Dementia Activities - The Cornerstone to Successful Days
When we think of "activities" for people living with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia, we need to broaden the scope of that word. In fact, as the disease progresses and the person is able to do less, what is considered "activities" for the person, should broaden more.
What is an "activity"?
Activity comes from the word act, or "to do something". So literally, 'activities' = 'doing things'. It is the core foundation of occupational therapy, as 'doing things' also = 'occupations'. So activities can include things like outings, errands, and family events. But it can also include the more mundane things of life, like balancing the checkbook and combing ones hair. To get an idea of all the different types of things we might do in a day (i.e. activities), it is helpful to look at this list of some of our daily living activities, which is used as a guide in occupational therapy practice (Source: Occupational Therapy: Domain and Practice).
- Activities of Daily Living (ADL's) - includes the basic self-cares of eating, bathing, dressing, using the restroom.
- Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL's) - includes the more complex daily tasks like making meals, managing finances and own health care, care of children or others, shopping, and cleaning.
- Sleep and rest - yes, sleeping is an activity, too!
- Work- includes volunteering
- Leisure - includes hobbies, going to concerts or sporting events, etc.
- Social participation - this could be at the community level or with family or a friend
When you think of dementia, which of these areas of daily living, or activities, do you think are affected? Eventually, all of them. The general progression is to lose IADL and work abilities first, followed by ADL and social participation abilities. Sleep and leisure can be impacted at any point in the disease.
The loss of abilities that happens with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia is pretty well known, I think. But what is not as well known, is that these folks CAN continue to do things, just with modifications and support to make it happen! The modifications and supports that will be needed, will depend on the type of activity and the stage of the disease.
Caregivers can inadvertently take over doing things for the person, even though the person might still be able to do part of the task or do it in a different way. When this happens, the person can become more sedentary and useless and can lose skills at a faster rate. By adapting activities and providing support, there are ways that the person can continue to do things - just in a different way.