How Does Alzheimer's Affect Activities & Hobbies?
While a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease changes a person’s life, it doesn’t mean life is over or that quality of life has to suffer from here on out. Life might look a little different and regular activities may need to be modified or adapted at different times, but a person with Alzheimer’s disease can still enjoy life, participate in activities and hobbies, and socialize with friends. All of these things help in creating a decent quality of life, which is important for everyone. People can still maintain a healthy and engaged life, even with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.
Benefits of activities and hobbies
Staying involved in activities and hobbies can help reduce the risk of depression, promote physical health, and improves socialization – all of which have health benefits for someone with Alzheimer’s disease.1 These activities can also help reduce the rate of cognitive decline. Things like exercise can help boost brain health by increasing the activity of neurons, and release protective proteins called growth factors. Mental stimulation activities like crossword puzzles, word games, learning a new language, dancing, or learning music can help increase brain activity.2 Even something like learning something new or trying a new activity helps to stimulate the brain.2 These things can help encourage brain activity and provide other benefits like socializing and simple enjoyment.
Modifying activities and hobbies
Many people with Alzheimer’s disease can continue to enjoy the activities in which they participated before the diagnosis – it may just look a little different as the disease progresses. If there are activities the person already enjoys, take the time to see if they need any assistance or adaptations. If they are interested in finding new activities and hobbies, that’s great! Here are some things to keep in mind3,4:
- Take an honest assessment of the person’s abilities and match the activity to the ability level
- Gauge whether the person can do it independently or needs assistance
- Show the person what to do at first, if necessary
- Find out what the person used to enjoy, and see if something similar can be done on a simpler level
- Keep activities simple, with minimal decision-making, crowds, and noise
- Ensure the safety of the person: no small parts or sharp edges
- Think about sensory activities to provide added stimulation or comfort
- Find the time of day the person is most alert and engaged and do activities then
- Make sure the person cannot become lost, as even familiar neighborhoods and walking routes can become confusing for an individual with Alzheimer’s disease
Suggestions for activities
Activities and hobbies don’t have to be overly complicated – there are lots of things caregivers can do with a person with Alzheimer’s disease. These things can include art and painting, cooking (with plenty of supervision), music, and outdoor activities like gardening or walking. Other suggestions include3,4:
- Attending a music or dance class
- Hiking or walking, or exercise classes (adapted for ability)
- Puzzles or board games, tailored to the person’s cognitive abilities and frustration thresholds
- Sorting games
- Knitting groups (assess for safety)
Ask the person what they’d like to do. Maybe they want to try something new or something the caregiver hasn’t thought of. If possible, see if the person can participate in activities they find enjoyable. Keep in mind that apathy and resistance are part of the disease and try not to become discouraged. As a person’s Alzheimer’s disease progresses, family members and caregivers can talk with the doctor about new ways to keep the person engaged in activities, and connecting with a physical therapist or occupational therapist can be helpful. These are trained professionals who specialize in making activities adaptable for those with various challenges and they can provide guidance and instruction in safe hobbies and activities with a range of modifications for someone with Alzheimer’s disease.