An elderly man with Alzheimer’s brings a tray of food out to a woman working as a lifeguard, both smile happily.

Keep Them Moving and Shaking

As a granddaughter wondering what she can do to help her grandfather amid his descent into Alzheimer’s, I was a bit daunted. I thought: What do I say? How should I act? What should we do together?

I began to find activities to do while I was visiting in order to make the most out of the time and, hopefully, keep him happy. Here are some of the things that worked for me and my family.

Go on walks

As my mom would say: “Don’t ask whether they want to go — just tell them, 'We’re going for a walk.'” If your loved one is physically able, take them out on a trek! It gets you moving and them, which can only be good for both of you.

Build puzzles together

My Poppop went through a heavy puzzle phase. The walls in my Mom’s house used to be decorated with puzzles he, or we, when we were there to help, had put together, and then Pop would glue so they could be framed and mounted. It was quite an enjoyable way to spend time together.

Swept away by vivid imagery

After the puzzle phase, my Poppop was drawn to vivid imagery he found in magazines, newspapers, and elsewhere, to the point where he adhered them to the wall above his couch — in an apartment my grandparents rented. You may be able to see that there’s a little bit of destruction that’s happening in this activity, but it’s harmless and can be fixed and made him happy.

Give useful tasks

Provide your loved one with useful tasks. My Poppop enjoyed being depended on. Over a set of two summers, I was a lifeguard at his apartment complex and Gram would send him out to sit at the pool with me and bring me dinner! It was truly manageable, as his destination was in the line of sight for my Gram from her window, was easily walkable to only traverse a parking lot and a familiar face was at the other end. It was a win-win-win on slow days at the pool, I got some company and a good meal, my Poppop got to deliver it and my Gram got a few minutes in the apartment to herself!

Practice consistency

My mom, a mother to four children, has told me in previous discussions on the topic that she finds caring for those who have Alzheimer’s follows similar rules to those when raising a child: Keep it consistent.

Routines are great for many humans and are amazing for those who have Alzheimer’s or dementia. So while you might feel like you’re doing the same old thing with your loved one, my bet is that the time spent with you is very much appreciated.

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