Alzheimer’s Foundation of America details easy, cognitively stimulating activities caregivers can do at home with their loved ones

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NEW YORK — As the Coronavirus outbreak forces many families to stay confined at home, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) is providing families affected by Alzheimer’s disease with information about simple therapeutic activities they can do to keep their loved one engaged and active while at home.

“Stimulating the brain is beneficial both for individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers. Staying active and engaged can help improve mood, reduce stress and avoid caregiver burnout, and it’s even more important at a time when people are staying indoors for prolonged periods,” said Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr., AFA’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “There are many fun activities caregivers can do with their loved ones to help exercise their minds together, using things they already have at home.”

Here are a number of simple activities that can be done at home and their potential benefits:

· Reminiscence: Reminiscence activities help with memory recall. Often accompanied with art and music therapies, it utilizes the five senses to help individuals recall specific positive memories. It has been found to improve overall quality of life, reduce stress, and offer a new way to connect and communicate with others. It provides comfort and joy to be involved in reflection of their past. This form of therapy can also improve sleep quality, mental alertness and mood. Activities include:

o Reminiscing with family picture albums

o Listening to music your loved one enjoys

o Dancing to favorite songs

· Tactile stimulation: Tactile sensory stimulation involves the sensation of touch and texture. Various textures, sizes and shapes like smooth, rough, hard, soft, furry, etc. can be used for this activity. The sense of touch also includes the differentiation and recognition of temperature, pain, and body position. There are many benefits such as enhanced psychological wellbeing; decreased anxiety and agitation; increased alertness and concentration; improved self-esteem; better self-expression; and improved quality of life. Activities include:

o Flower arranging

o Small tasks or chores like folding towels or matching socks together

o Stuffed animal therapy (adult-appropriate, like dogs and cats)

o Creating a collage and doing other arts and crafts projects (This can also fall into the brain exercise category)

· Brain exercises: These activities challenge and stimulate the brain, keep your mind active, enhance memory, and improve cognitive skills and concentration. Brain exercises include:

o Trivia, word puzzles and memory games

o Reading books

o Storytelling

· Social stimulation: Interacting with others boosts feelings of well-being and decreases feelings of depression. Researchers have proven that one sure way of improving your mood is to work on building social connections. Ways to socialize include:

o Video chats (i.e. FaceTime, Skype, etc.)

o Text messaging

o Sending a thoughtful email

o Telephone calls

o Mailing letters or cards

o Sending photos electronically or by mail

o Connecting through social media

· Virtual Therapeutic Programs/Virtual Tours: AFA now provides virtual community classes through our Facebook page. All of these programs are facilitated by credentialed professionals. These therapeutic programs vary from dance/movement therapy, music therapy, art therapy, fitness classes and Broadway singer performances.

Virtual tours are another cognitively stimulating activity that can be done from home. Virtual tours allow you to explore or revisit favorite cities, museums and other sites through a computer or mobile device. These virtual programs are becoming increasingly popular, as many locations are currently closed to the public. Use any internet search engine to learn more about virtual tours.

Finally, ask your loved one what they like to do and find a creative way to introduce a new activity that involves these interests. This is a great way to strengthen the special bond with your loved ones.