Activities and Dementia: Strategies for Success

At Lady-Links visits with our friend with Alzheimer’s dementia,  we are able to engage her in a variety of activities because we’ve developed a successful strategy for how we approach selecting and implementing activities.  We choose activities that are in some way significant to her and then we simplify them so that she will be able to participate with a sense of fulfillment.  We believe this strategy will work with others as well.


1.  Make it Meaningful for that Person – Determine what they enjoyed before they were diagnosed.

Promoting communication and friendship over coffee.

Promoting communication and friendship over coffee.

(Church – Family – Holidays – Music – Decorations – Children – Homemaking – Travel – Friends – Volunteering)

2.  Make it Matter to that Person – Determine what will provide a sense of fulfillment now that they are diagnosed.

Making cookies to share

Making cookies to share

(Contributing to a group effort – Helping others – Enjoying group activities – Being a hostess – Having fun)


1.  Plan – Select an activity that the person can successfully accomplish and will enjoy.  Inspiration  for activities can come from many sources including  holidays, special events, local activities, the seasons, music, photographs, family connections and past or present interests.  Modifications may need to be made.

Working one of the elephant puppets she made to give to area children.

Working one of the elephant puppets she made to give to area children.

A cookie dough mix was used making it easier than measuring everything from scratch.

A cookie dough mix was used making it easier than measuring everything from scratch.  Our friend scooped the cookie dough onto the cookie sheet.



Our friend scooped the dough on to the cookie sheet.  We managed the use of the oven while our friend decorated the baggies to hold the cookies.  She put the cooled cookies into the baggies and helped with the giveaway.


Bags of cookies ready to be given away.

Bags of cookies ready to be given away.

2.  Prepare – Get the activity to the point where it is ready for the person to begin his or her part.

All the cutting was done prior to the visit.

All the cutting was done prior to the visit.

All the pieces were grouped by color and ready to be glued at the visit.

All the pieces were grouped by color and ready to be glued at the visit.











Decorations we made for our Christmas reception.

Decorations we made for our Christmas reception.

Before the visit, each pine cone with its correct number of pom-poms was placed in a baggie, ready for assembly.

Before the visit, each pine cone with its correct number of pom-poms was placed in a baggie, ready for assembly.

The  correct number of fall stickers were placed in a baggie for each pumpkin  prior to the visit.

The correct number of fall stickers were placed in a baggie for each pumpkin prior to the visit.

We use stickers whenever possible instead of glue.

We use stickers whenever possible instead of glue.

Making our own stickers.

Making our own stickers.

The front of our St. Patrick's Day card.  Everything was cut prior to the visit so it would be ready for assembly.

The front of our St. Patrick’s Day card. Everything was cut prior to the visit so it would be ready for assembly.

3.  Purpose – Let the person know how the project will be of benefit.

Giving away the valentines she made.

Giving away the valentines she made.

Easter Egg Baskets that were given away.

Easter Egg Baskets that were given away.

We made these Mother's Day table decorations that were used at a Ladies' Breakfast.

We made these Mother’s Day table decorations that were used at a Ladies’ Breakfast.


4.  Presentation – Model the expected behavior and have a completed example to display.

Model the desired behavior.

Model the desired behavior.

An example serves as a guide.

An example serves as a guide.



5.  Persevere – If it doesn’t work or if the person becomes disinterested, make a transition to another activity.  Avoid wait time.

A tote tray filled with a variety of activities from which to choose.

A tote tray filled with a variety of activities from which to choose.


Interests can change quickly so be flexible and have plenty of choices.

Interests can change quickly so be flexible and have plenty of choices.

Turn on some music and you've got an instant activity!

Turn on some music and you’ve got an instant activity!



Chair exercises can be initiated quickly and easily.

Chair exercises can be initiated quickly and easily.

A Conga Line is always fun.

A Conga Line is always fun.



6.  Praise – It’s not about the end product but about the process. Be generous with your encouragement and compliments.

A flower in a coffee cup.

A flower in a coffee cup.

Activities provide opportunities for emotional/spiritual, intellectual, social, and physical interaction.  When chosen carefully and implemented with the right approach, all you need to add is laughter and love, and the prospects for enriching a person’s life in any stage of dementia are endless.


Alzheimer’s and S’mores: Tips for Getting it Just Right

What can be better than a s’more with all its chocolate creamy deliciousness?


A s'more with all its chocolate creamy deliciousness!

The answer… s’mores shared with friends!

Giving away baggies with ingredients for making an individual s'more.

Giving away baggies with ingredients for making an individual s’more.

We knew that celebrating National S’mores Day at one of our visits could be lots of fun.  But first, we had to be sure it would work by running it through our model for choosing and implementing activities to do with our friend who has been diagnosed with midstage Alzheimer’s Dementia.  The five P’s in our Process are:  Plan, Prepare,  Purpose, Presentation, Persevere and Praise.  Here’s how we did it:

We carefully planned what we would need and what we would do at the visit, including how to best fill and then distribute the baggies containing the ingredients for making individual s’mores.  We knew it would have to be broken down into several steps and we would need to determine the best order for those steps to occur.  We decided to make s’mores as refreshments for us to eat, then place the stickers on the baggies and fill with the ingredients.  The last step would be to distribute the baggies to our neighbors.

Hershey bars, marshmallows, and graham crackers...a great combination!

Hershey bars, marshmallows, and graham crackers…a great combination!

There is always necessary preparation before each visit.  In this case, we had to locate background information on the s’mores recipe (it first appeared in a 1927 edition of the Girl Scout Handbook), design a sticker with relevant information to place on each baggie, and measure and wrap each ingredient for a single serving to make it easy to stuff into each baggie.  We needed to locate an updated recipe for using a microwave since we didn’t plan on building a campfire (lol) and include that information on our sticker as well.  The fun part was that we needed to try it to see that it would work.

Place one graham cracker square, topped with a section of a Hershey's bar and a marshmallow in a microwave.

Place one graham cracker square, topped with a section of a Hershey’s bar and a marshmallow in a microwave.



Microwave on HIGH for 10 - 15 seconds.  Perfect!

Microwave on HIGH for 10 – 15 seconds. Perfect!  All you need to do is add the top graham cracker square  and eat it!


Someone had to taste it to be sure it lived up to its reputation.  It did!

Someone had to taste it to be sure it lived up to its reputation. It did!


The preparation process continued with making the stickers and wrapping the individual ingredients to place in the baggies at the visit.

All the individual items ready to assemble.

All the individual items ready to assemble.


We had a purpose for this activity…actually several purposes.  The purpose we explained to our friend was that it was National S’mores Day and that we wanted to celebrate by making s’mores to share with our neighbors.  We emphasized how much our neighbors would appreciate receiving our s’mores baggies and how it was so nice to have the opportunity to share such a delicious surprise.  A second purpose was that we would each make a s’more to eat at our visit, serving as an example of what we were doing.  We always begin our visits with refreshments which our friend’s husband usually has ready to serve.  However, today we wanted to experience making the s’mores ourselves so our friend would be reminded of what was involved.  Of course we had such fun doing this and there was great conversation that occured as we shared our Girl Scout and Camp Fire Girls experiences,  and of eating s’mores around a campfire when we were children.

We always present  an activity at our visits by modeling what we want done.  The Lead Lady-Link began by building her s’more and the others followed.  After we ate, then it was time to assemble the baggies.  We had a completed baggie as an example to show how it should look so that the sticker would be in place and the correct ingredients inside.


A completed baggie served as an example of what we wanted to accomplish.

A completed baggie served as an example of what we wanted to accomplish.

We know that our friend has several levels of engagement and our goal is to actively engage her in whatever we’re doing.  If she becomes passively engaged or disinterested, we are flexible  and change what we’re doing to meet her needs.  We persevere  by modifying what we’re doing or sometimes we transition to another activity.  Our friend wanted to dance to a Perry Como song that was playing while we were filling the baggies.  That was our cue to take a break and dance!  After one or two songs, we returned to the table to continue and so did she.

Peeling a sticker about celebrating National S'mores Day

Peeling a sticker about celebrating National S’mores Day

Placing the sticker on the baggie.

Placing the sticker on the baggie.

All the Lady-Links at each visit help with the activity and we have a great time!

All the Lady-Links at each visit help with the activity and we have a great time!

The final step in our process is praise.  Throughout the activity we encourage our friend on her participation and help her see that her contributition to the project is valued and an important part of the process.  When we distributed the baggies with the s’mores ingredients, she preferred that we handed the baggie to our neighbors as she watched.  You can see by the smile on her face that she was enjoying being a part of the experience.

Sharing with the woman who runs our local Market.

Sharing a s’mores baggie with the woman who runs our local Market.


Happy to give and happy to receive.

Happy to give and happy to receive.


Happy National S'mores Day!

Happy National S’mores Day!


This was such a valuable experience on many levels.  It provided opportunities for cognitive stimulation, physical activity, emotional delight (have you tasted a s’more lately?) and spiritual growth (sharing).  And all of it was done with plenty of love and laughter so typical of all of our Lady-Links visits.

Alzheimer’s and Friends: The Value of One

Lady-Links is a very unique concept.  It is a partnership of people dedicated to enriching the life of one person, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Dementia,  helping her to maintain important links in her life.

When most people hear of our model of friendship care visits, they embrace the idea and wish that such a partnership existed for their loved one.

Elephant Card Demonstrating









However, some, when learning about Lady-Links, question why so many of us put so much effort into just one person’s life.

To them, unless we are helping multitudes of people, we are misguided and our time could be put to much greater use.  They don’t see the value of helping just one.

I’m glad our Lord doesn’t look at it that way.  Listen to some of these familiar stories from the Bible:

  • God sent a whale to swallow one man to redirect his path.
  • God sent ravens to feed one man to encourage and strengthen him.
  • Jesus spoke to one woman at the well to show her the way.
  • Jesus stopped in the middle of a crowd to heal one woman when He felt her touch the hem of His garment.
  • The Holy Spirit sent Philip to explain the Scriptures to one man, an Ethiopian who was out on a desert road.

A favorite Bible story of mine involving one person is about one paralyzed man who was helped by four of his friends.  Perhaps we could call them his group of Lady-Links.  It is found in Mark 2 and tells of four friends who placed their paralyzed friend on a pallet and carried him to see Jesus.  Here’s what was involved:

  • Plan – Carry him to wherever Jesus was
  • Prepare – Had a pallet
  • Purpose – Make their friend better
  • Persevere – When they couldn’t get in the door of the house, they went to the roof, dug through it and lowered their friend down
  • Partnership – It was a coordinated effort by a group of friends to help just one person
  • Precious Process – Mark 2:5 and 11 “And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, ‘My son, your sins are forgiven..I say to you, rise, take up your pallet, and go home.’ ” Look at the word “their” in verse 5.  It was the faith of the friends that made the difference in the life of one person.

Lady-Links believe that their visits are making a difference in the life of their friend.

She smiles more, looks people in the eye more, communicates more, sings more, dances more, and engages in life more compared to the time before our visits began.



To us, all the time spent in  planning, preparing, determining a purpose for each visit, and persevering when things don’t go as we thought they would have formed us into a strong partnership of friends  who view our time with our friend as a precious process enriching her life and ours.

We are doing all of this for one friend because we place value on her life and want to help her enjoy a quality of life for as long as possible in spite of a progressive neurological disease for which there is no cure.   Is helping “just one” a worthy cause?  Absolutely!


We hope that you will duplicate our Lady-Links model of friendship visits for one of your friends or loved ones who suffers with any type of dementia.  They will be blessed and so will you.

Alzheimers and Friends Who Visit: A Video of Activities

Each Lady-Links visit is filled with love and laughter as we enrich the life of our friend who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s dementia.  Enjoy watching this video to get a sense of what we do at our visits and hopefully you will be inspired to visit your friend or loved one who has cognitive issues and duplicate some of our activities.

Friends of Highland Springs


Alzheimer’s and June Fun Days: How to Celebrate

The month of June has provided inspiration for activities with candy and cookies, flags and festivities, and summer and the seasons. Lady-Links visits are designed to be enjoyable for our friend with Alzheimer’s mid-stage dementia and the special occasion days in June were a great source for ideas.  We plan activities to keep her engaged while helping to preserve her skills, and we encourage her through positive feedback. We do this by by starting with refreshments and then transitioning to appropriate activities.

Promoting communication and friendship over coffee.

Promoting communication and friendship over coffee.

Did you know that June was National Candy Month?  That was great news to me since I know how much our friend loves chocolate and using chocolate candy would catch her attention.  We decided to prepare  bags of  assorted candy (mainly chocolates) decorated with an appropriate sticker identifying this special occasion and to give them away to staff who work in our retirement community.  This would give our friend the opportunity to sort and classify the candy and arrange it in the baggies and peel and place the sticker on each one. She would have plenty of opportunity for social interaction as she distributed the candy.

Candy in bowls

She enjoyed the activity and participated somewhat in the process of filling the baggies and adding the sticker.  She had fun hiding some of the candy and tasting ones that were her favorite.  She was able to contribute occasionally to the conversation regarding what candy we liked to eat when we were children and what special places we would go to get candy (the movies, grandma’s house, the candy store to spend some of our allowance, etc.)  We always have a discussion relating to any activity that we’re doing and our friend benefits from the positive environment that such sharing brings, even though she might forget what was actually said.

Candy Sticker

We filled 30 bags and will distribute them when our friend is ready to go for a walk around our community.  We had hoped to distribute them the day that we filled the baggies, but our friend preferred to stay in her home and continue our visit there.  Our plans are always flexible and we  encourage her to try new activities, but if she is hesitant we transition to an activity that she prefers at the moment.  We know that she will eagerly participate in the candy distribution at another visit when the timing is right for her.

Candy in baggie

The rest of the month will be filled with activities associated with Flag Day, the Summer Solstice (do you know how it’s determined),   and preparing for the Fourth of July.  Our visits are always designed to meet the needs of our friend and the love and laughter come naturally as we enrich her life and ours too!

How are you celebrating June with your friends?

Chocolate Chip Cookies and Alzheimer’s: Making It Fun and Safe

Who can resist a chocolate chip cookie?  Well, maybe some can….but not on National Chocolate Chip Day!! Our Lady-Links group decided to try something new with our friend who is diagnosed with mid-stage Alzheimer’s dementia.  Together we made chocolate chip cookies to distribute among those who work  in our retirement community in celebration of National Chocolate Chip Day.

cc cookie basket with friend

Here’s the result of the afternoon of baking.  Our friend is sitting with the basket of chocolate chip cookies, bagged and ready to distribute.  She participated in most of the process: the mixing of the ingredients, the scooping of the dough on the cookie sheets, decorating the baggies with stickers, putting two cookies in each bag, and giving them away to some very delighted members of our community.  I think her favorite part was sampling (mine too)!   She loves chocolate,  and we enjoyed seeing her so enthusiastic and having such fun!

As with any project that we do with her, there are modifications that need to be made and preparations that need to be done in advance of the visit.  Since we had not cooked with her before, we asked her husband for his insights and suggestions.  He let us know that the stove should be off limits for her because of previous episodes in which she would turn on the burners without his knowledge.  In fact, he had removed the burner knobs for safety reasons.    We made the decision not to involve our friend with putting the cookies in the oven or taking them out.  We did not want to encourage any interest in the stove/oven since that was a safety issue.  She could do every other step in the cookie-making process at the dining room table, so there was no need for her to even go into the kitchen.  We made sure she had plenty of things to do that did not involve being in the kitchen or using the stove/oven.

chocolate chip stickers in machine

The preparation process prior to the visit involved making the stickers for the baggies that would hold the cookies.  I love my Creative Station sticker machine and can design my own stickers that way.  We made two for each baggie, one stating that it was the week of National Chocolate Chip Day and the other was something I downloaded from clip art saying “Have a Nice Day.”  Our friend loves to peel and place stickers, so I knew that this would be an enjoyable activity and would hold her interest while one of us slipped into the kitchen to put the cookies in the oven and take them out when they were done.

chocolate chip cookie dough

Just prior to the visit, I prepared three batches of cookie dough.  Two of them I completely mixed, and one I left unmixed for our friend to do.  It took a while for her to cream the butter into the dry ingredients and to add the egg and get it all mixed together, so I’m glad I had the other two batches of dough already done.  She instinctively knew how to cream the butter into the dry ingredients using a fork which led us to realize that she must have done this before and was linking to that experience.  As a result, we began to talk about when we were girls and would make cookies with our mothers.  She could add bits and pieces to the conversation, and we all had such a marvelous time of sharing our early cooking experiences, most of which were usually with our moms or in homemaking class.

We showed her how to use a cookie dough scoop to drop the dough on the baking sheet.  She did several scoops and then lost interest.  That’s when we brought out the baggies and stickers, and she had fun getting those ready while we finished scooping the dough.  That was a great way to keep her engaged in a meaningful activity and away from the stove.


We always had a Lady-Link in the kitchen doing the actual baking, but we never called attention to that.  We had plenty of fun around the dining table with our friend, so it was never an issue.

We filled over 40 baggies with our warm, delicious cookies and enjoyed  giving them away to the wonderful people who work in our retirement community.  Our friend was all smiles, especially when some of the recipients opened the bag and ate their cookies right away, describing them as “yummy” and “oh soooooo good.”   It was a great way to celebrate National Chocolate Chip Day and of course it was filled with all the love and laughter that naturally occurs during our Lady-Links visits.

Any suggestions for something we can “cook” at another Lady-Links visit that doesn’t require her to be involved with the stove/oven?



Alzheimer’s and Special Days: Worth the Effort

Our calendars are filled with special observances and events that sometimes get overlooked. Calendar special days These special days are different from holidays which usually get all the attention.  I’m talking about days that pay tribute to such things as civic observances, historical or religious events, famous people or places or milestones that were set, worthwhile causes, or just -for-fun-occasions. For instance, did you know that May 15 is National Chocolate Chip Day?  That appeals more to me than May 13 which is Frog Jumping Day or May 16 which is National Sea Monkey Day.  Now, I’m all for frogs and sea monkeys, but chocolate rings a special bell with me and it just happens to be a favorite of our friend with Alzheimer’s dementia.  So that’s on the schedule for us to celebrate. When trying to come up with an idea for what to do when you visit a friend or loved one with any type of dementia,  just look at your typical calendar for inspiration.  You’ll find all sorts of events worth celebrating with a themed project that can be assembled during your visit.  Coming events we will celebrate with a project reflecting that special day are Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Father’s Day and the first day of Summer. Did I mention Chocolate Chip Day????  You can see what’s on my mind. chocolate chips At our Lady-Links visits, we’ve used special days to inspire activities and projects by decorating  pumpkins for the first day of Fall, decorating masks and hats for Mardi Gras, making cards for St. Patrick’s Day and the first day of Spring, and making flower arrangements to be used for Veteran’s Day, just to name a few. Mardi Gras holding maskFall decorating pumpkins   Remember, we’re not talking about major holidays.  We’ve done tons of stuff for those.  We’re looking for those obscure (and some not so obscure) special days as inspiration for projects to do at our twice weekly visits that will keep our friend actively engaged and help her to maintain her social, emotional/spiritual, and intellectual links. We don’t want to be boring.  So far, we’ve been successful! Just recently at some of our Lady-Links visits, we prepared for one of those special days, Earth Day, with our friend by making bookmarks and cards with “conservation” and “appreciate Earth” themes. 20140422_08421820140425_08193420140425_081854 Since we want our friend to be involved as much as possible in our projects, we design them with her skills and abilities in mind.  She doesn’t handle glue very well, but she loves to peel and place stickers.  My daughter-in-law suggested that I purchase a Creative Station machine to make my own stickers and I love it.  We are able to design and print stickers that our friend can relate to and that work well with our project theme.   20140422_084013 We used one sticker design for our bookmark, that of Earth.  We printed a Bible verse relating to the Earth on green card stock, and brought that to our Lady-Link visit for her to peel and place the Earth sticker on it. For our Earth Day themed card, I found a great source for pictures on my daughter-in-law’s blog, Carrie Elle using a link she had to Play 2 Learn with Sarah which featured an Earth Day Bingo game.  The pictures were just what I wanted but the Bingo game had too many squares for our friend to be able to play it.  Although I didn’t use it for its intended purpose,  I downloaded it, printed the Bingo cards, and cut up the squares to use to make stickers for our Earth Day encouragement cards that we shared with other residents in our senior community. 20140425_081822 It worked wonderfully!  I printed our Earth Day verse on green card stock, folded it and had it ready for our friend to place the stickers on it. I organized the cards and the stickers in baggies, and gave to each person at our Lady-Link visit that day.  All the supplies for making one card were complete within each baggie. 20140425_085901 We had a great conversation with our friend during our Earth Day themed visits and she was able to join in with a few comments of her own.  She remembers her parents telling her to turn out the lights as she would leave a room and she remembers that they would reuse aluminum foil more than once.  We talked about conservation efforts including recycling and reusing things (our senior community takes this very seriously and has a great recycling effort).  20140425_110240 20140425_110141 We were so pleased that she understood the purpose of Earth Day and could relate to it, at least at that moment.  Our activities linked to something in her past that was important to her and gave her the opportunity to participate fully. The cards and bookmarks were given to our community chaplain who distributed them to those residents who attended vespers since they had an appropriate and relevant Bible verse on them. Not only did our Earth Day projects serve a purpose for our friend and the residents who received them, but we Lady-Links benefited from the conversation they promoted as we shared ways of recycling, reusing, and restoring our natural resources.  It was totally worth the effort, and we look forward to the next special day that we can celebrate with a themed project!


What special days are coming up that you plan to celebrate?  Any suggestions for us to use with our friend at one of our Lady-Links visits?

Alzheimer’s and Birthdays: Simple Yet Significant

20140416_154124Our friend’s birthday was approaching and we had to decide how to celebrate.  She has been diagnosed with mid-stage Alzheimer’s dementia and we didn’t want to overwhelm her, yet we wanted her to be fully included and engaged in all that we did at her party.  We decided to incorporate two key concepts in her birthday activities: (1)  Keeping them SIMPLE, yet  (2) Making them represent SIGNIFICANT events in her life.  Our phrase was “simple yet significant” as we planned for her special day.

We chose to make the celebration simple:

We asked each Lady-Link to send a birthday card (rather than a gift) which we collected and placed in a basket decorated with balloons and flowers to give to her.

We used refreshments that she could easily handle like chocolates and coffee (two of her favorites).

We celebrated during a Lady-Links visit which happened to fall on her birthday (our friend is used to our routine of refreshments and activities).

We limited the guest list to 6 of the 12 Lady-Links (our friend is very much at ease with us but all of us at one time is distracting and overwhelming for her).

We chose to make the activities ones that were significant to her:

Birthday Book

Birthday Bingo

Birthday Cards (we opened them and read them to her).

The results were fantastic.  She enjoyed the celebration and participated fully and understood that it was her birthday. And she had lots of fun!

 Birthday Book 

We used clip art we found on our computer to represent things in her life that are significant to her such as church, music (Perry Como is her favorite), chocolates and coffee,  dancing, and others such as her birthday month, places she lived, and activities she enjoys.  There were 12 clip art pictures that we used in several ways. The first was a Birthday Book.

Birthday book groupWe wrote a simple story of events in her life to go along with each picture and created a document that looked like a book.  It was written in paragraph form and had space for the illustrations that we would add during its presentation.   For the Birthday Book game, we gave our friend and each guest one or two of the clip art pictures and, as I read the story, the person with the picture corresponding to the information that was being read taped it in the book.  Our friend was delighted to hear “her story” and could present her clip art picture to me at the appropriate time when she heard the picture she was holding being described.  We helped her tape it in the appropriate place.  When we finished, she had a Birthday Book to keep. Using tape worked well, but after the birthday celebration, I got a machine to make stickers, and making those pictures into stickers would have been even better.

The Birthday Book had 6 pages, plus a front cover. The Birthday Book was given to her to keep and we were told that she proudly showed it to her family at a birthday celebration they had for her.

Birthday Bingo

We used those same clip art pictures to make a Birthday Bingo game which we played after the Birthday Book activity.

We made six Bingo cards, each having the 12 clip art pictures. 20140416_112632 For the caller, a large copy of each of the clip art pictures was used to announce the item to be located on the Bingo cards.  She could look at the caller’s copy and match it on her Bingo card, and cover it with a chip.  A straight line, horizontally or vertically covered with chips was a winner.  The prize…chocolate of course!20140416_11272720140416_113057

The Birthday Bingo set was laminated and we have used it numerous times since her birthday celebration.  Our friend realizes that it is not her birthday each time we play the Birthday Bingo game, but she enjoys playing it because each of the clip art pictures represents something significant in her life and she loves being reminded of those special times.

 Birthday Cards

We ended the celebration by opening and reading aloud her 12 cards which were presented to her in a basket with balloons.Birthday basket  After I read each card, I handed it to her and she looked carefully at each one commenting with words like “pretty” or “ohhhh” or “nice.”   For the ones that were humorous, she laughed.

Although we think of the traditional birthday party with blazing candles on a big birthday cake, lots of people, a mountain of gifts, and loudly singing “Happy Birthday”  as great choices for all birthdays, those activities may not be the best choice for your loved one or friend who has dementia or even a mild cognitive impairment.  Our friend with Alzheimer’s dementia enjoyed every moment of her birthday celebration, participated fully, and seemed to understand what was happening.  We think it was successful because we kept it simple and the activities we chose to do represented significant activities in her life.

Just because our friend’s celebration was based on the concept of keeping it simple yet significant, that didn’t diminish the fun and all the love and laughter that flows freely at every Lady-Links visit.  Quite the opposite…because our friend was so alert to her surroundings and engaged in all of the activities, she didn’t lose interest or withdraw in any way.  She had a great time and so did we!






Alzheimer’s and Easter Activities: Appropriate Modifications to Apply

20140407_105407Easter is a great time for celebration and our friend with Alzheimer’s dementia is ready to participate.  She can recall several events from her past which made the Easter season special for her. Although most of those memories included fun activities from when she was a child, we didn’t let that stop us.  We have plenty of ideas to modify traditional Easter activities into ones that are appropriate for her to complete.  Our modifications will let her enjoy the process of making them plus they will serve as a welcome gift for others who live in our senior community.    So, don’t let it stop you if you are looking to include your grandparent or senior loved one with cognitive issues in some of the fun. With the appropriate modifications, you’ll both have an enjoyable  time!20140405_125608

Filling plastic Easter eggs with candy is fine for children, but not for seniors who have health restrictions that affect what they can eat.  Yet, it is fun to open the eggs to see what’s inside, so we decided to come up with a senior-appropriate alternative.   Plastic Easter eggs filled with Bible verses are just the thing that our community vespers attendees will appreciate.20140405_120007  We selected six verses that relate to the Easter message, printed them on colored paper, cut them into strips, and placed each in an egg. 20140405_122426 For variety,  uplifting and encouraging sayings, or jokes and riddles  could be used.  Even small items like samples of hand lotion, perfume, make-up, or coupons for services would work.  We did the cutting prior to the visit so the verses would be ready for her to place in the eggs.

For our purposes, we chose six scriptures, one for each of our different pastel-colored plastic eggs, and put them inside.  We filled our baskets with plastic grass, added the eggs and an Easter-themed cross and will have these ready for the Easter Sunday vespers service.20140405_125754Easter Foam Craft Projects

The craft-foam eggs with “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” will be distributed at the Palm Sunday vesper service.  These were made from kits we ordered from Oriental Trading Company.  They are stickers that are easily placed on foam backings and our friend loves to make them.  She enjoys reading the message and will often add an occasional phrase or short sentence about how much she enjoys church and related activities. These verses remind her of when she used to teach Vacation Bible School and children’s Sunday School.   Her reading skills have improved since our visits began.  She can read short phrases and looks forward to doing so.

Easter baskets with ribbon

We found this basket design in our computer clip art, and printed it on yellow card stock.  One of the Lady-Links painted the “background” eggs and the bow using watercolors prior to our visit with our friend.  The three foam eggs are stickers and were added by our friend, making the basket complete!  The craft foam eggs were part of a container of spring-themed stickers purchased at Michael’s. These baskets will be delivered by volunteers in our community when they take meals to home-bound residents during this Easter season.  Other volunteers will use these baskets in the Card Ministry and include a note of encouragement with them.


All of these activities required some planning and preparation so that our friend could easily complete them at our March and April Lady-Links visits.  Some activities were completed assembly-line style when we visited.  We made sure her position on the assembly line was an activity that she could successfully complete. 20140328_105732-1


Our friend is not the only one who enjoys these activities.  As Lady-Links, we also have fun.20140328_105604-120140328_105459-1-1An added blessing to our visits has been that our projects serve a dual purpose. They help our friend continue to maintain cognitive, emotional, spiritual, and physical links in her life, and those projects also serve as an encouragement to those in our community who receive them.  Our friend knows that she is making these to give away and in doing so she realizes that she is helping others.  There are few opportunities for a person with dementia to feel that they are making a significant contribution to another’s well-being. To know that we as Lady- Links have provided that opportunity for our friend brings us such joy.

As you celebrate this Easter season, may you find that same joy as you include your loved ones in activities that they can make and then share with their “senior” friends.   Happy Easter!



Art and Alzheimer’s: Tips for Making It Work

At many of our Lady-Links visits we enjoy making some type of art project with our friend who has Alzheimer’s dementia.  We found the tips from the Alzheimer’s Navigator on the website helpful in our planning.  Here’s how we applied them to our situation:Project Explanation 013

Tip #1:  “Keep the project on an adult level.  Avoid anything that might be demeaning or seem child-like.”  Our cards and other art projects are colorful and appealing which applies to all ages.  However, we are careful that they are not childish.  Our cards are designed to provide encouragement and inspiration among our seniors in our community.

Our holiday decorations are used at community events and with visits to neighbors in our continuing care section. Pine cone and trees Some of our projects are designed to be used with children and are given to local schools and hospitals.

We treat each project as friends working together.  We have fun, laugh a lot, and enjoy each other’s company.  We do not set ourselves up as teachers, nor do we treat our friend with Alzheimer’s dementia as our student or as a child.  We are friends and treat her accordingly.  We do carefully choose the part she is given to accomplish the project successfully, but we do not call attention to that fact.  We usually work in an assembly line fashion sitting around a table, so she feels that she is contributing a significant step in the process which of course she is.

Tip #2  “Build conversation into the project.  Provide encouragement, discuss what the person is creating or reminiscence.”  When you have three or four Lady-Links get together, there is a wealth of love,  laughter and memories associated with the project built into the conversation.

Our friend is progressively making more comments and adding bits to the conversation with each visit.  She is linking to memories in her past and can say enough about them that we can catch on to what she is communicating.  Our talk centers around her.  We don’t have private conversations.  When we initiate something to discuss, we will draw her into the conversation and wait for a reply.  Sometimes we give her prompts.  At other times, she doesn’t need them.

Tip #3 “Help the person begin the activity.”  We always model for our friend what we want her to do.Lilacs Exercise and Dancing 009Lilacs Exercise and Dancing 003  This is not done as a teacher student presentation, but rather as when one of us takes the lead and shows the entire group what their step in the process  will be.

Tip #4:  “Use safe materials.”  Everything we use is non-toxic and easy for her to use.  As of now, we are pre-cutting what is needed.  We assemble all the supplies and get them ready for use at the visits.  Baggies are a great way to group all the supplies for one project when it is possible for our friend to complete it.  At other times, we use the assembly line method.  Pine cones in baggies Elephant Puppet LL smiling As her manipulative skills continue to return, she may be able to do some of the cutting but if that happens,  we will use rounded scissors with her.  The preparation process currently is done before each visit begins so that it will be easy for her to do her part.Sticker prep two sided tape  We even have a machine to make stickers because they are fun and easy for her to apply.Sticker sheet of thinking of youSticker loading

Tip #5:  Allow plenty of time, keeping in mind that the person doesn’t have to finish the project in one sitting.”  Our visits are usually one hour.

Promoting communication and friendship over coffee.

Promoting communication and friendship over coffee.

Part of that time we enjoy refreshments together and transition into a game or an activity or a project when our friend seems ready.  We focus on her and the process.Lilacs Exercise and Dancing 008  Our visits have never been about completing a certain number of projects.  We watch our friend.  If she is engaged, we continue.  When she becomes disinterested, we transition into another activity.

Art projects are something we enjoy with our friend,Pine cone with our friend and to make them as successful as possible, we incorporate all five tips in our planning.  We focus on her enjoyment, not on achievement.  However, when we do that, we find that there is an incredible level of achievement that naturally occurs.  Our friend is finding meaning, purpose, joy and hope through these activities.  And so are we!