Dementia and Winter Activities: Bringing the Outdoors In

Snow.  Fun for those who can get outside and make memories with their creations.

Snowman completed

But having fun and making memories in winter aren’t limited to going outside in below freezing weather.  During this season, Lady-Links found plenty of ways to engage in cold weather activities while staying warm and inside.  We created cards and door hangers with a winter message while we looked outside and admired the snow from a warm, cozy advantage.

Card winter front several

card winter insideThis card design worked well to bring the sentiments of the season into a friendship message.

Here’s the card design for you to download.

We also made two winter blessing door hangers. One was a craft we ordered from Oriental Trading and the second was one we made from card stock and previously received Christmas cards.




If you would like the verse we used, you can download it here.  We used it on the front of our original door hanger and on the back of the other one.


Of course, we prepared our crafts so that they would be easy to manipulate when we visited our friend with dementia.  All the pieces to make one completed door hanger were placed in a baggie.  Organizing it that way is less confusing than dumping out all the pieces and having to look for which part is needed.  The foam adhesive-backed snowflakes were hard to punch out from their backing in the craft that we ordered, so we did that part before the visit and had them in place.


From our cozy environment, we enjoyed the craft and the “feeling” of being a part of the winter season.  The window blinds were closed for the picture, but when opened and during the time it snowed, the view was that of a winter wonderland.  It was the best of both worlds!


The conversation was rich as we shared memories from our childhoods of snowy days while completing the door hangers.


When we finished, we had plenty of Winter Blessings to give away to others, helping them to celebrate the season too!


Friends with dementia can enjoy each season regardless of the outside temperature or weather-related problems with an appropriate seasonal craft and related discussion topics.  How did you help your friend or loved one with dementia connect with winter?

Dementia and Birthdays: Tips for Celebrating

DSC_4812Our friend with Alzheimer’s dementia was about to have a birthday, and we knew we could plan an awesome celebration for her based on the success of the one we gave her last year.  We decided to use the same “Simple yet Significant” stratigies because they worked so well.  Such a strategy keeps us focused on our friend’s needs and gives us a starting point for our planning. All birthday parties need food, activities, gifts, and friends to make it a real celebration. However, for a person with dementia, each of those elements needs to be modified so that he or she can enjoy and engage in the event.  After all, it is for them!  Here’s how we did it:

Tips to Make It Simple 

Guests:  Choose a limited number of friends and family who are knowledgeable about dementia and who have a supportive relationship with the birthday person. They should be encouraging, kind, compassionate, patient,  and know how to bridge communication gaps with smiles and flexibility.  They should be ones who feel at ease with your loved one or friend and who have an ongoing established relationship with that person. This is not the time to introduce new acquaintances. Guests should have the understanding that those with dementia have worth and value,  and are to be treated with dignity and respect.

Games:  Choose activities in which the person with dementia can participate and enjoy.  Keep the person’s skills and abilities in mind by selecting games in which he or she can be easily and successfully engaged. Favorite games that have been a part of the person’s routine prior to the birthday party are always good choices.  Some favorite games and activities are easily modified to include a birthday theme with simple changes such as with color or design.  For example, if you do a balloon toss, consider using a balloon with a birthday message.  If you do a painting activity at the party, consider painting birthday themed objects.  If you play Bingo, consider using a birthday themed set.

Gifts:  Choose to limit what guests can bring and communicate that well in advance of the party.  If guests are to bring presents, a gift list of things that the person with dementia will recognize and can use would be very helpful.  Decide whether presents should be wrapped or unwrapped.  Sometimes the birthday person is in need of a specific major item and the guests can give toward that item prior to the party.  That item can be displayed, wrapped or unwrapped, with a group card attached and presented at the appropriate time.   Sometimes bringing a birthday card rather than a gift is the best choice.  Each card can be opened at the party by a hostess who reads a few lines from the card, acknowledges the sender, and then gives it to the birthday person to place in a box or basket to keep.

Tips to Make It Significant

Favorites:  Choose theirs, not yours. Their favorite things should be included rather than what is typical or traditional and should be reflected in all the party involves.

Familiarity:   Choose a setting or location, as well as games and guests, that they know so they won’t be distracted by something unusual or unfamiliar. Trying something new or being surprised in a group setting may cause inappropriate behavior, anxiety, or withdrawal.

Feelings:  Choose what is fun for them and will make them feel comfortable  They should feel at ease with all that takes place.  Provide opportunities for plenty of love and laughter in ways that they can understand. Be flexible and have several alternatives.


How we applied these tips at the recent birthday party we gave for our friend with Alzheimer’s dementia:



We have 24 trained Lady-Links, but we all agreed that 24 would be an overwhelming number, so we asked for 11 volunteers to come plus her husband and her son. She recognized each one of her Lady-Link friends since we visit her twice a week in groups of two or three, and have been for over a year.    She was very at ease and interacted with great enthusiasm.



DSC_4801 - Version 2


The first game we played was a modification from the Bingo Game we made for her birthday last year.  However, in a year’s time, she is not as interested in Bingo as she once was.  Rather than pack away the game, we put it to good use by distributing one of the Bingo caller’s cards to each person. Each card was a clip art version of one of her favorite things.


As this year’s hostess pointed to one of the cards, such as a picture of a cup of coffee, she asked, “Is coffee your favorite thing?”  Everyone who was a coffee drinker raised his or her hand.  Then the hostess had to narrow the field by asking additional questions based on her knowledge of our friend and her habits.  For example, the hostess said, “Is drinking coffee black your favorite thing?”  That narrowed it even more.  Then the hostess said, “Is having your friends over twice a week to visit you and drink coffee your favorite thing?”  Of course, our friend’s hand was the only one left up.



As the game continued, we would sometimes need to prompt our friend to hold her hand up.  There were 12 catorgies with questions (favorite food, favorite music, favorite ways to spend time, etc.) all based on her favorite things.  Every time she “won” the category she was given the card with the picture on it that represented the category.  The “winner” at the end of the game was the one who had the most cards.  Of course, she did, and the prize was a chocolate bar (one of her favorite things.)



Our friend loves music, especially that of Perry Como.  We played one of his CDs and repeated what we do at many of our Lady-Link visits…we played balloon toss and danced.

Balloon game 1

Her son joined in the fun!  We told him that we knew where he got his dancing skills….from his mom!  She really is a great dancer.

Dancing with son 1

Dancing with son 2


We determined that actual presents could be confusing and require too much time to open and admire, so we asked each Lady-Link to bring a birthday card which was opened and read aloud (just the main message, not word for word) by the Lady-Link Hostess. As the hostess read the main part of each card and the sender’s name, it was passed to our friend and, after a momentary glance, her son helped her put it in a basket to keep.



Chocolate is her favorite, so of course the cake and icing were both chocolate!



Birthday cake

Coffe is her favorite drink, and it was graciously served by her husband.



The party was held in her home so she would feel comfortable in her surroundings.  If her home were not available, I would have chosen a place that she was familiar with and would feel secure in so that she would feel at ease.  Plus I would have chosen one that would not have interruptions or people who were not connected to our group.



We kept the entire celebration to less than one hour and provided plenty of opportunities for fun.  There were no speeches, nor putting her on the spot by expecting her to respond publically to any of the activities, such as when we read the cards we did not stop and wait for the typical “thank you” response. She is unable to respond at that level and we would never, never call attention to that. We provided plenty of opportunities for her to enjoy without any type of pressure or stress.   Her family appreciated our efforts to make this a party in which she was fully engaged, filled with joy, and made to feel appreciated, valued, and loved.

DSC_4797 - Version 2

Celebrating birthdays of  those with dementia can provide opportunities to enrich their lives and yours.  Just remember to keep it “Simple yet Significant” and you’ll have success!

How do you celebrate birthdays with your friend or loved one who has dementia?


Dementia and Making Valentines: Tips for A Successful Project

Exchanging valentines is a great way to let friends know that you care about them.  For the past two years, Lady-Links visits in late January and early February have included making our own special valentines to share with our neighbors in the retirement community where we live.  We’ve created a variety of encouraging messages  and designs to our decorated hearts and cards and all have been enthusiastically received.

Valentine red hearts


We added a jeweled valentine to our group of favorites this year, inserted a ribbon of heart designs and made it a door hanger.

Valentine jewels blue cropped

We always include a set of valentines with scripture that are distributed at our Vespers service.

Love Scripture Hearts


Working with so many designs can be confusing for our friends with dementia, so we work on one project at a time, complete it and put it away before we begin the next.  Of course, there is plenty of prep work that is done before each visit so that it ready to be assembled.

Valentine parts

The valentines with the jewels are packaged in individual kits that we purchased from Oriental Trading Company.  All the pieces are stickers, including the jewels.  However, the small jewels were hard to peel and stick, so we added those before the visit, leaving only large pieces for our friend with dementia to assemble.Valentine jewels on pink cropped

We also added the ribbon before the visit because that was a little difficult to tie.  The assembly of these valentines went very smoothly because of our prep work and they look great hanging on the residents’ doors.




With all of our valentine projects, we package all the pieces for one valentine together in a baggie.  That way, everything is ready for assembly.

Valentines in baggies


We use stickers rather than glue whenever possible because managing the glue container and distributing the correct amount can be hard for our friends with dementia.  If something has to be glued, we do that in our advance prep work before the visit.

Valentine stickers from store

If we can’t find a sticker that fits our design, we use our Creative Station Sticker Machine to make exactly what we want, such as the scripture hearts.

Valentine sticker machine

Our friends with dementia had a wonderful time during these past few weeks as we made the valentines.  Much of the success of the project was because we selected an activity that was meaningful to our friends since it brought back such lovely childhood memories,  and it mattered to them today because they knew the valentines we made were to be given to those who needed a touch of encouragement in their lives.  The prep work we did ahead of the visit provided a stress-free activity that was filled with lots of laughter and love.

Valentine card showing scripture

Did you do any special valentine activities with your friend or loved one who has dementia?  We’d love to hear about it!


Dementia and Self-Worth: How to Improve

There are a number of studies that show that people with dementia continue to have feelings similar to those without cognitive impairment.  They need to feel a sense of accomplishment and a sense of purpose.  As their friends and family members, we need to provide activities for them that create meaning in their life.  Lady-Links visits attempt to do just that.  One of our friends we visit has Alzheimer’s dementia.  The other has vascular dementia.  Both ladies need meaningful interaction with a sense of purpose that they are contributing to something more than just themselves.  We have found that making cards to give to others is one way to meet that need.  We seldom  send the card ourselves.  Rather we make cards and give them to groups to use when they learn of someone who needs some encouragement.  There are many groups who welcome our cards.  Most of the cards have scripture because that is the request of one of our friends with dementia.  Some of the cards don’t include scripture and can be used for occasions where just a cheerful message is what is needed.  We have over 30 card designs from get well messages to St. Patrick’s Day and everything in between that have been successfully completed at our Lady-Links visits.

Card trust outside

Card trust inside


Card get well outside

Card get well inside


St P card gold front


We even make “repurposed” cards.  We have collected previously used cards, cut the front off and added stickers of scripture and pictures to the backside.

Repurposed cards front

Repurposed cards back

Since both of our friends with dementia need to have projects that are easy to assemble, we have found that printing the message on labels or making stickers using a sticker making machine is better than using glue.  They can both peel and stick, so rather than using glue, we use the “peel and stick” method whenever possible. At other times we use double sided tape.



We have learned that an uncluttered design is what our two friends need.  When there are too many choices or too many shapes and sizes, they feel overwhelmed.  Some designs that are very artistic in our way of thinking are too confusing for our friends. The following two pictures are beautiful but were too complicated for our friends to assemble.


Beautiful design but too confusing for our friends with dementia.

The project must be about meeting the needs of our friends, not us.  Although we have many of the same needs, they must be met in different yet appropriate ways. So we adjusted our card designs to reflect what our friends with dementia can appreciate, understand, and help make.  And the cards have turned out beautifully and are greatly appreciated by those who receive them.

Fall card front

Fall card inside

Before each visit, there’s prep work that must be done.  We get the cards to the point where they can be easily assembled when the visit occurs .

Cutting Board scalloped edges

Fall card leaves stickers group 2


Sticker loading


With the parts of the card ready to be put together, our friends can enjoy the process, feel a sense of accomplishment, and know that their efforts will be used to encourage another person’s life.


pumpkin door hanger making



Feelings of accomplishment help our self-worth.  But even more importantly, accomplishing something that will benefit others fulfills our need to provide  meaningful significance in someone else’s life.   With the card projects, our two friends with dementia get a sense of  having contributed in a positive way to the encouragement of others.

If you have friends or loved ones with dementia, how do you help them find a sense of purpose and accomplishment in their lives? What activities promote an improved sense of self-worth in them?

If you want help or suggestions on how to start a Lady-Links group in your area, please let us know.  We would love to help you get organized and give you ideas for making friendship visits to the one you care about.  Most likely you will see, as we have, improved social skills and an improved sense of self-worth.  It takes such little effort yet it makes a big difference…in their lives and in yours!



Dementia Friendship Groups: Now there are two!

We have TWO reasons to celebrate!Two balloons

The original Lady-Links group involving 14 ladies who make friendships visits to our friend with Alzheimer’s dementia has made over 130 visits and is still going strong, incorporating new activities to meet the needs that a progressive disease brings. But there’s another reason to celebrate as well.   We are very excited to announce that a second Lady-Links group has formed making visits to a friend who is diagnosed with vascular dementia, caused by a series of mini strokes known as TIAs.

The new Lady-Links group includes 10 ladies who visit in groups of two or three on Monday afternoons for one hour in our friend’s assisted living apartment.  Visits are scheduled a month in advance, with each lady scheduling one visit per month.  Our new friend is an artist who, before her dementia diagnosis, painted beautiful pictures some of which decorate her apartment.  One of my favories is a bluebonnet field, although I enjoy all of them each time I visit.

We are learning that there is a vast difference between our two friends, which shouldn’t be a surprise since they have two distinct types of dementia and are at different stages in their progressions. Our new friend communicates well but short term memory difficulties sometimes affects what she says. Her artistic skills are greatly diminished from what she once could do judging by her beautiful paintings displayed so nicely in her home, but she still has a marvelous eye for color and design.  And she knows what she wants communicated on the cards and projects that we do with her at each visit.


For example,  at a recent visit when we made 15 of these fall banners to share with others, our friend was quick to point out that they weren’t colorful enough.  Plus, because her faith was very meaningful in her life before her diagnosis,  and we found out still is, she wants a scripture worked into the design.  That was good news to us because we organize each group of Lady-Links around one person, meeting their needs in ways that are significant to them.  If she wanted color and scripture added, we were glad to know that so we could incorporate what was meaningful to her into the existing project as well as into future ones.

Fall banner making

So, of course we took her suggestion to heart and added color and scripture.

Fall banner 1

Fall banner 2

It took an additional visit to get the banners the way she wanted them, and we learned a valuable lesson.  With our new friend, her cognitive skills are strong enough that she can give input on the projects and activities we are planning but she is unable to communicate specifics.   We take her ideas and make them work by turning them into a project or craft she can do and feel good about giving to others.  She feels like she is contributing significantly (and she is) to these projects and to the lives of those in our retirement community or in the post acute care section of our community who receive them.  Once we had an idea of what she wanted, the visits have gone smoothly with designs that meet her goals.

Pumpkin Door Hanger front


pumpkin door hanger making


Fall door hanger or card




The daughter of our new friend described her mother’s attitude since her involvement with Lady-Links as “the happiest I’ve seen her in years.”   Her daughter went on to tell us that her mother looks forward to each visit with “great anticipation.”  We do too!  The visits are enjoyable and filled with lots of love and laughter as we work together.  Our friend is cognizant enough to engage in conversation about memories that these projects inspire, such as from her childhood or early adult years.  It is a blessing for each of us to be involved in these visits.  We enjoy them as much as she does.

We would love to add “more balloons” to our photo gallery when we hear of additional Lady-Links groups that have started.  Are you interested in organizing a Lady-Links group for your friend or loved one who has dementia?   It takes someone to serve as the coordinator, getting together the people who visit , keeping the schedule of who is to visit on which day, and arranging for activities.  You can look at our blog posts for activity and project ideas or choose your own.  Let us know how we can help you help your friend maintain the important links that bring joy and meaning into their lives during this very critical time.  We’d love to turn our  celebration of “two” into a “three” and then a “four and more” as new Lady-Links groups form.




Alzheimer’s Research: Lady-Links Walk for the Cure

Our Lady-Links group has made friendship visits for over a year to our friend who has Alzheimer’s dementia, so we have first-hand knowledge of how this disease progresses.  We are committed to encouraging our friend and enriching her life throughout each stage.  What we all hope is that a cure can be found that will one day prevent others from the toll that Alzheimer’s takes on the patient, their family and friends.  Our group was represented in our community’s local walk to help raise donations for continued research that will provide the cure that is so needed.

Walk 2014 startAt the reception following the walk, we celebrated!

Walk 2014 Reception groupWalk 2014 receptionOur group helped raise funds for continued research.  Before the weekend was over, this check had to be re-written to include added donations.

Walk 2014 donation


It was very fulfilling to be a part of a group effort for such a worthy cause.  If you know a person with Alzheimer’s dementia, think of what you can do to help.  You’ll feel good about your decision and your support will be greatly appreciated.  Together we can make a difference!

For more information on how to start a Lady-Links group in your area to make visits to your friend or loved one, just let us know.  We’re here to help you get organized!

Dementia and Losing Life’s Links: How to Help

A link is used to connect one thing to another.  We find links in every area of our lives: social/emotional, spiritual, intellectual and physical.   All of these are important areas in which we need to make appropriate connections to help us navigate our way through life. When those “links” are in place, the message is clear.

Links in place

What if some of those links became damaged or destroyed?  The message wouldn’t be so  clear, would it?

Links broken

Without a clear message, your ability to link people, places, and concepts begins to vanish.  You would probably feel lost, alone and insecure.  You would be thankful for those who helped you find your way in this difficult situation.

Helping Our Friend

Most of us know someone who is unable to make those types of links or connections without some help.  Think of how it might feel if that person were you.  Were you ever in a new situation where you didn’t fully understand what was happening?  Were you ever traveling in new territory and lost your way?  Did you ever struggle with one of your courses in school and think you could never “get it” let alone “master” it?  What if it were like that most of the time?  Now can you relate to the confusion that a person with dementia has?

chain link fence broken

Perhaps only a small portion of the links are destroyed or damaged in the early stages.  But the amount of affected brain cells continues to increase, destroying those connecting links necessary for making sense of things,  until the person diagnosed with dementia is in a state of confusion much of the time.

Rough, huh?  But confusion/dementia/cognitive decline  doesn’t define the person.  Their character, experiences, faith, and temperament still have significant contributions to determining who that person is.  They are our fathers, grandfathers, mothers, grandmothers, our spouse or perhaps a dear friend.  They have been loving parents,  spouses, and siblings.  They have been college professors, astronauts, homemakers, teachers, professional athletes, you name it.  Dementia crosses all boundaries.    They are still Aunt Sally or Uncle Joe and continue to deserve to have activities that create meaning in their life and to find reasons to laugh, rejoice, and love.

Friends enjoying coffee.

Friends enjoying coffee.

Want to relate to a person with dementia?  Engage in an activity that you both can enjoy.

Getting a project ready for our friend to easily assemble.

Getting a project ready for our friend to easily assemble.

Plan it in such a way that your friend will successfully be able to participate fully in whatever his or her part is.  It will improve their quality of life by making them feel a sense of accomplishment and contributing to their overall sense of well-being.

Providing guidance as needed.

Providing guidance as needed.

You can find appropriate activities throughout this blog that our Lady-Links group has done with our friend who has Alzheimer’s dementia.  Try our activities the next time you and/or your children visit that special person in your life.  You have a wonderful opportunity to help maintain a link to past interests and give that person a chance to be more engaged with life.

Enjoying spending time together.

Enjoying spending time together.


Lady-Links: Celebrating One Year of Friendship Visits

The Lady-Links logo was the perfect decoration for our celebration cake.

The Lady-Links logo was the perfect decoration for our celebration cake.

It was time to celebrate!  We completed one year of visiting our friend who has Alzheimer’s dementia.  During that year, we visited with her over 100 times, doing crafts and activities to help her maintain links to the intellectual, emotional/spiritual, and physical areas of her life.


Lady-Links are loving, kind, compassionate, patient women who make visits to our friend on a scheduled basis.  We visit in groups of two or three offering friendship, encouragement, and special activities sprinkled with plenty of love and laughter.  The schedule is arranged in such a way that our visits are on set days, twice each week.  Each Lady-Link commits to making two visits per month.  We all have become great friends and we think of our visits as “our girl time.”

Lady-Links Enjoying the Fun

Lady-Links Enjoying the Fun

Our celebration included recognizing spouses and friends of the Lady-Links, our special friend and her family, and those in our retirement community who have given us encouragement and support.














Dancing, singing, enjoying refreshments, and spending time together to celebrate.  Priceless!

Dancing, singing, enjoying refreshments, and spending time together to celebrate. Priceless!


Our one-year anniversary celebration was so much fun!  But the best part was being reminded of what the past year meant to our friend, her family, and to us.  We began Lady-Links as a way to enrich her life but we quickly realized that our lives were being enriched as well.  We will continue our visits with our friend and look forward to another celebration one year from now.

If you want to start a Lady-Links group for your friend or loved one who has any type of dementia, please let us know.  We would love to help you get that organized.

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.