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Valencia Family Resource Library Guide: Healing Activities

Welcome

Healing Activities

These activities can be done individually or together as a family. Some will be appropriate to do with your loved one who is experiencing Alzheimer’s, and others may be more appropriate done without them. While there may be suggestions for ages that are most appropriate for each activity, do not let this information stop you from using the activity if you know it’s the right one for your family. 

Make Fidget Blankets, Twiddlemuffs, or Fidget Pouches

 Suggested Activity Materials:

  • 2 water balloons per fidget pouch
  • cup of rice
  • cup of beans
  • cup of yarn
  • cup of sand

Fidget Blankets

A fidget blanket is both comforting and engaging, making it great at soothing anxiety in those with Alzheimer’s. Its base is a blanket, but it is adorned with a variety of tactile embellishments. Zippers to pull, soft loops of ribbon to tie or loop fingers in, pockets with small soft treasures inside, snaps to manipulate, and more can be added to your loved one’s blanket. 

Click here for examples.

Twiddlemuff

A twiddlemuff is a muff (one of those oldtimey fuzzy tubes you put both hands inside) created with a variety of fiber materials (different types of yarn, wool roving, or fabric) and decorated with other mixed media items such as buttons, sewnon patches, or tassels. Each is unique and created with the wearer in mind. Creating one with the design input of your loved one with Alzheimer’s would be an exploration in creativity while also utilizing memories. After it is created, it will be a tactile memory for your loved one to continue engaging with you, even when you aren’t there. 

Click here for examples.

Fidget Pouch

A fidget pouch is a pouch that fits in the palm of your hand and is filled with a material that is interesting in a sensory capacity. Beans, feathers, wool roving, sand, or plastic beads are all things that might go inside. Creating a sensory experience is stimulating for the brain as well as an engaging experience in sensory exploration for your loved one with Alzheimer’s. These pouches can be used to spark discussions about the way things feel and prompt verbal memories of descriptive words to do with sensory observations.

Click here for examples.

Make Hot Chocolate

Suggested Activity Materials:

  • 1/4 cup 100% dark cocoa
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Printed recipe

Make some hot chocolate for or with your loved one. Dark chocolate contains flavonoids which help with memory and blood flow to the hippocampus regions of the brain. (Kosik, 2015) Mix up 1 Tbsp 100% dark chocolate powder with 1 Tbsp of sugar. Add the mixture to non fat milk (or water), heat it up, then enjoy it together!

Get Creative

Children can create art for those with Alzheimer’s. The art will stimulate the mind of your loved one and may also trigger memories. Leaving the art up on a wall can benefit your loved one’s brain even after you’ve left. (Larsen, 2006)

Make a Memory Box or Jar

Suggested Activity Materials:

  • Stickers
  • Tissue paper
  • Markers 
  •  Glass mason jar or 1 new hinged cardboard box
  • Glue
  • Stamps and a stamp pad, especially individual letters
  • Scrapbook papers
  • Scissors that cut interesting edges 
  • Ribbon scraps
  • Button

Memory boxes or memory jars are a collection of items (photos, trinkets, keepsakes, etc.) all stored within a creatively decorated box or jar. Collaborate on this project with your affected loved one to create something you can both enjoy together during visits, or for your family to share when they would like a tangible experience. These can be created for a specific memories or relationships or put together honoring multiple memories and relationships. 

Keep a Journal

Suggested Activity Materials:

  • An inexpensive journal
  • White paper folded in half and stapled
  • Markers
  • Large sheets of paper
  • Paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Tissue paper
  • Rubber sStamps (especially individual numbers and letters)
  • Old magazines to cut up
  • Scissors 

In the earlier stages of Alzheimers, the affected loved one and the child can each keep a journal of basic events or daily activities. When they visit each other they can share one of their favorite stories and/or pictures from the journal and talk about it. 

Talk and Touch

Talk and touch can both be very helpful for your loved one. Many patients feel security in the presence of their loved ones, holding hands while walking or talking. Hugging and cuddling can also provide a deeper sense of love and security. In addition, it’s calming. Humans are communal creatures, and touch can trigger a release of oxytocin, which makes The Healing Library: Alzheimer’s & Your Family: Healing Activities 3 us feel relaxed and at ease. (Kosik, 2015) Get creative with ways to touch. Try washing a loved one’s hair, braiding hair, offering a pedicure or manicure, or giving a shoulder rub.

Redecorate

As Alzheimer’s progresses, some patients find navigating in a prepared living space helpful. Painting the rooms of their living space different colors can assist them in distinguishing different spaces and purposes of spaces. If your loved one likes this idea, you could choose the colors and paint the rooms together. 

Make a Family Album

Make a photo book of family members to recognize faces, list names of who’s who in your family. 

Create a Memory Game

boy with grandfather

Create a deck of cards to play the game Memory with, using photos of family members as the subject for the cards. Kids create one deck for themselves and another deck for the loved one to play with (intended for preschoolers and younger school-age children).

Laugh Together

Jokes, funny stories, even funny videos are helpful for two reasons. First, Alzheimer’s patients can feel depressed in their diagnosis, and some humor can cheer them up while providing new memories. Understanding the punchline is not as important as participating in laughter, which provides pleasure. Second, laughter can be a form of communication during a time when traditional language may be failing your loved one with Alzheimer’s. Don’t forget to listen for what people are saying beneath the languages they use, whether it be in a traditional sense, laughter, music, or body language.

Enjoy Music Together

Listening to music, singing to music, playing music, and even dancing to music can all be beneficial to those with Alzheimer’s. (Larsen, 2006) It has been found to trigger memories, and the playing of music is also considered participating in language, which keeps the brain strong. In addition to triggering memories, enjoying time together, and maybe even sneaking in some beneficial physical activity, as Kerer et al. stated, “if, in a disease which destroys memory, musical memory is preserved, even in a subset of patients, this preservation could serve as an important avenue to enhanced quality of life for a group of people who have lost so many other abilities.” (Kerer et al., 2013)

Resources

Kerer, M., Marksteiner, J., Hinterhuber, H., Mazzola, G., Kemmler, G., Bliem, H. R., & Weiss, E. M. (2013). Explicit (semantic) memory for music in patients with Mild Cognitive Impairment and early-stage Alzheimer's Disease. Experimental Aging Research, 39(5), 536-564. https://doi.org/10.1080/0361073X.2013.839298

Kosik, K.S., (2015) Outsmarting Alzheimer’s: What You Can Do to Reduce Your Risk. The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc.

Larsen, F. K., Bowman, A., (2006). Learning to Speak Alzheimer's: The New Approach to Living Positively with Alzheimer's Disease. (A book for a positive look towards Alzheimer affected). Dementia, 5(2)rs.

The Healing Library

All material in these activities has been obtained from THE HEALING LIBRARY: ALZHEIMER'S & YOUR FAMILY, unless otherwise noted.

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