Have you ever known someone with Alzheimer’s disease who can sing every word of an old hymn but has difficulty calling you by the right name? The reason is related to the type of memory being used. If someone has sung hymns all their life, he or she may be able to automatically respond through the use of long-term memory and habitual/instinctual skills.
Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia often experience challenges with short-term memory and may become frustrated with questions or conversations focusing on recent events. Therefore, if you are a caregiver or are just striving to spending more meaningful and stimulating time with a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, your time together may be more enjoyable if activities are tailored to utilize the person’s strengths.
I would suggest trying some activities that utilize past experiences, rote learning and long-term memory in order for the person to feel successful. Some examples include:
Mental stimulation activities can help improve concentration, language retention and word-finding ability. It can be a challenge to match a person’s functioning level so that the activity is not too easy or too difficult, so try not to become discouraged if you don’t find a match immediately. It is also important to allow a sufficient amount of response time during each activity.
By focusing on a person’s past experiences, rote learning and long-term memory, you can help encourage cognitive stimulation and provide a pleasant experience for loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease.
By Michelle Kutner, CSW, MSW, CTRS
Specialty Service Consultant