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  #1  
Old 12-06-2003, 12:34 PM
Reuben Reuben is offline
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Things to occupy an elderly gent with senile dementia?

Hello everyone,


My grandfather is 89 years old and suffers senile dementia. A couple of minor strokes left him partially sighted, and the dementia has all but destroyed his short-term memory. Although he can still read and hear OK, he can barely retain new information at all, so stories etc are hard for him.

He is ably cared for by his wife, a retired nurse, but the one thing she finds she can't do is keep him occupied. She just can't think of anything for him to do. He spends much of his day reading a newspaper, although the accursed dementia often causes him to confuse the events he's reading about with the events in his own life.

So, has anyone got any suggestions for things we can get him to do to keep him busy in the day?
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  #2  
Old 12-06-2003, 12:50 PM
gluteus maximus gluteus maximus is offline
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Jigsaw puzzles. Modeling clay. A fish tank with tropical fish.
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  #3  
Old 12-06-2003, 01:05 PM
Eve Eve is offline
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That is awful. Anyone who says "old age beats the alternative!" is asking for a sock on the beezer.

Are there any senior centers in your area, or volunteers? Going out would probably be good for him: walks, parks, fishing; getting to a senior center with good cognitive therapists and activities.

--Eve (whio has every intention of dying young. Oops, too late!)
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  #4  
Old 12-06-2003, 01:10 PM
Fern Forest Fern Forest is offline
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My Grandmother's not as far gone as your Grandfather but she enjoys word search puzzles.
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  #5  
Old 12-06-2003, 01:12 PM
Apricot Apricot is offline
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At the dementia center my father was at, they had several tasks for the residents. I can remember a few:
Laundry folding
Bookcase assembling
Silver polishing
Bread kneading
It was mostly ladies who liked the tasks. There were always baskets of socks and towels and stuff around. Some little lady would fold it and next time a nurse came through, the nurse would stir the basket. Then some other lady would fold it again, absentmindedly, probably just like the last 40 years.
The fellas liked to assemble the bookcases over and over again. The silver always needed polishing because it never really got polished.
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  #6  
Old 12-06-2003, 01:16 PM
lavenderviolet lavenderviolet is offline
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Sorry to hear about his health troubles. I'm not an expert, but my first thought was: try to get him interested in artistic things to stimulate his brain. Get him some art supplies and encourage him to do some drawings or mold some clay. The sensory stimulation of touching the clay or seeing different colors on the page would probably be good for him.
I've read that people with dementia tend to respond well to music. Perhaps you could print out the lyrics to some simple songs that he is familiar with and encourage him to sing, hum, or tap along to them with you or his wife. If nothing else, maybe he would enjoy listening to some tapes/CDs of some music.
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  #7  
Old 12-06-2003, 07:23 PM
peri peri is offline
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What were his interests well before the dementia and strokes? The skills for anything he enjoyed doing with his hands are probably retained - woodworking, needlecraft, painting. How is his mobility? If he did the bulk of the yard work she can let him "mow" the lawn every day if it keeps him happy.
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  #8  
Old 12-06-2003, 07:52 PM
DaisyFace DaisyFace is offline
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My grandfather died at age 95 with age-related dementia. eventually, he was living on an Alheimer's floor of an ssisted-living facility, so no one there was as far gone as others I've seen. One of the greatest things they did was have old music playing all the time. Big band stuff, Classical, even some early rock-n-roll. The music really helped people calm down and also helped with general atmosphere. A couple of times, my dad, brother and I went to sing Christmas carols and it was astounding how many people remembered all of the lyrics to the familiar tunes. If nothing else, get your grandfather some music and nice place to listen to it.
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  #9  
Old 12-06-2003, 08:15 PM
TVeblen TVeblen is offline
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I agree with DaisyFace and lavenderviolet: music can be very soothing to those w/ senile dementia. It's familiar and comforting. Same goes with tapes of old TV and radio shows from their youth, like "Your Show of Shows", "The Lone Ranger", etc. at least for some folks. They're short, familiar and interesting to them.

Actually I got somewhat hooked on old music, radio and TV as a child while helping to care for my grandfather who'd suffered a series of severe strokes. He was cantankerous even before he became senile but his old amusements seemed to soothe him better than anything.

Good luck to you.

Veb
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  #10  
Old 12-07-2003, 12:15 AM
Kreekurmudgeon Kreekurmudgeon is offline
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I've noticed that those in similar circumstances with whom I've been affiliated seemed to greatly enjoy the company of other people their age. Surprisingly, they seem to be able to communicate with each other much better than they can with their children and care-givers.

Check with your local Council on Aging or some other organization that helps such people. Regardless of means, there is usually some type group that can help. Whether it's bingo, shuffleboard, or just conversation, it might help. It makes no difference that the individuals in a discussion may not be on the same subject.

As mentioned above, the singing of old songs and watching old TV shows are also excellent suggestions. If there's even a smattering of interest in sports, watching games on TV may help. It doesn't matter who's playing or whose winning -- they can enjoy the good play.

Good luck. It's a difficult situation and I wish you the best.
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  #11  
Old 12-07-2003, 12:29 AM
jesleigh jesleigh is offline
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It's good that he still wants something to do
My grandfather has about the same medical history, and all he is interested in is sitting on the end of the couch, staring out the window and crying. It's very sad.

I wish you the best of luck, and wish I had something to say to help you.
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  #12  
Old 12-07-2003, 12:49 AM
Zoe Zoe is offline
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The best things that visitors can do is to ask him about his childhood and to listen -- even when it doesn't make sense.

Ever consider children's toys?

Movies set during the 1940's

Children's computer games with bells and whistles and so forth

He may not be able to follow any of this, but it may seem familiar or provide him with a stimulus.

Dental wax is a possible substitute for modeling clay. It feels good to the touch
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  #13  
Old 12-07-2003, 02:35 AM
Larry Mudd Larry Mudd is offline
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I think that TVeblen's suggestion of vintage radio shows may be a good one.

Reuben, if you can lay your hands on something that plays .mp3 CD's, (I imagine you could pick up a stand-alone player for around 50,) I would be happy to mail you more programs than you could shake a stick at. (Gratis, naturally.)

I have thousands and thousands of hours of archived shows from the thirties through to the early fifties. (Mostly American mysteries and comedies, but I have a smattering of early BBC programming and tons of more-recent-but-retro stuff, too, like Wodehouse, Dorothy Sayers, etc.) Each CD holds around forty hours of material.

Maybe comedies & panel shows might be better than the mystery/horror offerings -- I know I've been disoriented myself while waking up near the end of some of the scary ones, and I don't imagine that senescence would make that any more fun.

If this idea holds any appeal for you, drop me an e-mail-- I'm going to be without internet for a few days and may lose track of this thread.
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  #14  
Old 12-07-2003, 01:28 PM
Reuben Reuben is offline
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Once again I am reminded why this is the best board there is. Thank you so much for your kind responses.

I will discuss the ideas with his wife in the coming week. I think he might be able to do something with modelling clay (jigsaws and paints will, alas, be far too fiddly), and I *love* the idea of old radio shows - Larry, I will email you privately about your exceptionally kind offer. Although his short-term memory is gone, his long-term memory is (more or less) OK.

peri, his mobility is very poor and mowing the lawn would be to court disaster I'm sorry to say. As a young man he liked to travel - he was an army major in India, a farmer in Africa, and he travelled all over Asia for years. When he returned to England he trained as a vet, and practised until he retired for good in the 1980s. He was an exceedingly capable and intelligent man. His interests, other than biology and zoology, were sporting (his main loves there were rugby and golf) and mineralogy (there are more funny-looking rocks with foot-long latin names scattered around his house than you can shake a stick at). I also just remembered he rowed for Cambridge University when he was a student there. He is also very interested in Asian art (Tibetan in particular).

jesleigh, I am so sorry to hear that. I think my grandfather does despair at times as well, but fortunately for him he's been blessed with a wife of remarkable strength of character who just doesn't let him get depressed. She somehow remains positive and cheerful in the face of absolutely everything life can throw at her, and she has certainly single-handedly kept him going for a number of years. Amazing woman.
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  #15  
Old 12-07-2003, 01:57 PM
Mr Jim Mr Jim is offline
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My grandpa is nearly the same as you described. He really just watches tv and skims the paper.

Have you thought about getting a pet? A huge joy in his life is my cat. She isn't the type of cat who will curl up with him but he talks to her constantly, worries about her and loves to see her tear around. I'm moving away next yr and I've decided to leave her here as she means so much to him.
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  #16  
Old 12-07-2003, 03:39 PM
FisherQueen FisherQueen is offline
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Stuff that's very familiar, from their youth, might be well received. In college, my roommates and I had a friend who was taking care of her mother, who was in a later state of Alzheimer's disease. We used to go over there occasionally to play old hymns on the piano, and she loved to listen and sing along.

Simple art, maybe? Sculpture, or drawing?
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  #17  
Old 12-07-2003, 04:06 PM
Badtz Maru Badtz Maru is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Apricot
At the dementia center my father was at, they had several tasks for the residents. I can remember a few:
Laundry folding
Bookcase assembling
Silver polishing
Bread kneading
It was mostly ladies who liked the tasks. There were always baskets of socks and towels and stuff around. Some little lady would fold it and next time a nurse came through, the nurse would stir the basket. Then some other lady would fold it again, absentmindedly, probably just like the last 40 years.
The fellas liked to assemble the bookcases over and over again. The silver always needed polishing because it never really got polished.
It sounds bad, but my Dad liked doing menial stuff like that when he was suffering from Alzheimers. We had a few dogs and he would go in the back yard and pick up dog poop for an hour or so. We certainly didn't ask him, and when he said it needed to be done we'd offer to take care of it for him, but he would insist, and we realized he probably enjoyed it.
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  #18  
Old 12-07-2003, 10:37 PM
dinahmoe dinahmoe is offline
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If he enjoys reading, but stories are too taxing on his memory, how about a book of captioned photographs or cartoons (like a New Yorker cartoon anthology from his youth or whatnot)? Sometimes just the tactile sensation of holding a book is comforting, even for me.
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