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Idle Hands

Posted By Gary Joseph LeBlanc On June 1, 2011 @ 10:47 am In Blogs | No Comments

While caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s always remember this: Idle hands are the devil’s toys, especially in the later stages of the disease.

It’s necessary to keep them occupied. Place a photo album, playing cards, magazines in front of them, anything to keep them entertained. Keep their confused minds as absorbed as possible—before they attempt to do it themselves. This will lower the risk of them getting hurt.

Carefully chosen activities may help to keep our loved ones’ anxieties to a minimum. It may also assist in diverting them from other behavioral problems created by Alzheimer’s, aiding them to continue to have creative meaning in their lives. It’s important for them to have a sense that they’re still useful and a vital part of their families.

Keeping them active may or may not slow down the progression of the disease. What it will accomplish is to prolong the ability of their motor skills to continue to function. The fact that they’re still working with their hands will help immensely in the battle to maintain coordination, which will only improve their quality of life.

Try venturing into hobbies that they enjoyed in the past. Continue to guide them in practicing their skills, tailoring each activity as the disease progresses, making certain that your expectations are not exceeding their abilities. This careful monitoring could prevent a wave of anxiety from washing over them, leaving them submerged in confusion. If a favorite activity includes game pieces or other articles, you may find that as the disease moves forward, you should change to larger objects which will be easier for them to manipulate and also harder for them to swallow.

Always have a safe work area that is well lit and also a back-up project on hand just in case they become too frustrated with what they are currently working on.

Including patients in simple and familiar household duties can be wonderful as they leave them with a positive feeling that they are still needed. Try a basket full of laundry to fold or maybe a box of mixed up socks. Having them sort things is usually a success. Make a point of telling them how helpful they are being and remind them often of what an enormous favor it is to you when they help.

Crafts are always a great choice. Take knitting for example. Even if they don’t knit, simply having them roll all that yarn into a ball might work. You will find that there is something about repetition that creates a calming effect.

Be creative. You could make a jigsaw puzzle out of a copy of a family photograph. Try something that may have some personal meaning to them. It may even inspire a little conversation along the way.

Here is a surprising possibility; they may now have more of a budding artist in them than you would think! This is because they may no longer be as critical about the work they do. Watercolors, drawing, even creating a scrapbook may be something they now enjoy doing. Of course this is all trial and error. They are still unique individuals.

Don’t forget about the great outdoors. If they were once interested in gardening this might be perfect. It’s always good for them, and for you, to get some exercise and fresh air, but you will have to make sure they are supervised and don’t wander off or get themselves into any unwarranted mischief.

Most importantly, don’t fret. There are all sorts of resources, including Googling "Alzheimer’s Activities." I was amazed at the amount of websites that popped up. One site even listed "101 things to do with an Alzheimer’s person."

Help in dealing with this tragic disease has certainly come a long way.

When it comes to mealtime, my advice is: have something interesting already on the table in arm’s reach; a newspaper, crafts, anything since you now have them sitting. Keep their attention flowing. It’s when they’re idle that trouble brews.

This may sound as if I’m speaking of watching a small child. I detest admitting it, but there’s an abundance of similarities. Just please, don’t treat or speak to them in that manner. They deserve more.

Accidents happen in microseconds. You can’t be there for every single one. Keeping their hands busy, especially before you leave the room, is a great rule to follow—might even help prevent a trip to the emergency room.


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