I'm lucky enough to have my grandmother in a group home just two miles away. I like to visit as often as I can (usually two or three times a week) and I could use some suggestions for things to do with her when I visit. At the moment she seems to live in her own world at least half the time, meaning she tells me about things that seem to be happening in her mind more than what's going on in reality. I would say around 3/4 of the time she can interact with us and have a conversation. Lucky she always seems to be in a good mood and is nice to everyone most of the time (I think a big part of that is the fact she has a great caregiver). Her hand tends to shake a lot and though she can usually use silverware, there are times she can't. She is wheelchair bound and tends to be very slow and lose her train of thought.
Up until now one of the things we enjoy the most is to go for a walk and see the other yards/flowers and talk, but we're starting to get to the time of year that's not something we can really do (we live in AZ and it's just getting too hot and the UV rating is too high). *As a side note, her caregiver told me that she tends to do worse after I take her out, sometimes even into the next day, does anyone know why that would be? I hate thinking of her stuck inside all the time, but maybe it would really be best.* Usually we do jigsaw puzzles (or we try, she tends to just kind of stare at the board sometimes) but I would really like to come up with something else I can do with her besides watching tv and jigsaw puzzles. I really think it would help her to do something a bit different, but maybe that's just me thinking I would get bored with it. The last time I went I brought bubbles with me and we played with them in the backyard in the shade, and she seemed to enjoy that even though I had to hold the wand for her. I'm hoping you guys might have some other ideas for me.
On a related note, she has said more than once that she would like to help out around the house, but I can't really think of something that would be safe for her. She can't really carry things and she can't move her wheelchair herself. I do think if she could do something to help our she would feel better and more useful. Any ideas on something I could suggest?
To be honest I don't know as much about Dementia as I should (though if someone has a good site I would be grateful). I've tried looking around online but I always get overwhelmed. I know she still knows who is who when people come to visit, so I don't think she has Alzheimer. The caregiver told me that it's important not to correct her when she tells me something that isn't true, or when she tells me things like how she wants to buy a car. Is there anything else like this I should know?

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Thanks everyone so much! You have no idea how much all this helps!

@countrymouse I'm sorry, I should have been more clear. When I said we would go for walks what I meant was that I would push her in her wheelchair around outside. She doesn't have the strength in her legs to walk. Right now (and probably for the next month or so) it's usually safe to go out until about 10, after that the UV rating starts to shoot up and between how thin her skin is (does that affect how much sun damage would happen? I don't know, but it seems like it should) and how pale she is staying inside most of the time I don't think it would be worth risking. But I love the idea of singing, that might be just the right thing if I can word it in such a way to make it sound like she would be helping me and not the other way around.

@jeannegibbs Before we moved her to this group home (which is basically just a normal resident home with a caregiver that lives in house and between 1-5 people living with them, right now there are 3 residents) we would do like you're talking about and walk around inside the center she was in. I love the idea about the socks, and if we do that then maybe she will feel like she's adding something to the household. Sometimes I'll bring up Kitten Academy for her on my phone (great live stream of kittens being fostered) but I have to be careful about that because sometimes she will start asking me to get her a kitten. I tried to get her an adult coloring book and even tried to color with her, but she got upset thinking I was treating her like a child.

Thank you all again, it means so much to me.
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Those were great answers. For sorting, sorting cards by suit and then putting in order is good
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I remembered one other thing. I bought my mother a realistic baby doll (baby size, but more of a toddler look.) I had no idea how she would react to it. She didn't cuddle it or talk to it, etc. but she was very proud of owning it and she loved to see it dressed. She could not dress it herself. About once a month I brought in a seasonal dress and changed her outfit. (I love to sew, and I also bought baby dresses at a thrift store.) Then doll sat on display. I discovered Mom liked bright, glittery clothes -- the gaudier the better! So that was an activity we did together occasionally.
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My mother was wheel-chair bound and sometimes had problems with her hands. She loved sorting things. If I dumped the coins out of my purse she would separate them into nickels, dimes, etc. She could do this without always picking them up -- just pushing them on the table to the right pile. The nursing home had large beads for craft activities and Mom loved sorting them by color (when her hands were working well). She felt like she was helping me or helping the craft program.

She also liked it when I brought in a big basket of socks and had her match them up. At first she could fold them also, but we got to where she'd match up a pair and I'd fold it. (Now that she is gone and I sort my own socks I think of her -- and I realize she really was helping me!)

Before the NH, Mom liked to help by folding small towels. In the nh I brought her a basket of wash cloths in many colors and textures and an aide would give her those to fold when she got restless.

My mother loved looking at magazines and we did that together sometimes. I got a kick out of her always pointing out the good-looking guys! I often brought in some cook books or cooking magazines and not only did she love looking at them, but the other ladies at the table did, too. We had conversations about what was your favorite meal to cook? What did your family like? If there was a picture of a pineapple upside down cake everyone wanted to tell how they made it for their families.

We also colored together sometimes. I printed simple but not childish pictures from the computer. She liked flowers best. It amazed me that she was able to do such a good job even with the problem in her hands. And she was proud to pin them up in her room.

In good weather we did as you do -- push her wheelchair around the neighborhood. In the long winter we did the walk within the building. We talked about the pictures on the wall, we noted the progress of plants, and admired decorations people had on their doors. Just a slight change in scenery was good.

The nursing home had a television set up with an eagle cam displaying. We went there and watched the day-to-day progress of the eggs hatching, etc.

A couple of my sisters played simple card games with Mom. (I was the coloring and sorting daughter. They were the games daughters.)

Your presence is probably the most important thing! But finding some simple things to do together can enhance the visits.
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D'oh! Sorry - I missed the whole section about your being in Arizona somehow. No shade anywhere around the house? When does it start getting really really hot? Bear in mind she'll probably like the warmth (out of direct sun, obviously) until it's into the nineties - plus a good excuse for her to drink plenty.
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Singing. Incredibly good exercise (deeply fills the lungs, oxygenates the bloodstream, stimulates the brain, uses lots of energy), fun to do, and fits well with dementia because words and music together tend to be easier for the brain to retrieve. The Alz. Soc. actually supports a programme called "Singing For The Brain" - not sure if it's running in the US, but certainly worth checking out.

Walking is good, but as you already know overdoing it is not. So if you can, what about getting a rollator/wheeled walking frame with a seat integrated into the frame so that your grandma can sit and get her breath back the second she wants to. It really doesn't matter how far she goes or how long it takes, even a few steps in the fresh air are good for morale as well her physical health. If there's no rollator, then coax her into a wheelchair, take her to a flat path outdoors, and assist her to get up and walk a few steps to smell the flowers or put crumbs on the bird table or whatever. Again, it's more to do with raising her spirits than burning calories or working on her muscle tone.

The bubbles were a great idea. Did it also occur to you that they, too, made her breathe in more steadily and deeply than usual? Even if it was only one or two attempts? Good choice!

There are clapping games, you could ask her if she can teach you any she remembers. Throwing and catching little bean bags, or just giving her one to handle if her co-ordination isn't up to catching. Cat's cradle.

Don't knock jigsaws, by the way. They may be a fallback positions, but even the active thinking involved and moving her arms to reach for pieces is more exercise than she'd get slumped in front of a TV. And above all, what matters is that she's having fun - don't bother with anything just for the sake of exercise.
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