Any suggestions for an activity that will make my dad feel useful?

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He is in the memory unit of a local nursing home and is probably the highest functioning resident of the 25 there. He is, frustrated over the lack of conversation / interaction and tries to spend as much time in his room as possible. The staff all love him, but, of course, they cannot be with him all the time. He is not interested in the relatively simple activities that are offered (large piece puzzles, coloring large shape pictures, etc.) I have often asked him what he would like to do, but he only says "I don't know." He does go on the outings that the home offers, but usually complains about how long it takes to get everyone on and off the bus! The home does charity work once a month (making PB & J sandwiches for the Salvation Army) and he likes doing that. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Also, he is now a fall risk, so he is moved around in a wheelchair and can only stand for limited periods. He has NO computer skills (and no interest in acquiring any).

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As has been mentioned, the higher functioning people often behave this way. That's how my mother was. She did crossword puzzles in her room and watched public TV. She has slight memory issues but was in the nursing home for other reasons than dementia (repeated falls, etc.).

Many people do love to be on committees. Some facilities have (and all should have) committees for input from residents and families. Your dad would be a great leader for the residents. Also, as mentioned, as newsletter is good. My guess is that they will help him start one. Good luck!
Carol
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Similar to laurabutler28, my Dad's facility invites residents to help prepare the newsletter for mailing. Dad can stick on address labels, fold mailings, and stuff envelopes and he enjoys doing something productive. Another activity you might bring for him is your coin jar and have him sort the coins so you can put them in rolls. (If anybody still does that any more!)
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My mom use to help the ALF staff assemble their marketing folders. They loved it and she loved the praise. She considered it her job, which made her feel useful.
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My old man did construction as a career so I would talk to him about renovations or how to set up the garden. Everyday, I would have new blueprints that he drew up for me. The staff at the facility was amazed at the details he put in these drawings. I am not a visual person so it always looked like a bunch of scribbles to me but he got excited expaining everything.

What was he interested in when he was younger? Is there anyway you could get him to utilize the skills he used when he was younger?
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Does he really need to be in the memory unit? If he is in a wheelchair it doesn't sound like he is a wandering risk. I'll bet at least half the residents in the regular nursing home section have dementia and function there just fine.

Of course, someone has to be the highest functioning person in each unit, but I'd investigate whether he might do better among people more at his level.

My mother with dementia is in a wheelchair. She is in the regular NH. She participates in a couple of activities per day.
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My nephew recently mentioned that his dad with Parkinson's liked snap-together building blocks. If he still has small-muscle coordination, Lego's might be worth a try. There are blocks of many sizes and complexities available. Does he remember how to play Solitaire with actual cards? Even sorting a shuffled deck of cards might be enough. Or a sorting out a bunch of mixed decks. Folding napkins? Books with big colored pictures of landscapes, animals, whatever might be interesting?. Maybe more complex puzzles of some kind.
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You say your Dad is high functioning and should be able to do many things. I would suggest that you talk to him and see if he's interested in organizing something for the nursing home. Maybe you could ask if they have a person to organize events for the patients to take part in such as a Friday night music bash. Maybe they would allow him to select the music and have many of the residents sit around the tables and listen to music. Different music on different nights. Maybe opera one night, top 40 from the 40's and 50's on another night and so on. There could also include some dancing if any could handle that, if not just sit and listen. He could be the coordinator for a game night as well. Have a bingo night and he could call out the numbers and award a small amount of money to the winner. He could also have a crafts night trying to make small stuff with knitting or hand sewing, or gluing kits of bird houses, or plane kits for kids for Christmas who live in an orphan home. He could also create a card game night for canasta, poker or playing bridge. He could also have a thriller type game where the killer is a mystery until the game is solved. There are many things to do if he just uses his imagination. Good luck and I hope he finds something interesting to do.
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I have the same situation with my Dad who is in Independent/Assisted Living. One thing that sparked his interest was being on community meetings where he could voice his opinion on whatever said meeting is about. The last one had to do with the food service. The only thing is that these meetings are quarterly, if that.

My Dad doesn't do the bus thing, same reason, takes too long for everyone to get on and off.... it's not like he's The Flash himself. My Dad is in walker mode so walking is limited.

My Dad had computer skills, use to write code, but all that has faded away. He rarely uses his computer now. And for the first time in his life he has cable TV but what does he watch, the main channels that he use to watch before having cable. Good heavens, Turner Classic Movies would be great to watch, or anything to do with storms/tornadoes as he's so interested in weather, but he won't move off those old ingrained channels..... [sigh].

Wish I could give you ideas, but I am scratching my head on what he could do.
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Will your Dad remember that he did the same job the day before? Reason I ask is that maybe you can prepare a bankers box with some activities that the staff can utilize as they probably will not have flyers etc everyday. Continue to think about the sorting aspect...or the matching aspect....cards with envelopes that have been separated and need to be matched....write the alphabet on large index cards and tell him they need to be in order for the library( unless he cannot do that)....Another thing to consider is the length of time he can stay focused on a task. So don't make it too long.Have you tried making word searches on the computer? Use words that he recognizes from his past in the word bank. Places you vacationed, his town, place of birth, etc. I only make it about 15 words to start out. You can print it out and he can do those when he wants. Would he feel good by doing something for the community? Get about 8 boxes of new crayons( the 8 or 12 pack) and dump them in a box. Tell him they need to be sorted for the children at school. Match colors and put in baggie or rubber band. I can totally empathize. My Dad entered the world of Alz about 10 years ago and was very high functioning, according to the doctors. He is now 91 and can still do many things. He lives at home and we have caregivers. He is not very task oriented but likes to play solitaire on his IPAD( which he only learned how to do about 2 1/2 years ago!). He is still mobil so we are fortunate with that ...for now. I will be interested in all the responses as I know they will be very informative. Good luck and I hope you can share your results.
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Have staff give him something to do. Folding napkins for lunch, dinner, etc. He will not be able to enunciate the thoughts which get depleted with dementia, so you will have to make lots of suggestions. I find if I make a list, just let him point to it. I do this with my husband about breakfast. He doesn't know what he wants to eat, but if he sees it on a menu, then he gets hungry for whatever he saw, and then he can point to a number. Saves a lot of guessing games!
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