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I think my Dad's lifetime affinity for fixing things now makes him want to take things apart, then he messes them up, rendering them unusable. He has taken apart several clocks that now don't work. He's in a nursing home and we had family pictures on the wall. He started taking apart the picture frames and ended up cutting his hand.


I'm wondering if there are possibly toys I could get him to satisfy his desire to take things apart and put them back together - like Legos, Tinker Toys, or something of that nature. Any suggestions?

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I think we all have good intentions when we buy things to amuse our family members with dementia, but dementia sometimes stands in the way.

I thought that a doll that would speak and cover her eyes would be a nice interactive play item for my cousin, but she could not remember how to press the button so the doll would do it. I thought that she would enjoy a radio walkman, but she does't know how to turn it on and if you do it for her, she will spend hours fidgeting with the earphones to the point she is miserable, because she couldn't remember why they were on her head and she didn't like it. (Too frustrating.) I thought she might like a little monkey that said "I love you" when you press his belly to attach to her wheelchair, but she can't remember to press the belly. I discovered that the activities have to be one on one for her level. She finds thing amusing when she first sees them as you point them out to her, but then the focus is lost. She doesn't notice things on her own, except for sometimes a song on the radio and someone on tv.
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I just ordered four jigsaw puzzles for my Dad for Christmas. It will be interesting to see if he uses them. His Caregiver had suggested the puzzels. But I have visions of him dumping all the pieces from the 4 boxes into one box :P
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I agree. I made a fidget quilt for my mother in law and she used it as a lap quilt. Never really " noticed" the cute fabric or lace etc. fidget quilt work better for folks that are picking at their clothes, folding bedclothes, repeatedly zipping their coat up and down etc
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I would try the suggestions above and see what works.

From my experience, things that sound like they would work, might not, because they still require certain skills that the patient may not possess. And some of the patients might not be left unattended with small pieces, as they may ingest them.

I would see if the person can engage in the activity without direct supervision. If not, you might see if the staff or some other person could take the item with them and supervise the activity. From my experience, it's not likely for a dementia patient to just pick up an item and work on it without direction, though, I'm sure that the person's degree of progression factors into that.
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Try a custom fidget quilt with "activities" like lacing, pvc pipes pieces that screw together etc etc. I made one for a friend's dad that had been a mechanical engineer and she said he loves it. You can find them online.
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Please let us know what works. Some of us face a similar situation and it would help us to find new solutions as well.

And good luck with finding projects to occupy and perhaps challenge your husband.
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Thank you so much for your ideas and encouragement! :-) I'll pick up some things and see if anything sparks his interest.
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Definitely get him things he can take apart, but try to find things that can easily be put back together again, or things that don't matter. Lincoln logs might be a bit complex if he wants to build something elaborate, but on the other hand, they might just be intriguing.

I like the idea of Legos and other toys that he can work with. Perhaps you can also find something cheap at charity stores, some old clocks that he could take apart but wouldn't hurt if they weren't put back together again.

Organizing screws and nails by size and type might be helpful as well.

My father just bought for his great grandsons some round peg/square peg fit in the holes type of toy and another toy that helps build dexterity and spatial reasoning. You might try toy shops to see what toys are available that your father could build and take apart again.

As Maggie, suggests, help him with these projects and let him cling to past glories and challenges.

He's trying to keep his mind active, so do whatever you can to help him.
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Oh!! That was GardenArtist, by the way.
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I'd go to a Goodwill Store or a second-hand store or garage sales and buy him cheap tinkering thingies. I like your Lego idea as well.

There's another thread on here about a spouse who is sooo fixated on his gardens that he's driving his spouse to drink. One of our wonderful contributors said (badly paraphrased) "It is remarkable that he has found SOMEthing to help him deal with his dementia." (Again, terrible paraphrase, but hopefully you get the idea.)

Help him feed his bliss. It may be all he has...
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I have some of the same issues with my Dad. He was an electrician and could fix or build about anything around the house. He so wants to keep busy but can't do more than the simplest things any longer.

I've found that when I visit and I'm doing little repairs, trimming trees, cleaning up in the garage our roles have reversed. He's now the small boy following me around wanting to help. So I create stuff for him to do, wind up the extension cord, sort out the red and yellow nuts, go through the sockets sets and organize them. He doesn't do any of it very well but I never correct him unless he's going to get hurt or make a really huge mess of something. But it gives him a nice feeling of accomplishment and of being useful.

I was thinking if you or other family members are able to visit and spend a little time, bring in an old clock and let him putter, maybe Legos and big wooden puzzles would work, old erector set even. Anything you can think of to ask him to "fix" would make him feel good. Even when he makes a mess of it tell him how nice it is and thank him for helping.
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Seems to me he's bored and is spending too much time alone in his room, does the nursing home not have activities for him?
Perhaps pick up inexpensive items from the thrift store for him to "fix". Others have suggested organizing and sorting things, maybe take him a bucket of nuts and bolts to match and sort. He may like the building toys you suggested, especially if you give him a simple project to make with them, even if he isn't really able to complete it. Puzzles? Simple games?
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Gardenfanatic, oh my gosh, we need to get our Dad's together.... my Dad does the same thing. I had to return my Mom's hearing aid that Dad was messing with and thankfully it was replaced.... my parents also have clocks and watches that are history because Dad got out his toolbox.

I've read on the forums here something about a "tinker box", but he might try to take that apart, too :P Maybe others here might have some ideas.
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