What can I have elder with mild dementia do at home instead of sleeping?

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I take her out a few hours each day, which she enjoys and helps her sleep throughout the night. While I work (from home) she'll sleep almost constantly. Limited interest in TV, magazines, puzzle books, etc. I tried to have her do some simple chores - folding laundry, wiping furniture and such, but have to watch her and it takes much longer than I could have done it myself and almost always have to redo what she did. She does not want to go to adult day care or the senior center.

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What are her talents? My mom always loved sewing. She did this until she couldn't remember how. Now she takes the sheet and blanket and folds it as if she's preparing fabric to sew curtains. My avatar is a picture of a birdhouse kit my son put together and my mom and I are painting it. These are just a few ideas but I will look up online and try to find a site that had ideas. I don't remember where but I'll try.
Why doesn't she want to go to adult day care or senior center?
I was wondering one other thing. What's wrong with busy work? Just because you have to redo it isn't keeping her busy the point, making her feel useful? If she thinks she's helping and then you do it right after are you doing more than you would have if she hadn't done it first? It seems as though it might be making her feel helpful and you can do what you need to do for a while.
She says the people are old. She's 92 and she does realize she's in fact older than most everyone there, but she does/did behave younger. She was always a social person and I asked the staff when she was at skilled nursing for rehab to take her to the dining room for meals. She hated it and refused to go after three times. I hoped that she would if not at first, perhaps after seeing the same people for a week begin talking and hopefully find a friend. She now feels the SNF dining room experience and senior center will be similiar. She was also unwilling to participate in any activities at the SNF. I feel like dropping her off for three days a week to an adult day care and hope she'll like it despite her currently not wanting to. I feel only good could come from it if she would give it a chance. Yes, I do want her to feel useful and I agree that's the primary goal. It's just today I was really hoping to catch up on some work while she occupied herself.
I understand needing to get to your own work. I think that you should try to get her to the senior center. It is different than the SNF, which is commonly the last option for disabled and elderly before they die. At the senior center it can be like going to a rec center. The people are usually more alert and active. They aren't necessarily being pushed around in a wheelchair but if they are it's people that are participating in fun activities. She won't know what is reality until she tries it. Could you tell her you're taking her to lunch and stop there on the way?
My husbands grandmother who will be 102 this year goes and plays bingo and talks to friends. You wouldn't know her age unless you looked at her ID (she chooses not to drive any longer).
Top Answer
Kate47, I empathize with you, I really do! I work from home; my 86yo husband has dementia. Keeping him occupied is a big caregiving task. And, while doing things with him is wonderful, it isn't practical all the time if I am going to support us! These things help us:
1. Videos work better than television broadcasts, because the interuptions are eliminated. (Commercials or announcements can be very disruptive when attention spans are limited to begin with.) I find that familiar material works best, such as DVDs of older television series he used to watch. My husband also loves nature shows.
2. An exercise video is something he can do by himself. (The one he likes is from the National Institute of Health, for older adults.)
3. We have switched to single-use handtowels, and for this purpose I bought several dozen washclothes and several pretty baskets. I do the laundry but it is husband's responsibility to fold the small towels and put them into baskets. This is not busy work. We need the towels. We use them every day. It is a valuable chore. He can do it alone and I don't have to do it over.

Also, it is simply a reality that no one gets by doing only things they want to do. As our loved ones enter their 80s and 90s I think we wish we could alter that reality. Haven't they earned the right to do what they want? And haven't they got enough limitations in their lives as it is? As much as I want to compensate for the limitations dementia imposes and as much as I'd like to smooth all the bumps in the road for him, I had to face the fact that there were some things that had to happen whether he liked them or not. My husband did not want to go to an adult day program but I explained frankly that I was doing every thing I could think of to keep him at home with me instead of in a care center, and he would have to do his part, too. He went two or three times a week for four years (until his dementia progressed beyond the range of the program). I feel it was very good for him in other ways, but it was first and foremost respite for me. We both knew it.

Good luck ... and don't beat yourself up if you can't provide all the attention that you'd like to.



Hi Kate, So glad you started this thread. I am struggling with the same kinds of issues with my mom: she wants no part of day program / sr center. I think she lacks confidence in her self. We visited several times, she actually seemed to enjoy herself, but gave me a fit afterwards. The coordinator told me one daughter was determined her mom was going to go, and LIKE it!. She said it was a miserable couple months for mom and daughter, but one day, everything clicked and the mom then loved it. I don't think I could go thru that daily for months. My post and list are long, but I too need more ideas as she becomes more captivated by the lure of sleeping. Need things that are scaled back as decline progresses. Not sure if any of these will work for you. Try to think of the things she once liked and fit them to her current abilities. My mom was an active board member, socialite and loved to dance and play bridge. These are not options for her now though. Things I've found helpful: My mom had loved solitaire, we've got her playing FreeCell on a tablet. She will entertain herself pretty well, other than a little tech help, for a good while with this. We help her send some emails. I put the cable tv on music from her era--the 40's-they show the name of the artist, the song and a short, repeating ticker of simple human interest items about the artist/band/members. This usually will get her in a good mood, thus more interested in other things afterward, although she will listen happily for an hour after lunch. Sometimes we look up something on the internet taken from item noted on the tv music station. I try to have breakfast on the deck, and point out things for her to notice-which plants are blooming, whats ripening in the garden, etc., have put up bird feeders in yard, and hummer feeders on deck. Great source of entertainment and interest, visable from either deck or kitchen table. My mom shows some OCD tendencies and when she kept pointing out a dead leaf here or there on plants, I assigned her the task of plant groomer. I sit her at the table with a plant, trash can and scissors and she has at it. She does a great job, too! The other stuff around the house, folding, dusting etc, hasn't been as successful, I don't think she views it as important as the plant grooming expert! I keep a vase of cut flowers on the table, and she checks them daily to see if any need to be removed, water added. Other stuff we have done: plant seeds-veggies and annuals-in the spring. Started avocado plant. These required me to facilitate the process, but then I could have her check on them every day to see if germinated, if needed H2O etc. And now of course they are growing in the yard or garden and come inside as flowers or produce that she helped to grow. She is in charge of watering the plant on the front porch, and a tomato plant on the deck. Also some pansies this winter, and petunias this summer. I try to have her select between two options for a shopping decision, once or twice per errand trip, either of which would work. I also ask her opinion and for help with things I have under control, but she loves the feeling of helping and that I value her opinion. I've gotten her working on knitting, something she liked to do before she got sick. We now just do KnitKnitKnit scarves and have to have an index card that says "scarf for x- purple yarn. Cast on 40, then Knit Knit Knit.." We take a daily walk after dinner-the whole family--have her push a wheelchair until she is tired, then we push her around the neighborhood. People out in their yards, kids playing etc., often stop to visit or wave. One night neighbor was on porch playing musical instrument n played a song just for her. Kids show off bikes and pets. All kinds of different things happen that are exciting and stimulating for her. I have also designated her the assistant menu planner, grocery list scribe and prep chef for dinner. (Yes, we start with: "ok, let's wash our hands and get started with dinner!") I give her a small cutting board, one type of veggie at a time and cut a sample of how I want it cut up. She works on it independently, and it keeps her busy for quite a while, I can get other stuff done w/o interuption, as long as I'm in the kitchen. We eat lots of red bell peppers, but drove my husband crazy that she minces them into nothingness-for some reason can't get a slice or chop there, so I just don't hand them over any more. She does great at snapping beans, chopping or slicing most veg, hulling berries, and prep for anything I want to freeze. We grill lots of veggies, she can get some olive oil spread around on them if I use a spout type top (like a bartender's top) or give her a small amount in a container to pour from. She likes a particular jello salad, that has marshmellos stirred into the hot jello until they melt. Takes forever, and she will do it happily. I have her set the table with silver, and napkins. I saw the 3-2-1 cake mix on this site (sorry, I don't remember who to credit, and can't find it again--if it was you, please let me know, and thanks!). Have appointed her the 3-2-1 cake baker. (Take one box angel food cake mix and one box any other flavor. Pour together in lg. zip bag and mix well. When want to make a little cake, use 3T mix, 2T h2o and microwave 1 min in small micro safe dish). We aren't that wild about our first flavor (red velvet-her pick) but we eat it, just so she can be the star! She will fold handtowels, washcloths, and tea towels, if I am folding laundry also. Otherwise, usually not interested. Likes Wheel of fortune and Jeopardy on TV-not much else. We DVR them. I read a chapter of a book aloud one day, and have her read one, or part, the next day. I summarize what happened prior to where we pick up each day, and throughout the reading. If I can find easy crosswords, she will work at them, but does better if a team effort. I have someone come in once a week under the guise of helping with the house, and she does stuff with my mom, after finished with what's on my list-crafty things, holiday decor, cards, puzzles, coloring, makes christmas gifts for sibs, grchildren, and others. [Kate, I can't imagine trying to work at home without some help in the house for my mom. A year ago, she could entertain herself for the day, but not now.] We are supposed to walk daily per doctor, and also get 64 oz water ea day. I make a little schedule each day, with check boxes for all the med's., meals, glasses of water, the walk, and any other events. My mom finds this helpful and she spends quite a bit of time with this, checking boxes and competing to be the winner of "first to complete all the water for the day". I give intermittent surprise rewards for reaching goals w water or staying up all day. Recently started daily kitten dot com. Sometimes find stuff on YouTube or animal tracks (msn). Hoped to volunteer at animal shelter, but spouse too alergic. Get on facebook and show her pics of people she knows or their kids/grandkids. Maybe consider a computer designed for senior use?

Things still on my list to get her doing: try the red hat ladies to make some new friends since she came to live w/us. Find a way for her to volunteer-read to kids, stuff envelopes/fold newsletters for a nonprofit or cut out stuff for bulletin boards at schools nearby. Maybe entertain kids for mom's attending support group meetings like AA/NA or similar. One demential day program has a support group for caregivers and they provide care for the patients during the support group, at the site of their day program, maybe gain some comfort with the idea of going there 2 days a week? Another agency has a friendly visitor program. Try Zumba Gold or Silver Sneakers. Try the sr. outreach program monthly lunch a nearby church. Help her find out about her birth family via ancestry dot com. She is adopted and knows very little. Considering becoming certified as TimeSlips facilitator and starting my own group. Starting a Memory Cafe program in my area, perhaps a meetup group-just learning about them.

Hope you find some solutions--can you get some input from a local support group about what might be available in your area? Maybe call the area aging agency or see if a geriatric case manager or social worker can get you started on a path that works for your situation. Good luck-Kimbee

Jeanne, love your list-I am considering revisiting the day program as my need for respite and her need for supervision increases. I think I may have tried too soon to get mom going there. She went through some really difficult stressors but seems to be feeling more settled. We use videos too. Thanks for your always great input. I'm so glad I found this site.
A very common problem and a very common statement too (about the others being old). If you can get her to some kind of planned activities group a few times then she'll probably love it and look forward to going. It's the initial 'going' that presents the most problems.

Other than that, as people have suggested - find activities that she used to enjoy. Not all will work now but some may. Her sleeping might be related to her condition OR her medication - it is probably worth checking that out with her doctor. Depending on the meds she has, they can cause drowsiness.

So Kate, your mother was 45 when she had you, if my math is correct. ( ? )
That means she does things late. I would seek activities that a younger woman would enjoy. Video's , DVD's , Women's magazine with pictures, lots of pictures, interior decorating, landscaping, food displays, etc....maybe travel ( she can dream, can't she? ) As for activities, you have to keep in mind that she still needs daytime sleep, so sending her to a daytime senior facility may be a problem unless you are willing to drop off and pick her up at inconvenient times. GOOD LUCK.

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