I have been taking care of my mother, who has dementia for over a year. I just don't know how to entertain her all of the time.


Mom can not seem to think of anything to occupy herself. If I don't give her things to do, she will just sit there and do nothing, and of course she makes me feel guilty. I have tried coloring books, word searches, and books, but she seems to lose them or throw them away, they disappear somehow. I think it is because she doesn't know what they are for. I have tried movies, but she cannot operate the DVD player and will push buttons on the remote and then I have to come fix it every couple minutes. It has gotten to where she depends on me to entertain her all the time and I need time to do things around the house. She constantly wants to help and anything I ask her to do She does wrong and I have to fix it or she does something completely different then what I asked. I try not to get upset, and not to let her know she is doing this, but it makes a lot of work for me. What can I do to occupy her so that I can get things done?

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At the rehab Mom was in they gave a woman towels and wash clothes to fold. They would then take the basket away, mess the towels up and then tell her there were some more.

Mom would do this with me too wanting to help. But I just wanted to get my work done and not have to redo what she did wrong. Daycare helped. Medicaid may pay for part or all of the cost if she has no income other than SS.
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Maybe it would help to set your goals a little lower. At my mother's nursing home, they didn't try to keep everyone busy all the time. They had activities at set times. A resident could choose to do both morning activities and both afternoon activities, or only 1 per day or even none. I didn't see many residents entertaining themselves. Those that did typically did some kind of word search or crosswords. My mother would color with me or one of my sisters. She played simple card games with another sister. One took her for walks in her wheelchair. Mom liked the coloring, but she never did it on her own. She did need to always have a stack of magazines nearby, and she would look through those on her own.

Consider yourself as "visiting" Mom at certain times of the day. Mid morning you color with her. You aren't also running laundry and making a shopping list. It is her time. But that doesn't last all day! You have other things to do also. Do you think you might feel less guilty if you had designated activity times? And you don't have to spend the 40 minutes each way to get to the visit, as I did -- a nice benefit.

My husband also had dementia. A task he did regularly was fold washcloths, which we used as single-use hand towels so there were a couple baskets of them each week. When my mother visited me I had her fold some and she seemed to look forward to it. When she went into the nh I brought in a small plastic basket with about a dozen washcloths of different colors and textures. The aids knew they could give her that basket and ask for her to fold them and she liked that when she was bored.

My mother and my husband liked shredding junk mail. Mom loved matching socks. I'd bring a big bag of clean socks out of the dryer (or my dresser drawer) and ask her to help me get them into pairs. A few times other women came over to our table and helped us. This seemed to be a popular activity!

Sometimes I'd give Mom a big handful of change and she'd sort it by coin and I'd put each kind in a baggie. A few days later I'd mix them up and we'd repeat it. Sorting seems popular -- maybe it seems to be imposing some order on things. I got beads from the craft room and Mom could sort them by color or size. Buttons would work, too. The craft director would thank her for her help -- a bonus.
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Don’t give her things to do unless you have time to stay with her or go with the flow. Less stressful for you both to let her sit.
When my aunt wants to peel eggs for deviled eggs, if she makes a mess of the whites I just make egg salad with those eggs. If she folds the towels into a size that doesnt fit the cabinet I just put them in a laundry basket and refold when I put them away. She can chop celery and onions which I put in a freezer bag and save until I need them. She can stir ingredients, look through recipes for a favorite. Snap beans. Usually she gets tired and goes back to channel surfing but we have moments which she enjoys doing domestic chores.
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Could she go to adult day care? You definitely need time both to do things around the house and just have some time to yourself!
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Natilee, SHE doesn't make you feel guilty; YOU are doing it to yourself and can stop, you really can.... some of the others here will have suggestions for keeping her occupied, but even if she sits and does nothing, because she CHOOSES that, or can't do any better, nothing for you to feel guilty about - you have enough on your plate taking care of her needs.... God bless!
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