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My 92-year-old FIL had a tiny stroke 2 years ago. He has some mental restrictions now. He cannot work the microwave or a phone. After 2 years, he can set his thermostat accurately most of the time. He can remember his favorite TV stations and what time his favorite shows are on. His balance is off, he won’t exercise, and he won’t leave his rooms. He doesn’t like to read. All he does is watch TV. He doesn’t like people, but he needs me to spend time with him several times a day.


I am looking for ways to keep his mind active.


I have tried simple large-piece puzzles, but those aren’t working. He will sit and try, he likes the colors and the completed picture, but he cannot put the pieces together unless I hand one to him and show him exactly where it goes. He seems to enjoy sitting with me and trying, but it has to be hard to not get it, though he doesn’t act frustrated. I ask him to look for edge pieces. He seems to forget what his task is because he starts trying to put pieces together, which never go together. He will look for edges for a minute or two and then go back to trying to put pieces together.


He enjoys trying to match Old Maid, UNO and face cards, but with just two of us, it is hard to have him “win”. Games like concentration I think are good for him, but don’t work well if we play against each other.


I hope some of you can suggest activities or tasks that he/we can do while sitting for about a half hour at a time. Things that exercise his mind and gives him a sense of accomplishment.


Thanks.

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I can’t remember the name of it right now, but I got a conversation starter card game on amazon. It has prompts, like who was your favorite teacher, favorite Christmas memory, etc,....things about the past. It has helped keep my FIL talking and engaged. He tends to like sudoku, solitaire, reading, and not much that is a together sport. Lol
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Julia,

I was thinking the same thing. Fish tanks are a lot of upkeep.
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There are videos on YouTube of fish. Much easier than maintaining a fish tank!
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SNeedsAVacation Jan 14, 2020
Youtube is a great place for fish videos. I made a lot of mistakes when I had my tank and eventually my fish got sick. Ended up doing tank maintenance twice a week because I didn't have space for a bigger tank. My poor fish really needed 30-40 gallons.
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If you want to attract other wildlife for him to watch, you could buy a big bag of corn and just spread it. We get turkeys, deer and have a bunch of well fed squirrels.

Do you have outside space? I planted a 3x6 foot butterfly garden last year. We had tons butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees around. It would require research to see what works best in your area.

You could look up some of the chair exercise programs but use your own music. Don't treat it like exercise, say your going to learn a new dance. I take bellydance classes and we dance at a lot of nursing and assisted living facilities. Memory care residents really love it. It's because of the music and colourful costumes. We pass out tambourines and beads, get them clapping and dancing in their seats.

How about pour painting? You would need to setup an area to do it in because it's messy. Basically, you use Elmers glue all mixed with water, acrylic paint, and canvas. Gravity does the rest. He could pick out the colors and help tilt the canvas. Here's a basic tutorial.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=mYJtbZ0nPgk

The one thing I will caution against are fish. You have to be committed to giving your fish a healthy habitat. Depending on tank size and the fish, you looking at 30 mins or more of weekly maintenance. Water has to be tested and changed, substrate vacuumed, and the filter media needs to be cleaned. If a fish gets sick, you need to be able to quarantine them, which requires another tank or plastic tub, an extra filter, and air pump.

If you want to try keeping fish, get something hardy that stays small. I use to have a fancy goldfish. They are messy, require a lot of tank maintenance and at least a 20 gallon tank. They don't get as big as common goldfish but still need space.
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NeedHelpWithMom Jan 13, 2020
Pour paintings are fun. Your yard sounds so pretty. Butterflies and hummingbirds are lovely.
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Someone mentioned exercise on television. Yes, PBS has that Sit and Be Fit show. But I was just thinking that when my mom did OT and PT with home health they used the rubber bands and the exercise putty. You can order those items online. Oh, and the pedal thingy. You can use those on a table top for your arms and on the floor for your feet. They all came from Amazon. I asked them. They said they read reviews and order them.
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utahpilot2 Jan 24, 2020
I will look into the exercise peddler, but he is a stinker about exercising. I have the exercise list and bands from when he had home health, but he won’t do them.
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You might also get the large print books with easy word search if hes into that or you can find some online and print them out with bigger letters and darker print, then actually help him find the words. If he does not like to read maybe the audio books or you reading to him.. I often ask my 89 year old mother in law a question that will lead her to talking about her child hood and growing up with her sisters and brother as they remember the past much better than the present. She loves doing short stints of dishwashing as we don't have a dishwasher and and folding clothes.. I bring her a basket at a time.. She has a pretty regular routine during the day but I have to get her breakfast, meds and adhesive in her dentures.Then eats and sits for a period of time then goes and washes morning dishes. I take her on  walks when it is nice but now that winter hss hit, its hard for her to get out with her walker.She uses the walker wherever she goes. She does not watch TV but likes it on in the background for noise. If you have access to large screen tv that can be mirrored to tablet or phone then you can see the funny videos that someone suggested much bigger on youtube. When the voice is on, she loves watching that with us.. We live with her in HER house and she makes sure we know its HER house from time to time.  they also have exercise routines on youtube for seniors so that might be something he can do and not have to be around other people.. Hope these suggestions help
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utahpilot2 Jan 24, 2020
Thanks, Darlene57.
Dad also has his routines. He insists on washing his dishes before I take them back to the house. I let him because there is so little he can physically do. He likes to tidy up his bed. He refused to exercise after his stroke so he balance isn’t good and he is weak. His comprehension is limited.
My husband will get him talking about the past. Sadly, he always ends up crying, which he hates. He is less likely to cry with me.
Hooking a tablet, etc., to the TV is great idea. Thanks. 🌸
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The fidget blankets are very popular. He can keep his hands and mind busy doing the different activities on the blanket. Just google fidget blankets.
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utahpilot2 Jan 24, 2020
NeedHelpWithMom - thanks, I haven’t heard of those. He always has a blanket on his lap. I will look into those.
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Another thought:  there are CDs specifically designed for relaxation...harp music, slow music which soothes and calms, waves lapping on shores, and more.   We played them when my sister was batting advanced cancer and had trouble sleeping.
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UtahPilot, sorry but I didn't see your response until just now.

1.  Music.     You asked about relaxing music.  YES, absolutely - one of the best sources for emotional relaxation or stimulation!   To quote the famous observation of William Congreve, "Music has charms to soothe a savage breast (or beast)", depending on which source you read.

Music soothes and relaxes, and can also inspire activity.    It might even encourage your FIL to exercise.    It really motivates me, especially to do housework for which I have no enthusiasm.  

I was thinking about a little foot exerciser my father used as he listened to music.

https://www.riteaid.com/shop/exercise-peddler-with-attractive-silver-vein-finish-silver-vein-0297273?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI8vOXtoiC5wIVEPDACh39zAlsEAQYBCABEgLQbvD_BwE

These are available through some of the miscellaneous stuff catalogues, (Walter Drake, etc.) and  at Rite-Aid, Target and other stores with more advanced models.    It's a good way to institute exercise while seated and listening to music.

2.   Fish inspire peace as well; just watching them is a diversionary tactic which I think has a calming effect similar to music.    Kelp type foliage which gently waves and moves in the fish tank is also very soothing.

3.    Horses.     You asked for a link to horses and baseball; I assume you meant coloring books?

https://doverpublications.ecomm-search.com/search?keywords=horse+coloring+books 

Link is for primarily horse coloring books with a few more diversified ones which include horses.    Some of the coloring books are more general, and include other animals.

4.     Baseball coloring books:

Baseball books, including coloring books:

https://doverpublications.ecomm-search.com/search?keywords=baseball

Baseball coloring books only:

https://doverpublications.ecomm-search.com/search?keywords=baseball+coloring+books

I think the search function overreacted as it includes coloring books which seem to have no relation to baseball.  The first book, Story of Baseball, would probably be the best   

https://store.doverpublications.com/0486267482.html 

If you scroll through the Google Preview you can get an idea of the varied scenes.

(Now the lyrics of "...when Mighty Casey struck out" are running through my mind.)

I hope this helps; let me know if you want info on anything else.
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utahpilot2 Jan 24, 2020
Thanks, GardenArtist, for the link to the exercise peddler. That is a very reasonable price. So many things on TV are too expensive to try. Never know what he will and won’t do.

Several have mentioned fish being a good idea. And moving kelp is a good idea. I’m just not sure I am up to keeping a tank clean. He has two dogs, we have 2 cats, 2 horses and three donkeys.

Thanks for the coloring book links. I can’t see him coloring, but he might fool me. He may not think it is manly.

He cannot do simple puzzles, they don’t make sense to him.

Hope you find a new song to occupy your mind. 😉
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I must say, I love when the OP actually responds to our responses. Thank you, utahpilot, and may every day be filled with zero stress and lot of fun!
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utahpilot2 Jan 24, 2020
😊
zero stress and fun — excellent goals worth striving for. Thank you, bluefinspirit, for your help. 🌸
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This website has a whole bunch of activities designed for folks with dementia:

https://www.seniorlink.com/blog/activities-for-dementia-patients-50-tips-and-ideas-to-keep-patients-with-dementia-engaged

Good luck........you are a wonderful DIL to be helping your FIL out this way, bravo to you!!!
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utahpilot2 Jan 13, 2020
Thank you 😊
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Others have already taken my initial suggestions: Coloring, sorting, simple household chores, and a bird feeder.

Find things that fit with what he always seemed to like. My mother was always very artistic and loved "creating," so the adult coloring books were perfect for her. Great for the fine motor skills, too.

I don't know if your father would take to this, but my mother the LOVES "balloon ball" game her caregiver plays with her. Quite simple really: get two of those foam swim noodles, a few balloons (they do tend to pop occasionally) and two chairs. Sit about 8-10 ft apart and hit the balloon back and forth. It gets my mom's arms and body moving and helps hand-eye coordination.
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utahpilot2 Jan 13, 2020
Thank you. Another great idea.
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Listening to his favorite music or music from his time: It stirs alot of memories for older people when they listen to music, especially from their past. Looking at old photos and talking about past memories also helps, too. Have you given any thought to special exercises that he can do while sitting? Does this place that he lives in have things like bingo? Seniors like bingo and has some good health benefits for them as well. As for movies, I would recommend slapstick, screwball comedies..I would think that he would like the classic ones, plus they say laughter is the best medicine.

Link on the health benefits of bingo: https://www.leisurecare.com/resources/why-do-seniors-love-bingo/
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utahpilot2 Jan 13, 2020
Thanks for your suggestions.
He lives in a little trailer next to our house with his two dogs.
Bingo is a good idea.
And he is a western movie man. He has seen most of many, many times.
That and shark tank.
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My aunt with pretty advanced dementia LOVES watching funny animal videos. She no longer can follow the storyline of anything on tv but she can watch the same funny cats video over and over and laugh every time. Laughing is so good for her. So if you have a laptop or iPad so FIL can see it bigger, would help him see it better.
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utahpilot2 Jan 12, 2020
Geaton777 - another great idea! It would give him something new to watch. Thank you.
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Sorting coins or guy type things like matching nuts and bolts or separating nails from screws are popular activities that can be recycled as long as they show any interest. Simple household tasks like folding laundry (towels and washcloths) can occupy time too.
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utahpilot2 Jan 11, 2020
Good ideas. He feels bad that he cannot help.
I let him wash his dishes, though I have to rewash them.

Thank you!
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Geaton, GREAT idea!   

UtahPilot, Dover has a extensive selection of coloring books, ranging from those for children and those for adults.    And it wouldn't even matter if the colors match or anything - he'd be making a choice in selecting the pictures and colors, so there's some element of executive decision making.

I get free sample selections on a weekly basis by e-mail.   They're copyright free; I've printed some out and used them to make cards.    Samples range from flowers, animals, cars, trucks, and (given your screenname) WWII plants.

Let me know if you want links or specific categories.  


I think that dominoes, Chinese checkers, or Tri-ominoes could also work.   It doesn't matter if the numbers or colors don't match, it's the idea of creating random combinations that could stimulate him.  These games can be played alone; that's what I often do when I need a diversion. 

And play soft or his favorite music during activities; it helps induce relaxation.
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JoAnn29 Jan 11, 2020
I used to have Dover for my kids.
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Have you tried adult-style coloring books? My friend's 90+ yo dad with pretty advanced dementia and short-term memory loss likes them a lot and he spends a lot of time coloring. I understand your plight. Same this is going with my MIL -- all she does all day is watch tv (but not the news, so making conversation with her is almost impossible unless it's stuff in the way past). Please understand that you are not obligated to be your FIL's entertainment committee. It will become harder and harder to keep him engaged in anything and he will mostly just watch tv, and maybe not even that. My MIL did very enjoy watching the birds and squirrels at the feeder...is this an option? Hope this helps!
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utahpilot2 Jan 11, 2020
Wonderful ideas, thank you.
I will try the coloring; I can’t see him doing that, but definitely worth a try.
I think bird feeders are an excellent idea. It could be tricky because we have a lot of high wind. Maybe my neighbors have some ideas.

I do think of myself as his entertainment committee. 😏
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