January 26th, 2011 at 3:12 am
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Memory fitness plan for assisted living residences

by Kathryn Kilpatrick, M.A. CCC/SLP

When a loved one moves to an assisted living because there is a need for some additional support, friends and family members may notice that there is not as much participation in the variety of activities as may have been expected.

Once my mom got settled in her assisted living apartment, she really did not get as involved in the activities as I had hoped. This is where knowing a person’s story as well as any preferences can help. In her case, she was still driving and enjoyed visiting family. She liked getting out and doing her errands every couple of days. She was still connected to her many friends and was more comfortable in those situations. Mom liked reading, writing letters, and doing her puzzles. When she felt there was something of interest, such as a musical presentation, she would attend. At first, it was primarily her hearing problem that kept her from feeling comfortable attending group activities or listening to certain presentations.

During one of my visits I shared some ideas for a memory fitness program with the activity director at mom’s assisted living facility. It started with putting a series of trivia questions on each table in the dining room and changing them every couple of days. It worked best to make them popular items that would stimulate a discussion versus a test of less known facts. Something that worked well was providing hints when the questions were more difficult. Using multiple choice options or giving the answer but scrambling the letters are a few of the possibilities.

Getting the staff involved, including those who were taking the meal orders, was key to making this plan work. After a training program, the meal started off with the staff taking orders and asking a question. A popular one was “What is the first car you remember driving?” By having a staff person get the conversation going, it was more likely others would respond. What made me smile was watching the interactions of the residents after doing this few times. Since I usually visited for a week or more, I frequently would have someone stop and tell me a favorite story.

Sometimes all it takes is introducing a conversation starter. This is especially helpful for those who are less talkative or have a tendency to just focus on the same topics over and over. Posting a different conversation starter in the elevator often has people talking longer and on new topics. It is important to make sure to use larger print for those with vision concerns to maximize participation. One assisted living posted questions by the receptionist where residents signed in and out. Visitors often enjoyed conversations with these topics and it eventually expanded to adding a few in the monthly newsletter.

If you are a regular visitor at the assisted living, see if they have a memory fitness program. Pass along some of these suggestions for a 7 day memory fitness program. Perhaps you might like to volunteer to create some of the questions that are used. If the activities need to be modified for those with hearing, vision and/or memory problems, refer to Memory fitness plan when a loved one has dementia.

“A smile is the light in your window that tells others that there is a caring, sharing person inside.” Denis Waitley

Posted in Assisted Living, Dementia, Health | 1 Comment »

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