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How can therapeutic activities help manage the symptoms of Alzheimer's?
Planning structured, individualized activities that involve and interest the person with Alzheimer's may reduce many of the more disturbing behavioral symptoms of AD, such as agitation, anger, frustration, depression, wandering or rummaging. Health professionals who work with Alzheimer's patients say therapeutic activities should focus on the person's previous interests, cue the person to old and recent memories and take advantage of the person's remaining skills while minimizing the impact of skills that may be compromised.
What kinds of therapeutic activities are best?
Successful activities support a person's sense of self - bringing out their skills, memories and habits - and reinforce the person's sense of being in a group, which can provide friendship, mutual support and spiritual connectedness.
Any number of activities may be beneficial depending on the individual, and different activities may affect certain symptoms but not others. (For example, music therapy may improve eating in some people but not others.) Any former hobby or interest of the person is a candidate, from gardening, cooking, painting and drawing, to singing, playing musical instruments or listening to music, etc. Routine is essential: Activities that are done regularly, perhaps even at the same time every day if possible, may help establish routine and increase the person's sense of stability.
Some of the therapeutic activities that have been shown in rigorous research studies to reduce certain problem behaviors in people with Alzheimer's are:
•playing music of the person's choosing;
•playing videotapes of family members;
•walking and light exercise;
Several programs that combine various therapeutic activities have also shown favorable results in people with Alzheimer's. These include a multifaceted program of music, exercise, crafts and relaxation, and structured sessions combining meditation, relaxation, sensory awareness and guided imagery, so-called mind-over-body techniques designed to calm and soothe.
Where can I learn more about beneficial activities?
Your doctor, nursing staff or social worker should be able to help you determine what types of activities might be best and direct you to community resources that can help. Medical centers or healthcare service providers that serve Alzheimer's patients, such as adult care centers or home healthcare networks, may sponsor programs or know about programs in your area.