I’ve been an occupational therapist for over forty years. I’ve treated adult patients with a multitude of diagnosis often involving cognitive loss. I would leave at the end of the day to return to my family’s needs. When my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at 87 everything changed. I could no longer leave it all behind and I had to deal with our new “normal.” I wasn’t prepared. I had no choice to but learn and now looking back, it was my mother who continued to teach me how to proceed. Her cognition dictated what was necessary. I learned to be flexible to her needs with my goals of safety and purpose in mind. I wanted tasks that were challenging not demeaning. I wanted to assess if they worked and provide a means to maximize communication between multiple caregivers. I wanted her caregivers to feel useful so burnout was minimized. What I learned to do was limit choices so my mom could still have a sense of control over herself. I learned to stress positivity, to reinforce her reality. As her condition decreased so too did the number of choices offered.
Merrian-Webster defines activity as: involving mental function designed to stimulate learning and energy; usually done for pleasure and, often involves other people. How difficult it is for those diagnosed with cognitive loss to perform purposeful activities such as self-care (bathing, eating, dressing, toileting) and socialization when the ability to initiate these interactions have been affected. Dementia certainly affects initiating pleasurable activities and social interaction. Structured activities/tasks help make it possible to maintain ability offering socialization between the caregiver and the individual. Activities need not be complicated in fact, they should be easily understood, broken down into simple one-to-two steps and end with success. If they are not working leave them for another day. Mrs. Levy was the caretaker for her mother who suffered with Alzheimer’s Dementia for almost ten years.