Memory Care Consulting: Designing Meaningful and Therapeutic Activities

Hey there! Kim here, with some news about our memory care consulting services. I’ve been consulting for a great facility in Illinois, and I thought I’d tell you a bit about how, like them, you can help raise the standard for care for persons with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

The key is to combine our Dementia Capable Care: Foundation training for staff with the design of activities and spaces that engage your residents’ interests and are oriented to each resident’s Allen Cognitive Level, or dementia stage. Knowing how to identify a person's Allen Cognitive Level is essential because it helps you pinpoint his or her remaining abilities—what he or she CAN do.

While it can be challenging to engage individuals with Alzheimer’s/dementia in occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech language pathology therapy, or leisure activities, one innovative way to facilitate greater participation is to identify activities that are particularly meaningful to each resident, and adapt the activities to the just-right challenge to match each person’s Allen Cognitive Level.

Use meaningful activities such as gardening or woodworking as a therapeutic modality for the skilled therapy professions or engage a resident in quilting or games as a valued leisure interest. With this approach, I’ve seen residents engage in more therapy time, participate more in activities, maintain their physical and cognitive skills for as long as possible, and feel a greater sense of emotional well-being.

Check out the video to learn more. Also be sure to scroll down and grab our helpful activity guideline, The Garden eBook for Persons With Dementia!

Here’s a Transcript of the Video
Hi there—Kim here!

I am in Illinois, and I’m working with a consultation client. She’s a very dear friend who I’ve worked with for many years and who’s very passionate about helping people with Alzheimer’s to thrive. And she’s working for a long-term care facility that had some wonderful space available in their community that they were building, and they said, “What can we do that’s unique with this space that will really allow our therapy and our activity department to work with persons with Alzheimer’s to engage them more successfully in meaningful activity?”

Memory Care Consulting and Individualized Activity Stations
So I’ve been working with this project for a few months now, and we’ve got all of the staff leaders trained on understanding Dementia Capable Care principles and the stages of dementia.

We’ve developed some activity protocols, and we’ve created some activity stations within this large space. Some are designed for male-oriented activities, like a garage and woodworking area; some are a little bit more female oriented, like an activity area for arts and crafts and wrapping presents.

So we’ve created some new spaces within this large room that are designed to engage people with Alzheimer’s in activities, and we’ve educated the staff and created some activity guidelines so people at all stages of dementia can enjoy these areas.

Achieving Positive Outcomes With Activities and Exercise
But the other really important part of this kind of project is gathering outcomes. So if you were to ever do a project like this, it’s important to gather some pre-intervention information, like: perhaps you’re having some challenges engaging people at the lower stages of dementia in therapy, so a great outcome could be how can we use these activities and these spaces as a modality to engage people in more advanced dementias in exercise. So for example, in the garage, we could be having them lifting and stacking paint cans, or sanding wood, or hanging some tools on a peg board. And all of that can be exercise, working on balance and strength and range of motion in this really cool activity space.

And for activities, if you’re having some challenges engaging residents (perhaps they want to get up and walk away from an activity, and you can’t hold their attention or interest), you could gather information prior to this intervention and after the intervention to see, “Does the length of activity engagement or the quantity of activities increase?”

Improving Participation in Therapy and Activities
So whether you’re measuring therapy outcomes like improved therapy participation and compliance and improved minutes of therapy, or you’re working through the activity department trying to get people more involved in activities (and perhaps more actively engaged in the activity)—whether it’s coming through the activity department or the therapy department—the end result should be that your residents with dementia have better quality of life, we’re helping to maintain their physical and cognitive skills through these activities, and, as I said, hopefully improving their emotional well-being.

Your Heart Is Your Strongest Tool for Change
So this is a great project that any community can decide to implement. But most importantly, it starts with that leader saying, “It is my heart; my passion to do something unique and better for those who I serve with Alzheimer’s.”

And I’m privileged to be a part of this project, working with my old friend and colleague, and I’m excited to get some outcome data that I can hopefully share with everybody in the future to show what a great difference this kind of intervention makes.

So, off to go to work today—day two of this visit—can’t wait to start working with these residents with dementia, delivering our activities in these beautifully designed spaces.

Thank you.
Kim Warchol Image
About the Author

“I implore you to demand the training and education essential to ensuring the physical and emotional health, function, and safety of persons with Alzheimer’s and related dementias.”