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By Sandra Stimson ADC, CALA, CDP
Executive Director,
Alternative Solutions in Long Term Care

Sandra Stimson has experience as a
corporate consultant, Corporate
Trainer and National Speaker. Her
experience is in long term care, as
Activity Director, Director of
Alzheimer's Units and Assistant
Administrator of a 550 bed long term
care county home.  She is
Co-founder of Pet Express Pet
Therapy Club, is a Life Replay
Specialist.  Sandra implements
dementia units nationwide.  Sandra
has written several books, Volunteer
Management Essentials for Long
Term Care and Pet Express Pet
Therapy Program. Sandra has been a
facilitator for Alzheimer's support
groups and is the Awards Chair for the
NJ Association of Activity
Professionals.  Sandra is the
Executive Director of
Council of Certified Dementia

Alternative Solutions in Long Term
Care offers resources for health care
professionals in many areas of
dementia care, care plans,
Snoezelen products, dementia
activity calendars, adult day care
calendars, sensory calendars,
reminisce videos for dementia,
activity books, and dates to
remember, party supplies,
resources and links.

Dementia Units and Activities:

Many facilities have taken the step of adding locked dementia units. Unfortunately, all too
often we are seeing little or no programming for those residents. Additionally, we are
seeing these day rooms with lack of supervision or not enough staff to work with the
residents. Nursing assistants should be rotated into the day rooms for supervision and to
assist the activity staff. It is recommended that activities on these units run 7 days a week
from the hours of 9:30 A.M. to 8:30 P.M. Activities play a huge role during the evening
hours when the nursing assistants are providing ADL’s. Your Safety Committees minutes
clearly show a higher incidence of falls and accidents with residents who are left
unsupervised in the day rooms during the evening hours. A strong dementia activity
calendar should be designed to include daily music, exercise and reminisce programs. We
recommend that you offer exercise and music programs in the morning. You have less time
to provide activities that require “time” such as crafts and cooking programs due to the
lunch hours. In addition, the residents are confused and have just gotten up. It is a lot to
ask of them to complete projects that require concentration

Props should be utilized during programs as much as possible. The props will offer a visual
and keeps their attention. For the exercise programs you could offer pom poms, maracas,
wands, top hats and parachutes. At no time should ball toss or balloon toss be offered.
One, because they are slow to respond so we should not be throwing anything at them and
two, props engages the entire group and keeps their hands strong. The music programs
should include props such as tambourines and musical instruments. We recommend Sing
A Long With Eldersong for this population.

In the afternoon, we recommend horticulture, crafts and cooking programs when meal
programs do not restrict time for activity programs. You can offer these programs at a
slower pace and allow time for success and completion of the activities. A strong dementia
calendar offers activities that change on the half hour, are flexible and geared to the
residents interest. Offer coloring activities and simple craft projects, keeping in mind to
make sure all activitites are age and ability appropriate. Remember, all activities that you
offer, should be success oriented, failure free, purposeful and meaningful for every
resident who is attending that event.

In the evening, we recommend non-stimulating activity programs. Instead offer; reminisce
programs, pet therapy, doll therapy, Wake Up Program, Timeslips, folding towels or easy to
understand movies. We do not recommend that the TV be shown except for light movies.

Remember to offer parallel programming. For those residents who cannot participate in an
activity, have a table set up with tactile items. These items could be things to touch (pat
mats) sorting items (poker chips and large buttons), folding items (towels and wash cloths).
If they are low functioning you could offer a sensory room filled with bubble tubes, fish
tanks, aromatherapy, music and tactile items. These rooms offer many benefits for the
dementia challenged resident who still requires stimulation.

The day rooms should have many self-recreation items, such as jewelry boxes, theme
boxes, sorting and folding items, theme books, sewing cards and magazines. These are
items that can be given to the residents where there are no planned group programs.

If you need suggestions for dementia calendars, or props for programs (click on party
supplies) & resources, please go to:
Copyright 2004-2006
The Activity Director's Office
All rights reserved
Music: "Peg of My Heart" furnished by Heart and Soul Music "Providing Quality Music for Nursing Homes"