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

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
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 activities 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

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.
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"