Susan Berg's Activity Ideas Galore
By Susan Berg, Author, Activity Director BS(COTA/L)
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Susan Berg
Author, Activity Director
Activities Director Blog
Alzheimers Ideas
About Susan

Susan Berg has been a
healthcare professional and
educator for over 20 years. She
is the, activity director, of
many years, at Hunt Nursing
and Rehabilitation Center in
Danvers. While there, she has
gained much dementia care
and activity experience and
knowledge. She has had
special training in dementia
care and dementia activities
through the Alzheimer’s
Association and other
educational forums. Berg is the
author of Adorable
Photographs of Our Baby-
Meaningful, Mind-Stimulating
Activities and More for the
Memory Challenged, Their
Loved Ones, and Involved
Professionals, a book for those
with dementia and an
excellent resource for
caregivers and healthcare
Take a look
at Susan's book
Flash Cards are
available  to use
with Susan's Book
Note:  They can also be
used without the book
and are ideal for group
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Engaging in creative endeavors is vital for long term care residents. It is an important
way to keep them thinking. It keeps their minds working and raises self esteem.

One such activity that easily encourages creativity, I call,
A Picture is Worth a Thousand

This is an easy activity to do as long as you have the right picture for participants to
describe and the right frame of mind to facilitate the discussion of the picture. As with
any activity you need to adapt and modify it so that it is success oriented and failure free.

Use a picture that is colorful with large, easy to describe items, that interests your

Baby photographs are one type of picture that seems to have universal appeal for
nursing home residents especially those with dementia.

You act as the facilitator in some cases. Be ready to help the participants with
discussion questions. Make sure you have pencil and paper handy. You may want to
give some higher functioning residents some paper and magic markers so they can jot
down some “notes” for you. Of course, you will be taking down most of the information.

Before you show the person(s) the picture, tell them you are going to help them write a
story about a picture because you know they are smart and have good ideas.

Now you are ready to show the picture(s) to the members of the group. As you ask the
questions, make sure you show the picture to the participant(s) that you are directing
the questions to. You or someone in the group can be the eyes for visually impaired
participants. However, you will see that the discussion may take on a life of its own
where the picture may not even be needed. Think of the picture as a story starter.

Here is a link to a picture I used for a recent creative writing session.

You might begin with the question, “Do you like this picture?”

If the majority of the audience says, “No”, use a different one. It is important to have at
least two pictures available in case this happens.

Now that you have a picture most group members like, you want to ask a series of
questions about it.

As you ask the questions about the picture, note any remarkable responses. That is,
statements about the picture that will make the story interesting. Remember to assist
members of the audience with answers to questions by providing the help they may

For example, if they are having trouble deciding what season is shown in the picture,
talk about the seasons of the year, by asking them to name the seasons. If they are
having trouble, give them a choice of two. If there is still some confusion, say that the
baby and the lady are wearing swimsuits. Ask about the season that swimsuits are
worn in etc.

Understand that you can ask any question that you want to, which will help facilitate the

Click here for some sample questions:

You could print out a list of these or similar questions to help you in the note taking

You may have to give two choices for an answer to a question if you do not get any
response from an open ended question. An example to the question, “How is he
feeling”, might be: “Is he happy or sad?” If you still don’t get a response, then say, “I
think he is happy because he is smiling. Do you agree (say the participant’s name)?”
Then you might extend the thought by asking about the baby’s face. There is a good
chance a participant may say that the baby is smiling. You could ask what kind of smile
he has etc... You can include these facts in the story when you write it.

Emphasize that there are really no right or wrong answers to any of the questions. Tell
them that it is just what they think the answer is. Again stress that you know how smart
and creative everyone is.

Thus this is a good creative outlet for long term care residents even if they have

You may want to have the group members suggest an opening line to the story such
as: “Once upon a time”, “One sunny day”, “A few days ago” or whatever works.
After you have compiled all the answers to the questions, write a simple story about the
picture using all or some of the answers given.

Then, later on, show the picture and read the story perhaps noting some great remarks
of those that participated. Of course, be complimentary. You may want to post the story
or create a short story book. Sometimes I share ideas that were expressed in this
group to family members.

Click here to see a sample story

Click here to see sample notes I used to write the story
You probably will not include as many details.

Adorable Photographs of Our Baby, flash cards, are ideal for this activity

Click here to see the photograph that goes with the sample story, again.

As with any activity, a sure way to guarantee success is for you or the group leader to be
animated and excited about doing the activity. Praising the participants for their efforts is
key to a positive outcome as well.