Susan Berg's Activity Ideas Galore
By Susan Berg, CDP, AD,  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
Cards of Fortune

January is loaded with events and special days that lend themselves to activities.
Because the first “Wheel of Fortune” aired in January of 1975, it is a good time to play a
game, which bares some resemblance, to this show, with those who have Alzheimer’s
disease, related dementias, and with other long term care residents

I call my game “Cards of Fortune”. The reason I do is because I do not have a wheel to
use for the game. I decided that creating cards was much easier. Thus before I started
the game I armed myself with different categories of trivia question with varying degrees
of difficulty.

I also made cards with different denominations of money written on them from $100 to
$2000. I thought I would have about 20 participants. You can make cards with any
amount of money written on them.

For higher functioning residents you can also include a blank card, a card that says,
“Bankrupt”, one that says, ”Double Your Money”,   and one that says, “Lose a turn”. Of
course, you can add any saying on a card that you want.

I do not include these with lower functioning residents because I want the game to be
success oriented and failure free.

I also include a card that says, “You have won a special prize”. The prize can be
whatever you want.

You can give the prize if this person answers his/her question correctly or just give it to
him or her regardless of her/his answer. Of course, plenty of clapping and cheering
when someone picks this card.

Give each person a turn to pick a card and answer a trivia question,complete a popular
phrase, or whatever problem you want the “contestant” to solve.
Should you have a winner?

You do not need to have a winner. Just cheer for every participant. Make each person
feel special and glad he is part of the activity.

Here is how to adapt and modify the game, “Cards of Fortune”, for different groups of

Let’s start with a mostly low functioning group. Picking a card is important for them as
well as holding the card with the amount of money written on it. Make sure you ask easy
trivia questions. If they do not know the answer, allow anyone in the group to yell it out.
Then you repeat the correct answer and ask if they agree. If they are non-verbal, you can
say you know what they are thinking by the smile on their face. Perhaps the participant
can nod. Encourage him and applaud anything positive that he does.

Maybe, just having him pick a card and you ask and answer the question. Maybe the
question can be”Can you sing this song with us”. Then sing a song you know he enjoys.
Maybe their question can be,”Can you move your arms back and forth with me?” Hold
the person’s hands and move them back and forth, if necessary.

Here is how to adapt and modify the game for higher functioning participants.
  • Ask harder questions
  • Ask a series of three or four questions. In order to keep their card, they have to
    answer all the questions correctly.
  • Have each person have at least two turns before you determine the winner of the
    round. Make them add up their total winnings. Have them determine who the
    winner of the round is. Have more bonus cards. Some which say that your
    earnings have been tripled.
  • Here is how to use this activity with a group which has both high and low
    functioning individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, related dementias and with
    other long term care residents.

It is almost like you are doing a 1:1 activity within in a group. You know the skill level,
history, strengths, and weakness of each person in the group. So ask questions
accordingly. You can use the higher level folks with dementia as helpers or group
assistant leaders. They can help you to get everyone involved and this makes these
higher functioning dementia persons feel good.

“Jobs” you can have higher functioning dementia participant do.

If they are physically able, they can help make the cards to be used during the game. If
they are ambulatory, they can help pass out or collect the cards during and after the
game. They can figure out how much money everyone has earned after each and
multiple rounds.  They can lead songs during the game. It is always a good idea to
interject some music during most activities. Actually you can have almost anyone lead a
song. That is sure to bring a smile to everyone’s face

They can help someone who is having trouble figuring out an answer.
Everyone can cheer their fellow participants on.

I am sure if you think about it, there are plenty of “jobs” for higher functioning
participants, especially if you know their strengths and weaknesses as well as their
likes and dislikes.

I know you and your residents will enjoy this game. Why not give it a spin this January or