Tidbits – Memory Enhanced Activities

Creating Moments of JoyFamily MomentsEnhanced ActivitiesEnhanced DiningCreating Moments of JoyCreating Moments of Joy

Enhanced ActivitiesThe following are many wonderful tidbits I receive from families and caregivers. If you have found a "nugget" please email me and I will pass it on. Thank you to all who spread the joy!

I am a Cena. My work place started a new program about a year ago, where we have someone that sits, visits and entertains our Dementia and Alzheimer’s Residents. We have an activities staff, but this is not the same. There are no calendars of events etc. Just what ever the resident may like at that moment. Sometimes I may have 15 residents or more, and sometimes I may have one. They usually all love it because we give them lots of attention. I fall in love with every resident we have and their families. The hardest part for me is watching the loved one that put them in there. Example: We have a resident whose has been happily married for 64 years, Her husband could not care for her at home anymore, he comes and sees her daily, and at first would leave everyday crying because he had to leave her with us. I told him its so much harder on him than it is on her, she loves him dearly but after he leaves we love on her for him. I tell him about the activities she was doing before he came in that day, because I know she will not be able to answer if he were to ask her. I also tell families things the residents may have talked about, I asked them about names they mention etc, that way the know I care and am interested in their loved one.

I also found most of our residents love playing ball, and not just kick ball, I started asking family members to join us, it started out with one ladies two sons, We bounce the ball back and forth to each other in no particular order. Its simple but its fun times with family members, now several family members join in on the fun. I have seen friendships start with people who otherwise would have never known each other, Its almost like a support group but in a different way. They start bonding with the others families loved ones also, even to the point if they bring a treat in for their loved one, they bring treats for everyone.

I started doing this next one on my own. Instead of the normal snacks that’s being passed at certain times, ( cookies , chips) I get a loaf of bread and the individual cups of Peanut Butter and Jelly, I know their diets so its easy for me to do this, and I get plastic knives and let them make their own Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches, it usually takes about 10 or 15 minutes for them to make them, but they enjoy it so much, and no matter how far along their disease is, most can do it. And when they finally get to eat them, they act like they are eating the best thing ever, making comments like MMmm this is so good, You would think it was steak! And they are so proud!

I can honestly say I Love my job, I learn from the residents everyday.

Linda Klimek
Long term care-Marlette Regional Hospital , Marlette Mich.

One day I asked a group of ladies if they would mind helping me make cream cheese mints for my sister’s wedding. I explained that there was no way I could make them all myself. They had varying degrees of function, some could do the whole mint, some could only roll balls in sugar, but we sat around the table laughing and joking at the made up stories I told about my sister and her fiance’s courtship. (In reality I don’t have a sister, but my mom has eight, so it wasn’t difficult.) It seems everyone had a silly story to contribute and were happy to be helping someone else for once, instead of just being on the receiving end of assistance. The next day we had an afternoon tea scheduled with residents and families, we ate the mints that were leftover from the “wedding” and used those little glass coffee and cake sets that were a popular wedding gift in the 40s and 50s. The morning of the tea, we made punch, a jello mold, and a couple of my grandmother’s favorite cookie recipes. We did tint the mints in different pastels so we knew who made what, nurses and higher functioning wore gloves and if someone’s hand hygiene were in question, we just threw out that color. My mother came in the day of the mints, she is very young looking, and played the role of my sister. Some of the residents admonished my mother for giving me a hard time (in jest). I had created a few moments of joy that day, both for myself, the residents, and even the CNAs that had nothing to do as there weren’t any behaviors. It is funny how men go to sleep when women are packed into the kitchen.
Julianne
Galesburg, Illinois

Dear Jolene,
    Your book has been the center of our caregiving group and has helped us all in so many ways.
    I thought I’d mention my dad’s goodie drawer (his term, but very endearing to me). I got the idea from your video and your chapter on “Saturate their Obsessions”. My dad was an engineer in his younger years as well as a superior home-handyman. At the nursing home, he would play with his shoelaces non-stop at times – and it was then that I thought – of course – he needs to fiddle with stuff!!
    It was a powerful moment when I walked around the house and assembled my old toys, his tools and other miscellaneous items for him to tinker with at the nursing facility. I thought it was such a loving gift assembling these items for him. I put these items in his nightstand drawer and showed it to him. From that moment on, he would head to his ‘goodie drawer’ after breakfast every morning and inspect/play/tinker with the items (actually after each meal). Periodically more items would get added and it was such a beautiful thing to see him happily fiddling away.
    Items in his drawer: mom’s plastic snap curlers, his calculator, compass, coin counter, change purse, a nut and screw combination (he didn’t have a problem with putting things in his mouth), combination lock, tape measure, slide rule, his name plate from his door when he was an engineer, puzzle bead games, a flashlight, urine specimen jars that he could screw/unscrew, a syringe (he loved taking the plunger in and out), ziplock bags to put stuff in and play with the top zip. Endless fun!
    Another idea that worked really well was our excursions. I would take him in his wheelchair to Home Depot and he would enjoy looking at stuff. Sometimes I would pick up a hammer or other tool and ask him to tell me about when he used it or what he used it for. Home Depot had different automated displays that we would play with (lighting dimmers, garbage disposal motor sound comparisons, etc – anything with buttons to push). We would also go to Petco and watch the dogs get a furcut/shave. These were fun outings for us – all inspired by your ‘creating moments of joy’ philosophy.
    So, I wanted to profoundly thank you for providing me a new way of caring for, accepting and being with my father. Your ideas truly brought both my dad and me joy as I walked with him to his new life. It turned out to be a beautiful experience that I wouldn’t change for the world.
    Take care, and again, thanks for helping bring so much joy to my family.
Carolyn S. Silver Spring, Maryland

We have a person in our dementia unit that walks constantly and never says anything. Several weeks ago a nurse was hired for the unit and she had cared for this resident at another facility. This nurse asked me one day if I knew that Joanne used to sing, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Of course we did not know this. One day, I walked up to Joanne and started to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” The immediate recognition on Joanne’s face was obvious. She started moving her lips as if trying to sing. How exciting it was for the staff to watch her. I have asked that staff sing that song to her and her son is going to record the song for the staff to play for her.
Sharon Mayo

Get out a map of where they grew up. Seeing the map will trigger memories about the places they have lived.
Caregiver in New Jersey

Send children on a treasure hunt around the neighborhood with a list of items for specific memory boxes, fishing, sewing etc. Let the people know they are being made for a local nursing home/ assisted living.
Annette in
Iowa

I am a 22 year old caregiver in an Alzheimer’s unit in Burlington, Iowa, but I look A LOT younger. If my day at work gets a little hectic, I just put my hair up in pigtails and tell them all about my day in school. When I am asked “Can you take me home?” I just say, “Oh, my dad won’t let me drive after dark” or “I got grounded.” Sometimes they ask why but usually forget they want to leave. If they still want to go, I ask, “Can you help me with my homework?” This usually means my “purse” on workdays is a book bag, but it makes their world more real.
Katy in Iowa

Make bread pudding



  1. Residents tear up bread in pieces. Use approximately 8-10 cups of bread.

  2. 8cups of milk- enough to soak bread really good
    4-6 eggs blended
    1 cup of white and brown sugar
    1 tbsp. of vanilla
    2 tsp. cinnamon
    ½ tsp. salt



  1. Mix all together. Bake in 9 by 13 pans, 2 in. deep.

  2. Bake at 350. 45-60 min. Stick knife in when it comes out clean it’s done.

  3. Serve with whipped cream or caramel sauce on top for next meal. (I save left over bread in plastic bags and mark with the date.

We also make a lot of collages using a theme like gardens, fall, summer, winter, food etc. Simple and they love it.
Jennifer Mundt

A song a gentleman with dementia taught this male caregiver which created connection instantly with many men who served our country “You’re in the army now, Not behind a plow, You will never be rich by digging a ditch, You’re in the army now.”
Terry Roberts

New Hope, Minnesota

Target donated a Wii to a dementia community. Other residents and staff cheered and clapped as people with dementia took turns bowling.
Kelly
Morse, Montana