How to Enjoy and Help the Alzheimer’s Victim You Love



I am an occupational therapist, specializing in developmental disabilities. I had never planned to work in the area of geriatrics. However, when my mother developed Alzheimer’s disease, I was thrust into the world of home care, Medicare, assisted living and nursing homes. Fortunately, as an occupational therapist, I had years of experience adapting environments and creating activities to promote functional skills and quality of life. I wrote Still Giving Kisses: A Guide to Enjoying and Helping the Alzheimer's Victim You Love to share how I helped my mother enjoy her life as best as possible, as she regressed through the stages.
I could not help but notice that many residents in my mom’s assisted living and later her nursing home had few visitors. I believe that common reasons include

  • Friends and loved ones are scared and confused about the person’s decline
  • Friends and family do not know how to relate to a person who may no longer speak or seem to recognize them.
  • And most sadly, friends and family think that the person has so little awareness that the visitor's presence is of no value.


Providing Social  Stimulation

During the early stages of the disease my mother enjoyed word and picture games, Bingo and simple gross motor activities at the residence. She loved when I took her out to the movies, a bagel and lox lunch or simply sat in the park. We even made brownies together!

I had to accept that mom was losing the ability to have a conversation. However, she still appreciated music, smelling the flowers and as shown in the photo above flirting! As my mom lost cognitive and motor skills, I simplified activities to be easier and meaningful. One of mom's favorite activities was reading or  hearing me read her special book.

Sarah's Special Book

This consisted of a binder filled with pages that  included

  • The story of where Sarah grew up in Chicago, her family,  moving to New York, meeting her husband and raising 2 daughters.  The pages were filled with  familiar family photos and simple sentences.
  • Photos of famous people such as Abraham Lincoln with an identifying caption.
  • Large print, bold song lyrics for us to sing together, she could sing alone and over time I could sing to my mom.
  • Adages and familiar slogans or jingles
  • Cultural words such as Yiddish.
  • Simple poetry or stories, rhyming was good!
  • Pictures of holiday or religious symbols

Of course, you should individualize the book for your loved one to provide the topics they enjoy most!


Providing Sensory Stimulation

As the disease progressed and mom lost the ability to speak-  she continued to love  hearing me read her book and sing her  songs. Sadly, she only got to enjoy fresh air when I took her outside.

Fresh air was one of mom's favorite sensory experiences as I pointed out birds and squirrels and we chatted with other families under patio umbrellas.

The following photos show some of the sensory items that mom liked to hold:

  • furry bags and other textured items
  • a vibrating cushion and toothbrush
  • a baby's toy water bag (nice deep pressure sensory stimulation) that felt good to wiggle on her lap.

Mom loved music so I set her up with a small CD player attached to her hat and headphones.

A Tip for Caregivers!

I noticed that few residents had visitors. It was comforting to  become friendly with a few of the other adult children and sometimes we sang songs together and I played piano. I don't play piano well but I sure had an appreciative audience (not the nurses). I also entertained myself by drawing pictures of mom.

Although its difficult to visit someone in a nursing home who is challenging to engage, I believe that my mom knew there was a visitor-  someone who loved her. The title of my book Still Giving Kisses reflects how even after my mom needed to be fed and became incontinent she puckered her lips for a kiss when she heard my voice.  Anybody can enjoy music, lotion, massage and sitting outside. My book is packed with strategies to help you engage with a loved one. You will look back years later, as I do now and feel proud that you did the best you could!

Still Giving Kisses: A Guide to Helping and Enjoying the Alzheimer's Victim You Love


Still giving Kisses sold on Paypal 

Leave a ReplyCancel reply