Activities for the Elderly Parent with Behavior Issues

Providing care and activities for the elderly parent isn't always easy, especially when that parent

is suffering from some sort of dementia or Alzheimer's (or any condition that causes deterioration of mental function).

Learning how to identify behavior issues, understanding them and dealing with them in a calm, soothing manner will help to prevent or diffuse escalating behaviors that can affect not only the individual, but also the entire family support system.

The first thing to realize, for any caregiver or family member of an elderly parent who has been diagnosed with any form of dementia, is that the person suffering from the disorder is not deliberately trying to make your life miserable. Engaging such individuals may seem like an insurmountable chore, and one that nearly always ends in frustration, but it doesn't have to.

First, let's explore some of the underlying causes of behavior issues when it comes to activities for the elderly and group efforts.

What Behavior Issues are your Elderly Parents Experiencing? Read What Others are Saying and Leave Your Own Comments.

Identifying a Behavior Issue

What are behavior issues?

Here are a few:

  • Disruptive behavior (shouting, crying, scratching, hitting, etc.)
  • Roaming/Wandering
  • Aggression
  • Combativeness
In Home Caregiver with Elderly Woman

Three key factors will help a caregiver identify a behavioral issue:

  • Can you see the behavior?
  • Can you rate or 'measure' the behavior (i.e. mild, moderate, severe)
  • Can others see the behavior?

Remember also that every behavior has a cause; that means something exists or happened to set the behavior in motion. To put it simply, the wrong button was pushed.

What Behavior Issues are you seeing with Mom and Dad? Click here to see what others are saying and to share your experience.

Here are some ways to help a caregiver find out what such buttons or triggers are: In order to prevent that behavior from happening again, some caregivers will need to learn and identify which 'buttons' or 'triggers' tend to set an elderly parent off.

  • Who was around when the behavior occurred?
  • What happened just before the behavior occurred?
  • Was the behavior caused by a task that proved too difficult?

The best way to deal with behavior issues is to adapt. Caregivers need to be constantly aware of the signals his or her elderly parent is giving off and be able to adapt, distract or steer the parent away from situations that may provoke behavior issues.

Choosing Activities for Those Elderly Parents Diagnosed with Dementia

It is especially important to engage our parents in social or elderly group functions as much as possible, even if he or she is suffering from some form of dementia. Remember that there are many different forms and stages of dementia, so you will more than likely have to adapt to various capabilities and factors such as:

  • Attention spans
  • Ability to stay on task for a given amount of time
  • Willingness to participate

When choosing for your elderly parent, consider focusing on issues that stimulate each of the five senses. Choose something that you know your parent enjoyed in the past. This could be gardening, painting, music, or game playing.

Elderly Activities - Crafts and Games

Here are a few more things to remember:

 Use skills your parent still has

  • Keep activities short
  • Try to engage communication skills - talk to your elderly parent
  • Try to facilitate motor skills

An idea might be anything from allowing your parent to help fold the laundry (no matter if you have to do it over again!) or encouraging them to paint.

Elderly Woman in Garden with Flowers

Recreational ideas for the elderly parent might also involve outings to the park, the zoo or to pick fruit in a nearby orchard or visiting other friends and family members.

Going anywhere with your parent is important and helps him or her to stay in touch with the outside world. Try not to isolate your parent. Watch him or her carefully for signs that he or she is growing over-stimulated and then distract or guide him or her to something else or allow them to rest in a quiet area.

Elderly activities such as flower arranging or stringing beads or creating holiday cards may keep your elderly parent engaged and occupied for hours, while others will want to skip from one project to another every few minutes. These types of elderly projects help maintain small motor skills and eye-hand coordination so encourage them as much as possible.

Elderly Music for the Soul

Even though a parent may be suffering from Alzheimer's or another form of dementia, music has a way of soothing the troubled spirit. If your father was especially fond of Glen Miller, play some Glen Miller for him on a CD player in his room. If your mother was smitten with Frank Sinatra, by all means, play Frank for her. Elderly music such as these examples can help!

Taking special care to supply an aging parent with such items like elderly music may also be used to help distract or diffuse behavior issues.

Studies have shown that many elders suffering from various stages of dementia showed a decrease in behaviors when exposed to music, television programs or movies that were popular and well loved when they were younger.

Remember: identifying 'buttons' or 'triggers' and adapting the environment or situation will help you keep your elderly parent engaged and focused that will help stimulate and enhance quality of life.

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