Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Activities with adult clients

I have been trying to dream up things to do with my clients. I volunteer through Hospice, and work with a variety of people with different needs.

They range in attitude, ability, capability, needs, desires, and physiological issues. Of course, games, puzzles, journaling, memory albums, art, crafts, are all included in possible activities.

The trick is not to pressure the client into thinking that they are being tested, or must perform. They dread the nurses questions and tests.

I have written previously about using art, redirection, role play, there are so many choices in working with adults (with or without dementia). Using the teachings from my ECE degree, I have incorporated the principles into my work and play!
Key Experiences in temporal and spatial relations, in active learning, using your sense (water, clay, sand), classification, seriation, numeracy. You'll find many therapist incorporate water, sand and clay into their practices for a reason!

General Activities
All the rage, of course, are activities intended to increase brain performance. Clients see through these, 'Brain Games'. I know how they feel. I spent my life researching, reading a journal, or PD piece of information a week to help me in my career. I don't want to spend my golden years mired in more performances!

These activities can be used in Adult Day Away Programs, though. There are fun brain games, working on a crossword puzzle TOGETHER, or working on a large puzzle. Crossword can be given to a pair, to help one another out, or put on an overhead projector.

Do you remember how to reteach puzzle work? I do.
Love the chocolates! Bearly cute!
My granddaughter is of the age!

  • Put the box lid (with image) in front of you and your client!
  • Separate all the pieces with a straight edge, the 4 corners, and work on these first.
  • Group remaining pieces by colour.
  • Be a role model. Model your thinking: "Hmmm. I see that this pattern matches that one!"
  • Placing the correct pieces near to the right spot.
  • Make mistakes. Model how to correct them. Demonstrate that we are allowed to make mistakes.

Springbok creates puzzles for dementia patients. Large, 36-piece puzzles, with adult-oriented themes. It was a bit tricky to order them in from the US. ShoutOut for any Canadian retailer who can import them!

Pieces a wide as my foot.
Easy to grasp.
The guide is the client, and the task is to find rewarding activities you both enjoy or in which you have expertise.

Skip-bo, dice games, or card games may be as complex as a client wishes, or may be beyond some abilities. Trying to play bridge, or cribbage, with cognitive issues can be frustrating for a client.

Art Therapy with Seniors

Elke Scholz Expressive Arts
l have written previously about this. Suffice it to say that drawing, painting, creating memory boxes, drawing to music, finger painting, pudding painting, or using play-doh, are truly therapeutic tools. Memory boxes, using an old shoe box, and creating plasticene or play-doh figures, or cutting out figures, can represent that one moment in time. Use the Life Review for topic suggestions. Another good resources is a book, published by a friend, Elke Scholz, has been useful for me in working with children and adults of all persuasions. I was a volunteer in her Expressive Arts Therapy Bereavement classes for children, part of Hospice Muskoka.

Language Activities
Expressive Language

I used these cards when working with my Creative Writing group. The idea is to pick one or two, and create a story around the characters, or create a plot. The pictures can be cut from magazines, and should reflect the diversity of ethnic and religious backgrounds represented in our world. 
For those who are challenged in the area of writing, either through locomotor, physical disabilities, or dysgraphia, simply telling oral tales can be fun.

The other oral activity are 30 or 60 second topic talks. This is a technique I used with students on the rainy or snow days when we were indoors. 
The subject picks a word card, and speak on that topic for however long the group agrees upon.

 Written Language Activities

I love writing. One of the best therapies is to journal and document your story.  The use of autobiography has been a proven self-help tool. For some the actual, physical writing may be difficult. Sometimes having another person scribe is a wonderful activity for two. You can ask questions, clarify ideas, and truly understand him or her.
Life Review
For this reason support groups, with specific tasks are a great way to communicate with another. It provides language stimulation and support as you share your common stories.
A life review as a perfect task for a professional.

secret story prompts
Another delightful task is to write poetry. Now this is not as difficult to teach as you might think. Read up on Writing Poetry, where I have provided some poetry exercises on my other blog. Depending upon your clientele, writing a frame poem can be fun. (See Teaching poetry #2) I waxed and waned here, perhaps eloquently, about creating a poem. It's not so hard!
If you are working in a support group, and have enough facilitators, writing in pairs can be a good exercise. One prompt I put together a small bag of representative items: die, medal, whole walnut, tiny plant pot, small feather, marble, etc. and the person choose one item, or two, and has to put together a brief story about them. This could simply be done orally, as well!

Spiritual Activities

One of my favourite activities in many of the groups I have attended, include spiritual cards that are designed to make you think. The Rune Stones are one. A simple activity. I recall being at my yoga class in 1993, and choosing the rune for Power. Without going into details, it was just the Rune I needed to read! Rune Stones: are used as a system of divination, personal growth, decision making and communication. They are the magical alphabet of Central Europe, and may be familiar to some.

The Power Deck is another wonderful set of cards, with empowering, wisdom infused messages, as well as beautiful other world paintings. I happened to choose 'Innocence' when I took the photos!


Simply looking at a photo album with a client is a rewarding activity in most cases. You can help a client create a scrapbook, by incorporating meaningful photos, with some text. A perfect example, by my favourite writer who writes about writing, Natalie Goldberg (read her if you want to teach writing!), has put together her own paintings with her poetry.

this template
This is not as daunting as it looks. It need not rhyme, need not be poetry, but simply a commentary about the times.

When giving my elementary students the task to create a biography about their grandparents, they brainstormed and created this Mind Map. A web of questions, topics and subtopics can be generated from this! To find such a framework, go to: TeachersPayT, where I have a link for this template.

is important to many, essentially for those without hearing issues.
Room 217

The Room 217 CDs are great for those on palliative beds. They are for those gathered around a bed. My late father sang many hymns on his death bed. I took in a hymnary (I kept forgetting the words!) and sang him some.

If you play an instrument, the good old songs mean a lot and can be used for...

  • wellbeing
  • caregiving
  • therapeutic intervention
  • spritual enrichment
  • atmosphere
  • Alzheimer's and dementia care
  • end-of-life and after care.

As beneficial, are relaxation CDs, which provide some peace. Guided meditations are a good way to introduce relaxation. You can find some here and there, on-line.

Support Groups
In a support group, clients my tend to either dominate or remove themselves from the group discussions. The talking feather is something I depend upon. To begin the group, we each take the feather and speak on one issue to which only we have the answer.
"Tell me a time..."
"When and what was the best thing that ever happened to you?"
"What was the most peaceful place you visited?"

Another good prompt is the Life Review.

myths of old age
Mild dementia is difficult to deal with. Dementia clients may live in the past, perseverating on past emotional issues, trauma, and angst. They know what they do not know. They only knew social, mental or physical issues that kept them back from achieving their dreams. Keeping in the present may be difficult. 

Keeping it positive is possible, yet many of the people I work with come from unhappy homes, poverty, and have many psychosocial issues that sap their energy and present moment.
One thing I read recently, is to live in THEIR present moment. If they are happy soothing an imaginary baby, find one from a thrift shop, and allow them to provide it care. 

Puppets, while used with kids, are an amazing tool. Therapists have used them for years!
My kids in their youth loved Fraggle Rock, and they have introduced the grandkids to this show. I have found puppets from this TV show, and we use these for playtime. Anything that interested your clients, even finger puppets, provide some role play, from the history of your area, or their homeland, can be reflected in a visit. Go to the library and see what you can find. 

Our local library has lending kits for kids whose families who want to encourage reading at home. Local libraries have videos, audiotapes, magazines, picture books of people, places and things familiar to the client. 

No comments: