The most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease that damages the brain. It leads to memory loss and can cause other symptoms like anxiety and depression. While there is no cure for the disease and its effects are irreversible, there are several ways in which caregivers can engage with patients to promote social interaction, increase self-esteem and minimize activity and mood swings.
Art therapy is increasingly used as a means of treatment for Alzheimer’s patients. By encouraging them to be creative, caregivers provide a means of self-expression to people who may not otherwise be able to communicate or express themselves. Art therapy also alleviates depression and gives patients a sense of self-worth.
When it comes to crafts for Alzheimer’s patients, simplicity is the key. Choose projects that aren’t overly complex and can be broken down into simple steps. Not sure where to start? Check out these crafts for Alzheimer’s patients for some inspiration.
Paper flowers are easy to make, require only a few basic materials and can provide a lot of enjoyment for Alzheimer’s patients. For this project, the only supplies needed are glue, crepe paper, scissors and bamboo skewers. You will also need a piece of cardstock or construction paper to create templates.
Start by creating templates for the leaves and petals. You can make templates for specific types of flowers or just come up with generic designs. Have the patient wrap green crepe paper around a bamboo skewer and glue it in place. This will be the stem. Next, have them cut crepe paper in yellow (or another color) into thin strips. This will be the flower’s stamen. Have them use your templates to cut out flower petals and leaves. Assist the patient in wrapping the thin strips of crepe around one end of the “stem” and then glue in place and trim off the extra. Finally, help them glue petals and leaves onto the stem.
Once you work through this project a couple of times, many Alzheimer’s patients are able to continue on their own to create beautiful bouquets that they are proud to show off.
Embellished Greeting Cards
Helping patients make greeting cards is a great way to enable them to create something meaningful to share with their loved ones. This project can be adapted for people in all stages of the disease. People in the earlier stages may be capable of designing and embellishing cards all on their own. You may need to lend a bit more assistance, however, to patients who are in later stages.
Supply blank greeting cards or cardstock that has been scored and folded into a card. You should also provide a wide range of embellishments, including stickers, felt, ribbons, artificial flowers, etc. and glue. You can cut sayings out of old cards for them to use, or you can provide a book of verses that they can copy onto the cards themselves. You may also want to provide stamps saying things like “Happy Birthday” or “Thinking of You.”
Help the patient as needed but allow them to express their own creativity. Once they’ve finished making the cards, encourage them to write notes to their loved ones, if they are able to do so.
Making beaded jewelry is an excellent project for Alzheimer’s patients. They tend to enjoy handling the beads and exploring their various shapes, sizes and colors with their hands and eyes. This project is also rather soothing and can help keep anxiety at bay. Working with beads regularly can even help improve dexterity and reduce pain in the hands and fingers.
Simple beaded bracelets allow even patients with advanced Alzheimer’s disease to express their creativity without being overly complex. Provide a selection of beads in various sizes, shapes and colors. Plain nugget beads work well because they come in sizes that are large enough to be easy to handle even for people who have arthritis. It is generally best to avoid seed beads or stone chips that are difficult to work with as they are likely to cause frustration rather than alleviating it. For patients with late-stage Alzheimer’s, consider using a set of large, colorful lacing beads.
Patients string beads on a cord, tie it together and they’re finished. You may want to help with the tying part to ensure that the knot is secure and the jewelry won’t fall apart. If you have patients who would prefer not to make jewelry, they can use beads to create a bookmark instead. For this project, they simply need to string beads on a piece of string and tie each end.
While many Alzheimer’s patients lose the ability to draw as the disease progresses, most are still able to color. Adult coloring books have become increasingly popular in recent years, and they are available just about everywhere. Providing patients with some of these books along with colored pencils and fine-tip markers creates an opportunity for them to express their creativity without assistance.
Finished pictures can be cut out and hung up on the wall or even used to decorate the embellished cards mentioned above. You can also encourage your patients to give their finished
creations to loved ones who come to visit or display them in a “patient art gallery” at your facility. There are several ways to turn this simple project into something that makes your patients feel great!
Crafting with Alzheimer’s Patients
Crafting with Alzheimer’s patients is a great way to give them something to do while helping to alleviate feelings of stress and anxiety. Crafting also creates a sense of purpose and boosts self-esteem which can help reduce depression. Whether you choose one of the projects listed above or you come up with your own idea, working with Alzheimer’s patients on crafts is a very rewarding experience–both for them and for you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Brenda Kimble is a full-time caregiver at a senior living facility in Austin, TX. In her spare time, she enjoys writing and connecting with others in her field. Outside of work, Brenda loves doing yoga, completing new DIY projects around her home, as well as spending time with her husband and three children.