In the case of my mother, she spends between 10-12 hours alone each day. She spends most of that time watching old DVDs of Roy Rogers, Frank Sinatra, Clint Eastwood, Doris Day … you get the picture. She watches these movies on an old computer. For whatever reason, she will not use a TV or DVD player. It may have something to do with the TV being dad’s domain or it may just be staying what she is used to working. I even set up a TV with a 5-button controller. One button to turn on and off and one button for each of 4 channels she would enjoy. No interest.
One strong motivator for my mother is to feel she has contributed or accomplished something. To that end, we have added additional activities. One is jigsaw puzzles. We rotate several 25-piece puzzles. These are puzzles that she can work on her own. One good thing about memory loss is that in a week or two, she will have completely forgotten a puzzle she previously worked. We provide her a large white surface to work the puzzles that are portable. On another large white surface, we have more complex puzzles that visitors and I work with her. With her hearing being very limited and no desire to wear hearing aids, conversations are a challenge (especially in restaurants). Working puzzles with her provides companionship and helps prevent loneliness.
Another advantage for working puzzles is that she gets a sense of accomplishment. The challenge is to give her a puzzle that she can work that takes more than a few minutes. We have found that puzzles that are thick work better because the pieces fit better and won’t come apart.
Something one of the ladies in the neighborhood suggested was coloring. There are large posters, books, and little images with motivational words that are fun to color. We use special water based coloring pens. Once again, there are simpler versions that mom can do by herself. One particular type is a small little sign that hangs on a door knob and has black felt outlining motivational words. She enjoys doing these because the felt keeps her in the lines and she can give them as gifts. Of course the recipients make a big deal of her talent and she feels wonderful.
The larger, more complex books and posters are better suited to working together with someone similar to the jigsaw puzzles.
Mom likes to brag how she keeps her place clean and takes care of herself. We let her believe this is the case and praise her for how well she keeps up the house. In reality, she is no longer able to cook, wash clothes or do any serious cleaning. We do have a lightweight vacuum that she will get out periodically and run over the kitchen floor and she will wash her own dishes. She washes by hand because she does not know how to run the dishwasher.
When I cut her lawn and trim, she will go out with a broom and sweep up and I will follow with a blower. Someone made the mistake one time of suggesting she cut off old dead rose blooms and wouldn’t you know that that is one memory she retained. Now she goes out and cuts off the fresh blooms :).
Main thing is to find things for her to do that she is capable of doing, that are safe, and that provide her with a sense of accomplishment.
Sometimes it is best to just get out of the house. I take her once a week to the beauty shop to get her hair done and take her to dinner a couple times a week. Others do the same on occasion. One of her favorite “get out of the house” activities is to go on a golf cart ride. We live in a neighborhood that permits golf carts on the roads. We drive around and visit with the neighbors, talk, and just look at scenery.
Other times we will drive her to the senior center for lunch and to visit with her peers but that is not one of her favorite things to do. I think she is self-conscious about her memory and hearing so she prefers not to be around strangers; although unfortunately, we are all becoming strangers!