Filling the Unscheduled Time in Alzheimer’s Caregiving

by Michelle Seitzer

Alzheimer’s was a hot topic in September, with the debut of #TalkAlz – a brand new chat we’re excited to be a part of, World Alzheimer’s Month, Alzheimer’s Action Day, World Alzheimer’s Day, thousands of Alzheimer’s Association-sponsored “Walk to End Alzheimer’s” events occurring nationwide, new research updates on connections between diabetes and dementia, and so much more.

And — a new book is out: Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias: The Caregiver’s Complete Survival GuideAuthor Nataly Rubinstein, a geriatric care manager and licensed clinical social worker, shares from her 26 years of personal and professional experience (she cared for her mother, who had dementia, for 16 years), offering advice on combating what she calls the ‘Let me do it for you, Honey’ syndrome (the technical term: premature dependency).

If you are or have been a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s, you probably know what she means. Even the most well-informed caregiver is guilty of it at times. Rubinstein’s book focuses on ways to keep your loved one engaged in daily activities to fill what she calls “all the unscheduled time in between”, that challenging chunk of time that fits around the doctors’ appointments, daily tasks (bathing, dressing, meal preparation, etc.), and waking/sleeping.

Says Rubinstein, “The most important thing to remember is to keep things simple, fun, and enjoyable—activities that are too challenging can lead to frustration and avoidance.”

To that end, she offers 23 simple, affordable activities to fill that 36-hour day that Alzheimer’s care giving can feel like; a few are highlighted here:

  1. Start an herb garden. You can plant seeds in paper cups, then water your plants and watch them grow. (You and your loved one might even end up with some tasty new ingredients!)
  2. Clip and organize coupons. Some people have made a very lucrative hobby out of doing this—you can share them with friends and family.
  3. Download menus from your favorite restaurants (or pick them up). Ask your loved one to choose a meal—include an appetizer, entrée, dessert, and drink!—and then add up the cost.
  4. Go to a travel agency and pick up some brochures (or download them from the Internet). Look through them with your loved one and plan a “trip” that he would enjoy.
  5. Cut pictures off the front of used greeting cards and paste them in an album. (This is an especially good activity for the winter holidays or around birthdays!) You can frame them, too.

Discontinue an activity if the individual seems agitated or bored, and never bully them into participating. As per Rubinstein, “Helping your loved one to stay happy and busy should not be about power struggles.”

Also, choose activities based on your care recipient’s interests, personality, and past hobbies. This should be a no-brainer, but many people overlook this simple concept, trying to “sell” the individual on an idea that they think is fantastic. You may think clipping and organizing coupons sounds great (and would be oh so helpful), but if your Dad never cared a hoot about shopping, don’t do it. Keep the focus on your loved one, not yourself, and you’ll have much greater success.


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Filed under adult children of aging parents, Alzheimer's Disease, anxiety and the elderly, assessments, care giving, care planning, caregiving, clinical trial studies, dementia

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