Elderly patients and loved ones, even those suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia, are in need of stimulation just like their younger counterparts. On the other hand, too much stimulation can be confusing and stressful, so a daily routine should include some activities but also allow for lots of downtime.

The simplest way to spark your patient’s or loved one’s interest is to choose an activity which he or she enjoyed before becoming ill. Of course, you need to tailor the activity to the person’s current level of ability, otherwise he will become frustrated. A man who used to collect stamps might enjoy flipping through his old albums and commenting on the stamps in it. A woman who used to knit but is no longer able to might still enjoy a trip to the yarn store to advise you on what yarn to purchase for a new sweater.

Time spent outdoors is both therapeutic and physically healthy. Taking a walk or even just sitting outdoors in a wheelchair can boost an elderly person’s mood. If possible, choose a spot where there are lots of people walking by so there’s plenty of action to watch. Talking about the people and things you see can distract them from the physical exertion and encourage them to exercise.

It’s important that elderly people stimulate all their senses. Rotate activities which trigger different senses. Consider including pastimes such as dance, music, art, gardening or playing with pets. It can be a lot of work to keep thinking up new ideas but senior centers offer many of these activities. Another advantage of going to a senior center is that the elderly person can benefit from socializing while engaging in the various activities. Some senior centers cater specifically to the disabled or to dementia patients, so choose one that is geared toward your patient/loved one.

Whether or not you take them to a senior center, visitors at home are an important stimulant. Tell people to come at a time at which the senior is best able to handle them. Visits should be kept brief if necessary, and if the patient has memory issues, a family album or favorite old book can jump start the conversation. If possible, attendance at important family events can be enjoyable for both the senior and his or her family. There should always be an option to leave early if the person becomes agitated or is not enjoying himself.

The elderly should be able to enjoy various activities, social encounters and family visits within the limits of their physical and emotional states. A daily routine which incorporates stimulants allows them to enjoy their lives to the fullest even when their health begins to fail.