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I try to tap into what I know she enjoyed. Her ALF has a garden area. Almost every visit, I wheel her out into the garden and we discuss the flowers. She was an avid gardener. She also loved to cook. I have even shared her old cookbook with her. It has all of her old notes and even some old thumb prints from what she was cooking at the time. She loves the ball activity. I have taken a small light weight ball and we have tossed it around. It is good activity for her. I wish she liked to read, sew, knit etc but she does not, I have to just be creative. I guess if there is any good news, she forgets from one day to the next, so each day seems new to her. She loves to fold towels so I take a basket each visit and leave them for her. She folds them meticulously. I have found that she is a little obsessive about getting the edges of the towel folds perfect so it takes her some time to fold them for me. Paint her nails, trim and paint her toe nails, cut her hair…I have tried just about everything to keep the visits enjoyable for both of us.
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When my mother was in the condition you describe the “visits” were simple but meaningful to both of us. We didn’t “talk.”
Though she didn’t know who I was, she somehow knew I was someone who was important in her life. We kissed and hugged and conversation consisted of expressions of love. I’ll always treasure those times.
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Isabelsdaughter Aug 5, 2022
Same with my Mom, she would squeeze my hand every now and then, but she was quiet mostly. I would sit and talk quietly to her about things in the past and my childhood and what a good mother she was.
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I agree with Fawnby about using tv as springboard. For mom I never plan anything as it always ends up feeling forced. Unexpectedly mom has taken to watching sports on TV--something she rarely did before. So watching a ballgame together is perfect. It seems she enjoys the rhythm of the game, the bright colors of the uniforms, and the crowds. Now and then she'll wonder aloud if that player is related to someone she knew from high school because they have same last name. I keep her yearbook handy and we find the classmate. Mom never knows the score or even realizes the game is over. This is convenient for me as I can end the game whenever she gets tired or I need to leave. Sometimes just being in the same place at same time is enough. We don't need lots of conversation or activity.
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97yroldmom Jul 31, 2022
My DH aunt has an aide I know personally. She sent a text last week saying she walked into aunts room and aunt was singing “Take me out to the ballgame” with her roommate.
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I read DH aunts mail to her. She is 95, with dementia. Bedfast.
We keep cards she has received in her nightstand and we reread them. She doesn’t remember them from the previous time and I am always as happy as she if she has a new one. Some are filled with news and we talk about the sender.
Sometimes I call family members with her who are always happy to get a short call.
She knows some or plays along, others not so much but it passes a few pleasant minutes, reminds them she is still here and we thank the ones who have sent cards.
She likes listening to YouTube videos of old favorite performers.
I usually bring flowers or a pot plant, her fresh laundry and any supplies she needs. She enjoys watching me fuss with all these things when I put them away. She always thanks me. She enjoys being cared for. I usually visit on Thursdays but she doesn’t remember how often I’m there.
Oh and I bring a favorite snack. Right now it is watermelon.
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Kristen2037 Aug 5, 2022
These are wonderful ideas! Your aunt is lucky to have you.
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Msblcb-I'd suggest putting together a "look book". This is something interior designers use. They tear images from decorating magazines and put them into a folder. It is very helpful for clients when they're not sure the kind of look they want for their house/living space. I'd do the same using gardening magazines for your Mom-so many of them are lovely and very inspiring to look at. It seems she may have lost her capacity to read much and pictures are worth a thousand words. Maybe when you bring a garden look book/folder, bring in a nice bouquet of flowers or a small plant-either could be made of silk and never need watering!
Few years ago showed my husband (pre dementia diagnosis) my look book, he really enjoyed it. I'll be trying that again in a few months.
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Msblcb Jul 30, 2022
Great idea!!!
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So many good ideas, but some of them require planning ahead and bringing materials. Why not just sit with her and watch tv, using it as a springboard for discussion. “I really like that dress she’s wearing,” or “Those mountains remind me of the time we all went to Colorado.” Let her talk about what you’re watching. They like simple programs. I Love Lucy or Andy Griffin or Happy Days or Elvis musicals.
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Beatty Aug 1, 2022
Part of a Covid role ended up being social support for people relocated without family allowed to visit. I used TV like that.

I tried to find a channel aligned with their interest if possible. Cooking or gardening was popular for some homemaker ladies. Sport for others. One lady had been a model & loved the glam & fashions (skimpier the better) on reality TV 😂
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You've received some great ideas from the posters below, but I will just add that you can never go wrong with bringing/playing some type of music that your mother enjoyed from her past.
It's been my experience that because music comes from a different part of the brain, that even those folks who have trouble speaking and with any of the dementias, can still sing along to music from their past. It's quite beautiful to witness, and might even bring a tear to your eye as it has mine many times.
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Malanna Aug 5, 2022
So true! Music can do wonders. My sister has been bedridden since January of this year. We sold her house and in the clearing of the house I found a certified letter my sister sent to herself back in the 1960’s. In it was the words and music of two songs she wrote. I made copies and sent them to our nephews who both are into all music and ask if they could do a recording for her. They did! She recognized the music and remembered the words. We played that for her over and over. I had the sheet music framed and it is in her line of vision in the MC. Her hospice has a music therapist who visits Peg and saw the music and asked permission to put her “spin” on the sheet music. She did, and it was a beautiful rendition! There were days when Peg would be sleeping 22 of the 24 hours. Not moving at all. Megan, the music therapist would come and play Peggy’s music. Peggy’s feet would keep time with the music. Music put Peg’s feet in motion and brought smiles and tears from us.
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Family pictures from the old days? Sometimes those memories are more fresh than the present time. Hopefully, they will stir up some conversational material.
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- Bring colorful pipe cleaners with you, spread them out on a table and start fiddling with them mindlessly. She can just watch or join in. No pressure.
- Learn how to make balloon animals. While your talking about other things start making a dog or a funny crown. Make one for everybody.
- Bring two coloring books and large crayons. Don't suggest working on it, place one open for her and start coloring in yours. Try to color things not as they should be.
- Bring a marble or bead maze.
- Find stuff at a party store, or the children's section of a bookstore. Or go to the children's section of the library and ask the librarian of that section if they have children's summer activity suggestions.
- Go to an old time hardware store and get wooden clothes pins. Dump a box full of colorful small fuzzy balls (from a craft store) on to a table and ask her to help you try to pick them up with the clothes pins and place them back in the box. If she just wants to do it by hand, who cares, If she'd rather connect the clothes pins to each other, praise the initiative. Don't be upset if anything you bring winds up with other people. Expect it.
- Sing while you do stuff.
- Bring curlers. Put them in your hair and hers. Let her attach them to each other with huge bobby pins.
- Get golf ball sized wiffle balls, big plastic threadable needles, wool or thick yarn and sew through the holes separately or connect together. Maybe a crocheting needle may be better to catch and pull yarn.
- Make or get a little tray size platform, glue little 3" figures to magnets and make them move with another magnet under the platform.
- Get hand puppets. Practice voices for different characters before hand.
- Give her a pedicure, if you can.
- Get old magazines, poster paper and make cut out collages with washable glue. Hang her creation in her room.
- Loosely knot up a bunch of shoe laces, or cuddly fluffy yarn of different types and ask her to help you straighten it out.
- If there is no chance that she might swallow one ask friends, family and neighbors to donate old big buttons. Get washable glue and a thin board and help her do some art. Maybe you can save part of wrappers from canned goods, soap and or bring a chocolate bar and stick that wrapper too.
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I had the same problem when my mom was barley cognoscente with dementia. I used to ask her a lot of crazy questions because she couldn't answer ordinary questions. I would say "mom, would you like to go horseback riding?" or "do you want me to poor a bucket of water on you?" It would get her attention. I often ended up reading things to her. The book of Proverbs from the Bible is pretty good to read. It has a lot of short paragraphs of wisdom. I would also try to talk about memories from when we were growing up
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Endure Aug 5, 2022
Hello, I just wanted to say to you” you had the right ideas in relating to your mother.” You went with the flow of her current life! So often we want them how they were and struggle trying to get them back there. But, when we let that go and use a different technique the flow is relevant and can ease their spirit ( even if our hearts are breaking). Like I’ve said before sometimes they may be cognizant and other times they’re wayyy left field lol…but we Savor every second and live in the “now” moments with them! My mom was a smoker but after the dementia set in I had to remove all cigarettes and matches because of the carelessness.. she then would find pencils and yep, she’d light it on the stove😅. several times I too would sit with her with a pencil in my hand and jokingly say hmm mommy this cigarette is really weak we may have to change brands! ☺️
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