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Trends in aging: Alzheimer's and Dementia - Ruby Stage Part 2

By By Wendy McHaney
April 25, 2014 at midnight
Updated April 24, 2014 at 11:25 p.m.


In my previous column, I highlighted the characteristics of a ruby, or someone who is in mid- to late-stage dementia and how to communicate at this stage. In this column, I focus on the best activities for a ruby.

The loss of some fine motor skills, especially in the fingers, can make doing activities difficult; however, it is still important to make activities part of a ruby's day.

At this stage, activities should utilize gross motor skills or activities that use the whole hand and not just the fingers. Some examples of activities for a ruby include clapping, singing, wiping, dancing, rubbing, folding, pushing and stirring.

It is often helpful to incorporate tasks that a ruby used to enjoy doing in their daily life, such as allowing a ruby to assist with baking simple recipes with the understanding that the focus is on the activity and not the product. Also remember that although the activities are becoming more childlike, it is important the ruby always be treated and talked to like an adult.

Transitions between activities - like up or down, starting or stopping - need to be considered when planning activities for a ruby since transitions are activities themselves and need time. Use visual, verbal and touch cues to engage and get the ruby interested in the transition.

Because rubies experience a loss of fine motor skills in their feet and have monocular vision, fall risks are a factor. Walk with a ruby while moving from one place to another and help guide them when they are getting up or down.

Because the right side of the brain, which controls rhythm and music, is preserved throughout this disease, music can be a great activity for a ruby. When used appropriately, music can help shift mood, manage stress levels and help stimulate positive interactions.

Play or sing songs that provoke happy memories, particularly from the ruby's young adult years, which they will remember best since long-term memory is still intact. Unfamiliar songs can be beneficial, too, since they won't trigger emotions and can be helpful in managing stress and promoting relaxation.

My next column will focus on safety and environmental concerns for rubies.

Senior Helpers is presenting free workshops and support groups at Copperfield Village, 501 E. Larkspur Drive, from 10:15 to 11:15 a.m. every other Thursday. Call 361-894-8901 for more information. Previous columns on the stages of dementia, as well as other trends in aging, can be found on our website, seniorhelpers.com/victoria.

Sources: SH Franchising Senior Gems training materials

Wendy McHaney is a certified senior adviser and the owner and director of operations of Senior Helpers. For more information about Senior Helpers, visit seniorhelpers.com/victoria

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