Trends in aging: Alzheimer's and Dementia Part 10: Amber Stage: Activities

By Wendy McHaney
March 7, 2014 at midnight
Updated March 6, 2014 at 9:07 p.m.

In my previous column, I discussed techniques in communicating with an amber, or someone who is in mid-stage to late dementia. This column highlights the importance of activities in the day-to-day life of an amber.

It is important to keep an amber busy throughout the day. Activities can provide a welcomed distraction from the stress of the illness and can help emphasize the positive and fun aspects of life.

It is important to have a balance of activities from the four different categories of activities: productive, leisure, self-care and restorative. Productive activities provide a sense of value and purpose and help Ambers feel like competent, skilled and valued and like members of the family.

An example of a productive activity is sorting flatware or helping dry dishes. An example of a leisure activity is doing a puzzle or helping with scrapbooking. Self-care and restorative activities can be as simple as regularly brushing teeth and rocking in a chair.

Ambers are prone to outbursts and behaviors that can be distressing and sometimes embarrassing. These behaviors are typically based on sensory preferences at the moment. Ambers tend to get into things because they are seeking sensory input.

It is best to identify ways to fulfill sensory needs so they will not be sought out at times or in ways that seem inappropriate. Also, at this stage going out may not be enjoyable anymore, and the experience may be causing more stress than amusement for the amber. Limiting outings to necessary appointments may be the best option.

Should the amber begin to act out, there are some strategies that can help the situation. First, calm yourself before attempting to calm down the amber. Be sure to use calming words and apologize even if you didn't do anything wrong.

This seems to go a long way in defusing an agitated amber. Take a step back and stop whatever you are doing, even if in the middle of a task, and try again later.

A very effective strategy to use with an amber to provide reassurance and support is hand-under-hand assistance. First, make eye contact, extend your right hand, palm facing left to give a handshake. Then, slide your right hand up keeping connected to the thumb and wrap your four other fingers around the base of the thumb and hold on.

My next column will discuss strategies for bathing at this stage of dementia.

Senior Helpers is presenting free workshops on Alzheimer's and dementia throughout the community. Call (361) 894-8901 for more information about these workshops. Previous columns on the stages of dementia, as well as other trends in aging, can be found on our website, Sources: SH Franchising Senior Gems trainingmaterials

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



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