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Suggestions for at-home activities that stimulate brain activity

As the coronavirus outbreak forces many families to stay confined at home, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America [AFA] suggests participating in some simple therapeutic activities to help stimulate brain function. 

“Stimulating the brain is beneficial both for individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers.  Staying active and engaged can help improve mood, reduce stress and avoid caregiver burnout, and it’s even more important at a time when people are staying indoors for prolonged periods,” said Charles J. Fuschillo Jr., AFA’s president and CEO.  “There are many fun activities caregivers can do with their loved ones to help exercise their minds together, using things they already have at home.” 

Reminiscence:  These activities help with memory recall and have been found to improve overall quality of life, reduce stress and offer a new way to connect and communicate with others. These activities also can provide comfort and joy to be involved in a reflection of the past.  This form of therapy can also improve sleep quality, mental alertness and mood. Activities include:

  • Reminiscing with family picture albums
  • Listening to music your loved one enjoys
  • Dancing to favorite songs

Tactile stimulation: Tactile sensory stimulation involves the sensation of touch and texture. Various textures, sizes and shapes like smooth, rough, hard, soft, furry, etc. can be used for this activity. The sense of touch also includes the differentiation and recognition of temperature, pain and body position.  There are many benefits such as enhanced psychological wellbeing; decreased anxiety and agitation; increased alertness and concentration; improved self-esteem; better self-expression; and improved quality of life.  Activities include:

  • Flower arranging
  • Small tasks or chores like folding towels or matching socks together
  • Stuffed animal therapy [adult-appropriate, like dogs and cats]
  • Creating a collage and doing other arts and crafts projects [This can also fall into the brain exercise category.]

Brain exercises: These activities challenge and stimulate the brain, keep your mind active, enhance memory, and improve cognitive skills and concentration.  Brain exercises include:

  • Trivia, word puzzles and memory games
  • Reading books
  • Storytelling
Older adults who communicate with family and friends using video chat technologies may have a lower risk of depression.

Social stimulation: Interacting with others boosts feelings of well-being and decreases feelings of depression.  Researchers have proven that one sure way of improving your mood is to work on building social connections.  Ways to socialize include:

  • Video chats [i.e. FaceTime, Skype, etc.]
  • Text messaging
  • Sending a thoughtful email
  • Telephone calls
  • Mailing letters or cards
  • Sending photos electronically or by mail
  • Connecting through social media

Virtual Therapeutic Programs/Virtual Tours: AFA now provides virtual community classes through its Facebook page.  All of these programs are facilitated by credentialed professionals. These therapeutic programs vary from dance/movement therapy, music therapy, art therapy, fitness classes and Broadway singer performances.

Virtual tours are another cognitively stimulating activity that can be done from home. Virtual tours allow you to explore or revisit favorite cities, museums and other sites through a computer or mobile device. These virtual programs are becoming increasingly popular, as many locations are currently closed to the public. Use any internet search engine to learn more about virtual tours. 

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