New York Times (April 5, 2010): Finding Activities For Parents With Memory Loss

Publication Date: 
Mon, 04/05/2010

I've invited the clinical psychologist Cynthia Green, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York and the author of several books on memory (including "Through the Seasons:  An Activities Book for Memory Challenged Adults and Caregivers"), to join the conversation today. I've been hearing laments about the difficulties of visiting relatives with dementia; people yearn to make that time together enjoyable and meaningful, but they can't always figure out how to connect. Dr. Green has some thoughtful suggestions. - Paula Span


When someone we love receives a diagnosis of memory loss, we fall headfirst into the (usually) unasked-for role of manager, overseeing both the major decisions - whether a move is necessary, for example, - as well as the minor, everyday ones.

Yet once the dust has settled and we've established a routine, we face a different problem. What can Mom or dad do? How should they spend their time? Shouldn't they be doing something?

Shouldn't we be doing something with them?

A friend summed up this aspect of the caregiving dilemma to me and some friends at a recent "girls' night out," where she bemoaned the dearth of activities her mother could manage. "She used to love to read, but that's out - she can't stay focused," she explained. "And she really isn't walking well enough to go out without lots of help. So she just sits there doing nothing. It breaks my heart."

Finding real activities for elders with memory loss seems daunting, but there are ways we can engage and enrich their daily experiences.