During this challenging time, it’s critical to find creative ways to stay busy and active for optimal brain health. Recent studies have shown that structured activities can make a significant and positive difference by stimulating mental engagement while improving interactions between caregivers and memory-challenged adults.
WAM recently spoke with Dr. Cynthia Green who co-wrote “Through the Seasons: Activities for Memory-Challenged Adults and Their Caregivers” with Joan Beloff to discuss her solution to the question of what to do together to maintain well-being and connection.
WAM: What kind of research did you do before writing this book? Based on your research, why is this book organized the way it is?
DR. CYNTHIA GREEN: Joan Beloff and I have worked in different capacities with individuals living with dementia and their families. My work at the Mt. Sinai Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and Ms. Beloff’s work in senior outreach at Chilton Hospital in NJ gave us both a first hand view of the resources available to families looking for meaningful, engaging ways to provide cognitive stimulation and connection with their loved ones living with dementia. In 2007, we were presenting at the American Society on Aging Conference, and were both struck by the number of resources for those living with dementia and their care partners that were overly simplified and childlike in approach. Together, we developed the concept for a program that was person-centered and built on “experiences” that could foster communication, ways to remain connected, and be cognitively engaging without being demeaning. The 2nd edition of “Through the Seasons” extends on cutting edge approaches in the field for cognitive engagement, person-centered methodology, and a multi-sensory approach that allows everyone to enter and enjoy the program from “where they are at,” so that it can be optimally enjoyed by all.
WAM: This book is very similar to the activity books parents use for their little ones. How does an adult caregiver reconcile working with a book for his/her parent that’s similar to books they had as kids? Is it an emotional transition?
DR.GREEN: While there are aspects of this book, such as the fact that it is activity-based, that may be familiar, the conversational prompts and many of the activities draw from adult life experiences. We often don’t realize how certain experiences, even if they are more popular in our earlier years, can be quite cognitively stimulating. For example, coloring books have recently become quite popular with adults for cognitive and emotional balance purposes, yet previously were mostly associated with childhood activity.
WAM: How are the individual activities you select beneficial for both the caregiver and the memory-challenged adult?
DR. GREEN: Caregivers, as we all know, have so much on their plate! These activities are designed to make it easier to find ways to fill the time with engagement that encourages shared stories, shared experiences, and we hope creates opportunities for joy. The book includes a “how to” section for caregivers with guidance on using the program as well as a suggested schedule and resources. Also, caregivers themselves can benefit from the activities, as they are meant to be enjoyed together and can be a lovely respite of connection in the day.
WAM: Do you have any tips caregivers should be aware of before starting this book with a memory-challenged loved on, i.e. read to them first, start slowly, etc?
DR. GREEN: So many tips! And they are in the introduction to the book. But here are a few when folks are just getting started. We suggest caregivers read through the book on their own first so they understand what is included. They may note some activities that they are sure their loved one would enjoy and decide to start there, rather than by the current season of the year. Caregivers will also get a sense of how to best modify the program to optimize the experience for the person living with dementia and can organize things for the first few activities ahead of time.
WAM: What do you hope readers will learn from going through your book?
DR. GREEN: We sincerely hope that everyone using the program finds that it brings them new ways to connect and enjoy their time together, and to create meaningful experiences that bring joy to their day.
Click here to purchase “Through the Seasons: Activities for Memory-Challenged Adults and Their Caregivers,”