It is best to start each session in a low-key manner, with the introduction of more physical activities for the middle of the session, the a gradual return to less demanding activities as the session grows to a close.
You can begin by welcoming everyone with coffee or tea and perhaps cookies, which will give the appearance it is more "party-like". During this time, staff and participants can sit around a large table with magazines, photo albums, simple puzzles etc. There is general conversation as staff members and volunteers greet participants individually.
Many people with Alzheimer's are unaware of the date and hour, and may not express much concern about information, so participants can be cued by means of a large wall calendar, a listing of the day's activities and prominently displayed important dates. Date and time reminders can also be communicated by discussions with participants concerning the weather and changing seasons, or mention of upcoming holidays, weekends, and activities.
Staff and volunteers, often with advice from caregivers, should determine which activities participants respond to with the most enthusiasm and then make these a regular part of the schedule. This schedule should be modified from time to time so the participants can enjoy a variety of programs. Allow for large and small group interaction and keep sessions flexible enough so that participants can engage in them at their own level of functioning. Most of all, keep interaction stress free. All activities should promote feelings of good will, self worth and independence.
After the inital welcoming period, you can move into more group-orientated experiences. Stress-free activities that allow participants to interact without feeling any pressures to perform are best. There are song sheets available that feature "oldies", ethnic tunes and hymns, and participants seem remarkably adept to recalling melodies, and volunteers invariably enjoy eliciting responses from the group. Song sheets photocopied and handed out will help all participants recall familiar melodies. Popular standards such as "You are my Sunshine", "Let me call you Sweetheart" and others of that era evoke warm memories of bygone days and will be a comfort to many participants.
If a staff member or volunteer plays a musical instrument such as piano or guitar, let that person lead the music session. Staff and participants can enhance the fun by providing background rhythm with tambourines, maracas, or small drums. Encourage whistling when the words of a song are difficult to verbalize or remember.
Even if some of the participants cannot fully participate in all activities and must rely on the assistance of a staff member, they will have a sense of being part of the group.
Exercise is a welcome addition to the daily routine, providing both mental and physical stimulation for all involved. Gentle calisthenics will get one's blood moving and one's organs toned, though you may have to work hard to keep participants attention focused on the job at hand.
One way of doing this is to accompany exercise sessions with music. Marches, waltzes, and polkas are all effective in this regard, serving both as nostalgic sounds from the past and as rousing music for the moment. When the same music is played consistently every day, moreover, these tunes can be used to cue participants to exercise time and ease them through the transition from one activities to the next.
Gather everyone in a circle and lead them in a non-strenuous round of toe touches, arm rotations, stretching arms and legs, shrugging shoulders, rotating head and neck, extending arms up over the head and to the side. Encourage deep breathing and full range of motion movements. Participants should be encouraged to assist those who cannot recall certain exercises or who need help in coordinating movements. Some mutual support will promote group cohesiveness. Allow