Dementia Activities of Daily Living: Housework

Housework can be a meaningful activity for those with dementia, but changes in attention to detail may also indicate disease progression. Learn how to offer guidance in small steps and engage your loved one in familiar, enjoyable tasks to alleviate boredom and improve cognitive decline.

Dementia Activities of Daily Living: Housework
Dementia Activities of Daily LIving 

Dementia activities of daily living can include housework. Housework is one of the few ADLs that can be turned into an enjoyable activity for the person with dementia. But it can also be used as a guide to assessing the dementia disease progression of your family member.

Changes in attention to detail in housework is a sign

If your family member always kept a well-organized and clean house... a dirty and unkempt home can be a sign of trouble. With some, you may notice a total lack of interest towards personal and environmental hygiene.... even before you suspect memory loss.

Dementia damages the part of the brain that governs... our need for orderliness and cleanliness. Feelings of not caring about the house or neglecting the housework can be telling.

Dementia activities of daily living may require you to offer guidance in a series of small steps

One of the reasons for neglect of housework is that the person with dementia loses the ability to... independently perform a series of steps. Since most tasks involve a series of small steps, ADLs like housework ... can become very frustrating. You can enlist help with household chores by giving one command at a time.

Instead of telling your family member to “go fold the clothes” ... you could instead say, “please fold this towel”. This may require you showing how to do this task , if  they have forgotten how to complete the task.

Of course, then you may need to tell your family member where the towel can be placed, once the folding is done. You may need to offer guidance in, folding the next item. Your family member is far less likely to be overwhelmed and noncompliant... if you give small, steps, to complete the task.

More on dementia activities of daily living can include housework...

Engage them in housework that they enjoy and are familiar with

Everyone knows how to do certain tasks. Chances are that the tasks your family member is familiar with were also enjoyable, at least to a point. Take advantage of their skills and previous abilities. Don’t have them perform a task that they did not do or hated doing in younger days. I have had several patients over the years that had a love of a house hold chore that kept them busy and active. Often for many hours.

One dementia patient loved to dust. Give her a dust cloth, and she would clean everything in site. The repetitive motion comforted her. Another dementia patient wanted to go to the office everyday. He would get dressed up, and go into his home office. He would move papers, work on his calculator etc. It kept him busy for a few hours, until he was ready to “go home” for dinner.

If your family member enjoyed... preparing meals or sweeping the floor, offer guidance in task. If they were handy with tools.. Supervise them in doing some light, safe chores requiring some basic tools. These activities will involve your family member and give them a sense of, Satisfaction and accomplishment.

Rewards bring satisfaction

Rewards given after a task is completed are fun for both you and your family member. It is important to keep in mind that ADLs like housework are NOT goal oriented. That is, you are not rewarding the activity on how well it is executed. Instead, that your family member participated in the task.

For many family caregivers, do not allow their family member to participate. Because, it takes time and patience. Something, over time, a caregiver does not have at times.

Activities are the key to avoiding negative and challenging behaviors. Activities alleviate boredom, keeps a person moving and interacting. This approach may slow the cognitive decline of your family member with dementia.

Have more questions? Check out the Frequently Asked Question section of the website. You will find a lot of different questions answered directly.
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