Productive Activity

While we’re homebound and unsure about the future, it can be hard to find meaning in each day.  We all need meaningful activity in our daily lives to feel a sense wellbeing.  And those with dementia especially need meaningful activity to help them feel productive and valued. 

According to dementia specialist Teepa Snow, there are four types of meaningful activities that humans require:

  1. Productive Activity – This is critical to feeling needed and like we have value to offer.  This kind of activity tells us that what we do matters.  It boosts our self-esteem.
  2. Leisure Activity – This is what we do for fun.  These activities give us joy, make us smile, and help us feel good.
  3. Self-Care Activity – This includes our daily living activities and managing our work, home, and being in tune with the world around us.
  4. Rest and Restoration – These activities are what we do to recharge our batteries.  This looks different for each person, as it includes whatever revitalizes your mind, body, and spirit.  This could include sleep, meditation, spiritual practices, exercise, and more.

Caregivers tend to focus on leisure, self-care, and rest and restoration activities for their loved one, but we often forget to include productive activity.  It’s easy to forget that our loved ones need to feel valued and like they still have something to contribute.  Age and dementia don’t remove a person’s desire to be productive and to achieve goals. 

Productive activity helps maintain physical and mental health and increases mobility.  As we continue being safer at home, with more time to spare, please remember that your loved one needs and will benefit from productive activity. 

Ask Mom to look through and arrange old photos.  Ask Dad to help you in the garden.  Ask your husband to help you paint some old furniture.  And keep in mind, it’s not about the finished product.  It’s about the process.  The point isn’t to get stuff done perfectly.  The point is to engage with your loved one and to help him/her feel valued.

Here’s a few more ideas of productive activities to get you thinking: sort and fold laundry, pull weeds, pick herbs, bake goods for a neighbor, cook family dinner, give the dog a bath, sweep, wash dishes by hand, dust, make and send a card to a friend or family member, organize a book shelf, polish silver, knit, sew face masks, read to a grandchild via Zoom. 

Try to find an activity that fits with your loved one’s history and interests. Did Mom used to be a teacher? Maybe she can help you with a lesson plan for the kids. Was Dad a Mr. Fix-It? Ask him to help you sort the toolbox or sand wood for a project. These activities will take pre-planning on your part, but it’s totally worth it! Consider any safety measures as well as help you might offer. Pick an activity and adjust to your loved one’s cognitive and physical abilities.  Set them up for success!

So, what are you waiting for?!  You’ve got work to do!  And who knows… you might actually enjoy it.