Activities for apathy

Activities for apathy

Apathy is described as a lack of interest or a persistent loss of motivation to do things. It can be difficult to find appropriate activities to engage in, when the person you are caring for are suffering from apathy. However, engaging in activities will be beneficial for maintaining physical and mental function. This article contains general tips of how you can modify activities for a person with apathy, followed by a concrete example on how you can facilitate the activity of setting the table.  

Do not force the person.

Insisting or forcing the person to do something, might upset the person to such a degree that the negative aspects outweighs the possible benefit of the activity. A good tip for engaging in activities is to give the person a reason to move. Rather than telling the person to do something to activate themselves, ask the person to help you set the table.  

Make sure the activities are manageable.

Complex tasks might be too much to handle at once and make the person even less motivated. If you think about the activity of setting the table, it can be broken down to (1) realizing what is missing from the table, (2) finding the right equipment (plates, cutlery, drinking glasses etc.), and (3) placing the things in the right spot. Be concrete. Ask them to help you by bringing plates to the table.

Focus on the positive.

You might have experienced that sometimes you cannot take anything for granted. Even how the plates should be placed on the table can be grounds for confusion. Say the plates are not placed where there are chairs. Try to see what was positive and give positive feedback, for instance by saying: “thank you for bringing the plates to the table.”  

Gently prompt or help the person.

People with apathy can have difficulties to start doing something, or even stops if the floor changes color. Gently tell them to keep going, reminding them what they were doing. Rather than focusing on the threshold they cannot pass, focus on how they are successfully moving towards the table.  

Try to remain calm.

If you start feeling frustrated, the person you are caring for will become frustrated and more withdrawn. Take a moment to yourself. Remember that the person with dementia is not doing this to upset you, apathy is a symptom of their disease. Find strategies for coping – count to ten, take a deep breath, and remind yourself of how you are bringing positive activity into the person’s life. When the person has apathy, it might be particularly easy to convince yourself that it is better that you help them by doing everything for them. By keeping them activated, you will both stimulate them physically and mentally.  Think about activities you engage in with the person with dementia. In what situations is the apathy problematic? Think about how you can modify the activity by:  

  • Giving the person a reason to move
  • Breaking tasks into manageable chunks
  • Staying focused on what they manage to do
  • Gently helping the person perform the activity
  • Remaining calm when the situation frustrates you

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The DemiCare project has been funded by the Active and Assisted Living programme. AAL is a European programme funding innovation that keeps people connected, healthy, active and happy into their old age.

AAL supports the development of products and services that make a real difference to people’s lives - for those facing some of the challenges of ageing and for those who care for older people if they need help.

The project has an overall budget of 2.029.091,76 €, to which the AAL will contribute with 1.477.535,07 €