Before anything else, preparation is the key to success – Alexander Graham Bell

The checklist to prepare for your activities:

  • Prepare the environment by ensuring there is calmness and not too much clutter in the area where you will spend time together.
  • Also avoid an overly stimulating environment.
  • Prepare a number of activities and consider preparing the activities together with the person.
  • Include a variety of activities that stimulate different senses; this recognises that different activities might appeal to the person on different days.
  • It may be good to demonstrate what you want the person to do before asking them to do it.
  • Avoid correcting if you think a mistake is made.
  • Use safe materials; nothing sharp, or things that may look edible if they are not suitable to eat.
  • Think of opportunities to make each activity easier or more complex. If the person is having difficulty engaging in the activity independently, it may help to break the activity down into smaller tasks and demonstrate each step separately.
  • When music is a favourite, consider using your phone or other media player and portable speakers (because head phones may not be tolerated).
  • Bring glasses, magnifiers or hearing aids if the person needs them.
  • Ensure you will both be comfortable wherever you set up.
  • In residential care, you may want to ask staff to assist you when seating the person.

Issues that may arise

There are many things that can happen during your sessions. Some of these are outlined below with suggested approaches.


What if the person is no longer actively participating?

  • Start working on an activity yourself, then, hand them something to hold that is associated with the activity.

What if I temporarily lose their attention because of a distraction?

  • Re-establish eye contact, use their name, gently touch their hand, upper arm or upper leg, invite them to help you a bit longer.

What if the person is in the habit of pacing or wandering and tries to get up during the activities?

  • Re-establish eye contact, use their name, gently touch their hand, upper arm or leg, invite them to help you a bit longer. It may really help to cross their line of vision with your hand and direct them towards what you were doing.

What if the person still wants to get up?

  • Assist them with getting up, ask if you can walk with them. You can always come back to your activities later by asking if they would like to sit down again.
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At Home

What if old friends come to visit?

  • Model how to engage the person and provide structure for everyone.

What if there is an unexpected visitor?

  • Have materials (that have been shown to work, such as a memory book) at the ready in a box or bag, and invite the visitor to join. Give everyone a specific role. Preparing food together is a good option.

What if the person wants to do other things to help around the house?

  • Set up routines and make a list of tasks for them. Invite them to tick boxes once they complete a task. Examples include watering plants, sweeping, and setting the table. Don’t forget to demonstrate every task, and practise every step. At the end of each day you can make a list for the next day.
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In Residental Care

What if another resident in the facility is interested in what we are doing?

  • Acknowledge their presence by saying ‘Hello …, how are you? I am doing some work with X at the moment. Can I speak with you later?’ What if the other resident in the facility remains very interested and seems to want to participate?
  • Invite them to sit down with you, hand them something that seems to interest them, bring your focus back to your person. Or, if you feel comfortable and know this person well, you can change the activity to a group activity.
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