Susan Berg's Activity Ideas Galore
By Susan Berg, Author, Activity Director BS(COTA/L)
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Susan Berg
Author, Activity Director
Activities Director Blog
Alzheimers Ideas
About Susan

Susan Berg has been a
healthcare professional and
educator for over 20 years. She
is the, activity director, of
many years, at Hunt Nursing
and Rehabilitation Center in
Danvers. While there, she has
gained much dementia care
and activity experience and
knowledge. She has had
special training in dementia
care and dementia activities
through the Alzheimer’s
Association and other
educational forums. Berg is the
author of Adorable
Photographs of Our Baby-
Meaningful, Mind-Stimulating
Activities and More for the
Memory Challenged, Their
Loved Ones, and Involved
Professionals, a book for those
with dementia and an
excellent resource for
caregivers and healthcare
Take a look
at Susan's book
Flash Cards are
available  to use
with Susan's Book
Note:  They can also be
used without the book
and are ideal for group
A Sensational Imagination Vacation

As with all activities, you need to adapt and modify this one to meet the interest level
and needs of your particular audience.

Many folks have traveled in their past. If they did not actually do a lot of traveling, they
probably dreamed of travel. They, most likely, packed a suitcase for themselves or for
someone in their family.

One of the reasons this activity is good for lower level residents is because you can put
many sensory items in the suitcase, you will be using for the activity. Did you know that
low functioning residents who hold certain sensory items like a stuffed animal, a soft
furry scarf, a silky scarf, an unusual ball or other individual preference items, can
ground them? That is, it can make them more alert if they are lethargic, or calm them
down if they have a tendency to become agitated. Just the act of holding certain objects
can do this. Part of this activity involves holding sensory items.

Of course this activity offers all a chance to socialize on many levels, a chance to
reminisce and dream of traveling to far away places and an opportunity to have fun.

Before you begin the group, you must pack a suitcase full of 20 or so items that you
might take on a trip. Of course, put some unusual items in as well. They are always
good for a laugh. Also include some things that have sensory appeal.

Try to make even ordinary items extraordinary. This will make for a much more
interesting activity. Once you have a suitcase packed with items, you can use it over and
over again.

In fact you can have another activity about packing a bag for a trip. You could have
different items available for the residents to see and feel. Then the group can decide if a
displayed item should be put in the suitcase.

Alternately, you could just ask group members what they would put in a suitcase,
making suggestions as necessary.

Also a week or so prior to the start of the group, talk about vacation destinations to get a
feel for where the group may want to travel.

I then get a travel video from the library to use during the activity. You can do the activity
without a travel video if you so choose.

Once the suitcase is packed and the video is in hand, you are ready to go on a
sensational imagination vacation.
Click here for a sample list of items to put in the suitcase.

Assemble the group. I usually put the group in a circle so it is easier for them to pick
something from the suitcase. When it is time to watch the video, you can rearrange the
group making sure all can see the TV.

Now set the scene. Get people in the mood to take a trip. Ask them to name ways to
travel to places? They could go by car, bus, train, boat, or airplane. See how many
modes of transportation, they can name. Give hints as needed. You may want to have
pictures of these means of transport. You may want to help lower functioning residents
(lfr) answer questions by giving them a choice of two responses. Or you can say, “I can
tell that (lfr) likes to travel by car. The gently squeeze his hand and give him a big smile.
You can also ask who has traveled by each of these things?

Now ask the group members how they will be traveling today?

Then pretend you are getting into whatever they chose to travel in.
Say, “Ok now we are traveling”

Next say, “What song can we sing to make the time go faster?”  Give choices, if
necessary. Then sing that song.

After that say, “We are there. Let’s go to the hotel and unpack”.

Here is where the fun begins. Now get out the suitcase and let everyone pick
something out of the suitcase one at a time.

After one person picks something say, “Why did we pack this?”

If no one can think of anything and you can’t either say, “Well next time, we will be more
awake when we pack, or we will not let(make up a name) pack”. Otherwise discuss why
that item was packed. It can be something silly. That is always good for a laugh.

Make sure that the lfr have a chance to pick something. Try to let them pick a nice
sensory item that is listed here

Give everyone a turn to pick something, but make sure nothing is picked twice.

After every two people pick-Tell a joke or ask a trivia question. I even include a paper
with trivia questions in the suitcase. When someone picks it, I ask the trivia questions
on the paper.

This whole thing should take about a half  hour. You could extend it to take longer if you
so choose.

For the next half hour watch the travel video.
Make sure everyone is paying attention.
When it is over or a lot of people seem bored, turn off the video.

Alternately, you can pick items from the suitcase and then have a snack.

Let the residents watch the video while you are doing paperwork or in between activities.

I find most long term care residents like watching travel videos. The ones I have seen
are beautifully filmed.

You could also invite a family member in to share some of their travel slides.

For infection control purposes, you may want to have the laundry wash the washable
items in the suitcase, and repack it with the clean items.

When the group is over make sure to thank everyone for coming. Also tell them how
much you enjoyed traveling with them.  

Here is an idea if the group is composed of mostly low functioning residents.

Have a bag full of different types of stuffed animals. Say that you are going to a stuffed
animal convention.

Instead of picking items from the suitcase, they pick an animal from the bag. If
necessary, you can pick it for them. Then talk about the animal. Click here for questions
can ask about the animal.

While talking about the animal, make sure they hold it. Let them hold the animal as long
as they want. If you want to get the animal back, you can say that you need to keep the
animal for the convention. Do not worry if you cannot get it back. Eventually, they will tire
of it. Retrieve it then.