Archive for October 2010

Here’s a great article that talks about the benefits of Pets for Senior Citizens.  There has been a study done that talks about the health benefits, as well as psychological benefits.  The Eden Alternative is also a great philosophy whereby there are many animals incorporated into the environment where the older adults reside. Some advice from me: If you chose to get a dog for an older adult, think about getting one that is already housetrained!

Check out this great article for more info.

Pets for Senior Citizens.

I am going to go hug my dog now.


Angela Gentile


Here’s a list of 101 things you can do with someone who has a cognitive impairment, dementia or Alzheimer’s type dementia.  It has a lot of great ideas.  I received this listing from the Alzheimer’s Society.  My notes are in italics.


101 Things to Do With a Person With Alzheimer’s Disease

1. Clip coupons
2. Sort poker chips
3. Count tickets
4. Rake leaves
5. Use the carpet sweeper
6. Read out loud
7. Bake cookies
8. Look up names in the phone book
9. Read the daily paper out loud
10. Ask someone with a child to visit
11. Listen to Polka music
12. Plant seeds indoors or out
13. Look at family photographs
14. Toss a ball
15. Color pictures
16. Make homemade lemonade
17. Wipe off the table
18. Weed the flower bed
19. Make cream cheese mints
20. Have a spelling bee
21. Read from the Reader’s Digest
22. Fold clothes
23. Have a friend visit with a calm pet
24. Cut pictures out of greeting cards
25. Wash silverware
26. Bake homemade bread
27. Sort objects by shape or color
28. Sing old songs
29. “Tell me more” when they talk about a memory
30. Put silverware away
31. Make a Valentine collage
32. Play favorite songs and sing
33. Take a ride
34. Make a cherry pie
35. Read aloud from Ideals magazine (no longer in print)
36. Play dreidels (a four-sided spinning top played with during Hanukkah)
37. Make a basket of socks (I am not sure what that is)
38. Take a walk
39. Reminisce about 1st day of school
40. String Cheerios to hang outside for birds
41. Make a fresh fruit salad
42. Sweep the patio
43. Color paper shamrocks green
44. Fold towels
45. Have afternoon tea
46. Remember great inventions
47. Play Pictionary
48. Paint a sheet
49. Cut out paper dolls
50. Identify states and capitals (provinces and capitals)
51. Make a family tree poster
52. Color a picture of our flag
53. Cook hot dogs outside
54. Grow magic rocks
55. Water house plants
56. Reminisce about the first kiss
57. Play horse shoes
58. Dance
59. Sing favorite hymns
60. Make homemade ice cream
61. Force bulbs for winter blooming
62. Make Christmas cards
63. Sort playing cards by their color
64. Write a letter to a family member
65. Dress in your favorite football team’s color
66. Pop popcorn
67. Name the presidents (or Prime Ministers)
68. Give a manicure
69. Make paper butterflies
70. Plant a tree
71. Make a May basket
72. Make homemade applesauce
73. Finish famous sayings
74. Feed the ducks
75. Mold with play dough
76. Look at pictures in National Geographic
77. Put a puzzle together
78. Sand wood
79. Rub in hand lotion
80. Decorate paper placemats
81. Arrange fresh flowers
82. Remember famous people
83. Straighten out underwear drawer
84. Finish Nursery Rhymes
85. Make peanut butter sandwiches
86. Wipe off patio furniture
87. Cut up used paper for scratch paper
88. Take care of fish tank
89. Trace and cut out leaves
90. Ask simple trivia questions
91. Finish Bible quotes
92. Paint with string
93. Cut out pictures from magazines
94. Read classic short stories
95. Put coins in a jar
96. Sew sewing cards
97. Put bird feed out for the birds
98. Clean out a pumpkin
99. Reminisce about a favorite summer
100. Roll yarn into a ball
101. Make a birthday cake

Make sure to Have Fun!

Angela Gentile

I am going on a long journey by train.  As I begin, the city skyscrapers and county landscape look familiar.  As I continue my journey, the view reminds me of times gone by and I feel relaxed and comfortable.  The other passengers on the train appear to be feeling the same way and I engage in pleasant conversation with them.

As the journey progresses, things begin to look different.  The buildings have odd shapes and the trees don’t look quite the way I remember them.  I know that they are buildings and trees, but something about them is not quite right.  Maybe I’m in a different country with different architecture and plant life.  It feels a bit strange, even unnerving.

I decide to ask the other passengers about the strangeness I feel, but I notice that they seem unperturbed.  They are barely taking notice of the passing scenery.  Maybe they have been here before.  I ask some questions but nothing seems different to them. I wonder if my mind is playing tricks on me. I decide to act as if everything looks all right, but because it does not, I have to be on guard.  This places some tension on me, but I believe I can tolerate it for the remainder of the trip.  I do, however, find myself becoming so preoccupied with appearing all right that my attention is diverted from the passing scenery.

After some time I look out the window again, and this time I know that something is wrong. Everything looks strange and unfamiliar!  There is no similarity to anything I can recall from the past. I must do something. I talk to the other passengers about the strangeness I feel.  They look dumbfounded and when they answer, they talk in a new language.  Why won’t they talk in English I wonder?  They look at me knowingly and with sympathy.  I’ve got to get to the bottom of this, so I keep after them to tell me where the train is and where it is going.  The only answers I get are in this strange language, and even when I talk, my words sound strange to me.  Now I am truly frightened.

At this point I figure that I have to get off this train and find my way home.  I had not bargained for this when I started.  I get up to leave and bid a pleasant good-bye.  I don’t get very far, though, as the other passenger’s stop me, and take me back to my seat.  It seems they want me to stay on the train whether I want to or not.  I try to explain, but they just talk in that strange language.

Outside the window the scenery is getting even more frightening.  Strange, inhuman-looking beings peer into the window at me. I decide to make a run for it.  The other passengers are not paying much attention to me, so I slip out of my seat and quietly walk toward the back of the car.  There’s a door!  It is difficult to push, but I must.  It begins to open and I push harder. Maybe now I will get away.  Even though it looks pretty strange out there, I know I will never find my way home if I do not get off the train.  I am just ready to jump when hands suddenly appear from nowhere and grab me from behind.  I try to get away.  I try to fight them off, but I can feel them pulling me back to my seat.

I realize now that I will never get off this train; I will never get home.

How sad I feel.  I did not say good-bye to my friends or children.  As far as I know they do not know where I am.  The passengers look sympathetic, but they do not know how said I feel.  Maybe if they knew they would let me off the train.  I stop smiling, stop eating, stop trying to talk and avoid looking out the window.  The passengers look worried.  They force me to eat.  It is difficult because I am too sad to be hungry.

I have no choice now.  I have to go along with the passengers because they seem to know where the journey will end.  Maybe they will get me there safely.   I fervently wish that I had never started out on this journey, but I know I cannot go back.

Dawson, et. al., 1993 xiv-xv

I really like analogies.  They help me understand other’s situations that I may not otherwise be able to.  I have been on a train before, and it does feel much like you are trapped and can’t get off (until the train stops).  I can only imagine how someone with dementia would feel as their cognitive abilities and capacities deteriorate.  It must be frightening and feelings of aloneness and missing familiar family members can cause additional feelings of loss, sadness and anxiety.  Remember how it must feel for these elders and it will be easier to provide the empathy and reassurance they need as they journey through life.


Angela Gentile

What Do You See?

What do you see, nurses, what do you see, what are you thinking when you’re looking at me?

A crabby old woman, not very wise, uncertain of habit, with faraway eyes.
Who dribbles her food and makes no reply when you say in a loud voice, “I do wish you’d try?”

Who seems not to notice the things that you do, and forever is losing a stocking or shoe.

Who, resisting or not, lets you do as you will with bathing and feeding, the long day to fill.  Is that what you’re thinking? Is that what you see?

Then open your eyes, nurse; you’re not looking at me.

I’ll tell you who I am as I sit here so still, as I use at your bidding, as I eat at your will.

I’m a small child of ten with a father and mother, brothers and sisters, who love one another.

A young girl of sixteen, with wings on her feet, dreaming that soon now a lover she’ll meet.

A bride soon at twenty-my heart gives a leap, remembering the vows that I promised to keep.

At twenty-five now, I have young of my own who need me to guide and a secure happy home.

A woman of thirty, my young now grown fast, bound to each other with ties that should last.

At forty my young sons have grown and are gone, but my man’s beside me to see I don’t mourn.

At fifty once more babies play round my knee, again we know children, my loved one and me.

Dark days are upon me, my husband is dead; I look at the future, I shudder with dread…..

For my young are all rearing young of their own, and I think of the years and the love that I’ve known.
I’m now an old woman and nature is cruel; ’tis jest to make old age look like a fool.

The body, it crumbles, grace and vigour depart, there is now a stone where I once had a heart.

But inside this old carcass a young girl still dwells, and now and again my battered heart swells.

I remember the joys, I remember the pain, and I’m loving and living life over again.

I think of the years; all too few, gone too fast, and accept the stark fact that nothing can last.

So open your eyes, nurses, open and see, not a crabby old woman; look closer – see ME!!


I was at a workshop and this poem was presented to us.  It was presented as a video, of a woman living in a 24-hour care facility.  It is believed that this poem was found in the room of one of the residents of a care facility.  It reminds us to provide kindness, respect and compassion to the elders in our care.  They once had a full life and they all have their own stories to tell.  They too, are deserving of our care and loving kindness.


Angela Gentile

Infantilization or Therapeutic Use?

One day I was walking through a 24-hour Personal Care Home (PCH), and I saw an elderly woman sitting in a common room with a doll in her arms.  She looked very contented, and smiled at me.  My gut feeling was that this just didn’t sit right with me.  Seeing an older adult with a “toy” seemed undignified.  I had heard about someone else’s mother using a doll, but I just never thought much of it.  When I witnessed this, it just didn’t look right.

I posed the question to a group of experts and PCH staff who were attending a learning session, and I learned  a few things.  When working with older adults with dementia, there are a couple of things to keep in mind.

1.  It is not okay to “infantilize” our older adult residents.  We must not treat them like children.

2.  It is okay to use a doll for therapeutic use.  This also covers stuffed animals and the like.  Some older adults find that holding something, or caring for something, makes them feel calm and gives them a purpose (“looking after” something).

I heard two stories that stood out.  One, a woman who had lost a child in her younger years had reverted back to that time.  She felt much more contented with the doll in her arms.  At one point, she handed the doll back to the nurse and told her, “My baby is dead.  Can you deal with this?”.

Another story was about a resident who carried around a doll and she took this doll with her when the staff were giving her a bath.  She used this doll as a weapon and hit the staff with it.

When one woman had a doll in her arms, the other residents treated her more kindly, because they saw she had a “baby”.  One of the residents who had a tendency to strike out, didn’t strike her when she had the doll in her arms.

When one woman started dragging the doll around by the hair, staff knew that this doll was not providing any therapeutic use.

The key is, that each situation involving dolls has to be resident-focussed, and individualized.  It’s not for everyone. Family has to be on board.  My own personal feelings about this (ethical or otherwise) are best addressed by understanding these situations better.  The doll is not going to be used for the long-term, most likely for a short while.

Don’t forget to wash the doll.  It will get soiled and will need it’s clothes washed too.  Also, it’s better to call the doll a doll, not a “baby”.

Discuss with your Team if a doll could provide any kind of therapeutic use.  I’m still not 100% convinced that this is a good thing.  Let me know your thoughts.

Here’s a link to an article and a picture of a senior woman playing with a doll:


Angela Gentile


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  • long term care: I just read another article on exercise for seniors and it was said there that nintendo wii can be a great way for them to stretch those muscles and h
  • gericarenetwork: Hi Gordon. Sure, I'd like that. Angela
  • chrisrodde: Hi, Congratulations! Your site has been nominated to the Best of the Web contest. You can find out more about the contest here: