A resident in a nursing home was put in a “restorative nursing” program to help him maintain upper body range of motion. This meant that he had to be in an activity that gave him practice moving his arms for at least 15 minutes a day. When I saw him, he had a piece of paper and had been told to write his name again and again until the paper was filled. He looked at me and said, “What did I do wrong? Why am I being punished?” It was strongly suggested that this task be changed to one that could meet the goal of the program and yet be more meaningful and be associated with positive outcomes and emotions.
Busy work is never appreciated, whether or not a person has memory problems. It can be viewed as a punishment, especially when similar activities were used as punishment in past settings, such as school. All activity should have meaning and purpose, and should make sense to the person with memory problems.