Activity Ideas for People Living with Dementia

An important part of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia is ensuring they have a good quality of life. Although they may interact with the world differently from when they were younger, people with dementia still want to feel emotional connection, creativity, fulfillment, and purpose – as we all do.

Incorporating some stimulating activities into their care routine can help meet those needs, and by extension, provide additional health benefits like improving sleep quality or reducing feelings of depression and anxiety. Plus, activities are a great way to spend some quality time with a loved one who has dementia.

In this post, we’ll explain different types of activities you can do with your loved one or patient who has dementia to keep them engaged and happy.

Guidelines for choosing activities

There are hundreds of beneficial activities you could do with someone who has dementia. However, there are many different stages of dementia. It’s important to choose activities that are within the person’s capabilities without being overstimulating or frustrating. As a rule of thumb, concentrate on what the person can do instead of what they can’t do, and choose activities that:

Feel familiar – Your loved one will more likely enjoy activities related to the interests and hobbies they’ve had throughout their life.

Include repetitiveness – Since routines are important for the mental wellbeing of people with dementia, procedural tasks tend to work very well.

Are simplified – Keep activities simple enough so that your loved one can easily follow along and feel accomplishment at the outcome. Remember: the goal is not to excel at the activity or create a perfect end-product, but to encourage feelings of independence and fulfillment.

Exercise

Physical activity has many benefits for people with dementia. It can improve memory and mood, promote restful sleep, help maintain motor skills, and strengthen muscles that reduce the risks of falling. Try out activities like walking, water aerobics, chair exercises, dancing, tai chi, and chair yoga.

Household Chores & Cooking

Routine household activities, like preparing ingredients, baking simple recipes, and tidying up, are great procedural tasks for people with dementia that can help give them a sense of fulfillment and purpose. Just remember that the end result does not have to be perfect. The goal is to get your loved one to feel helpful and involved. A few example activities include:

  • Helping with cooking (snapping green beans, shucking corn, mixing, etc.)
  • Setting or clearing the table
  • Sorting a drawer or purse
  • Dusting
  • Folding laundry or matching socks

Art therapy

Arts and crafts can help people with dementia express themselves and experience tactile stimulation. Painting, drawing, coloring, or working with clay are all great ways to engage your loved one’s sense of creativity. The colors, smells and feeling of the art supplies can also create a multi-sensory experience.

Simple games

Games naturally require a certain amount of focus and short-term memory, so they can help promote alertness in people with dementia. However, pay attention to your loved one’s level of enjoyment. If they seem overwhelmed or frustrated, you may want to simplify the rules or try a different game. Some example game ideas include:

  • Card games (like go fish, blackjack, or even just sorting the cards by suit)
  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • Dominoes
  • Board games (Race games such as Chutes & Ladders or Candyland, family games, or games they have a lot of familiarity with)

Reminiscing activities

Long-term memory is still strong in most people with dementia. Asking your loved one about their life, looking through photos, and watching family videos together can be a great way to engage them mentally and emotionally.

Caring for someone with dementia can be challenging. Hopefully, these activity ideas can help you have more fun and enriching times with your loved one. For more information about mental fitness and living with cognitive decline, visit MIND Institute at Miami Jewish Health.

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