12 Activities for People With Dementia
A dementia diagnosis can come with many challenges, but fortunately, it doesn't mean your loved one needs to give up the things they like to do. According to a 2015 study, participating in meaningful activities is vital to the well-being of people with dementia and can lead to increased feelings of satisfaction, improved self-esteem and a sense of belonging in the community. In this guide, you'll find a list of enriching activities that can help people with dementia live fuller, happier lives.
Creative and Artistic Activities for People With Dementia
Artistic activities offer a number of compelling benefits for seniors with dementia. Creating something new can help reduce the feelings of anxiety and agitation that commonly affect people with cognitive decline. Art is also a great way for seniors to express themselves if they struggle with verbal communication. Making and talking about creative projects can help family caregivers connect with their loved ones, too.
Seniors with dementia can enjoy making simple crafts with help from a caregiver or family member. Some craft ideas to try include:
- Decorating rocks to make paperweights
- Making colorful flowers out of construction paper
- Stringing beads to make bracelets
- Making a collage with pictures cut from magazines
- Creating handmade greeting cards
- Arranging artificial flowers in a vase
Creative Coloring and Painting
Many seniors with dementia may enjoy coloring even if they're not artistically inclined. To get started, you'll need a few coloring books and a pack of crayons, markers or colored pencils. Try coloring books featuring nature scenes, abstract designs, animals or other favorite imagery. Adult coloring books are a good choice, but if the designs are too complex, coloring books for children work just as well.
Painting is another relaxing activity that can help nurture self-expression. You can give seniors a blank canvas and watercolor or acrylic paints and watch their creative ideas spring to life.
Playing and listening to music can be enjoyable to seniors throughout many stages of dementia. Try giving a loved one easy-to-use instruments such as chimes, drums or an electronic keyboard. If you don't have an instrument on hand, fill plastic bottles with dry rice or beans and allow seniors to use them as music shakers. You can also create a playlist of favorite songs and encourage them to sing and dance along.
Sensory Activities for People With Dementia
Sensory activities are an excellent way to stimulate sight, sound, taste and touch for people with dementia. Some activities that can stoke the senses include:
Activities to Stimulate Smell and Taste
Encourage seniors to smell flowers, herbs and other plants in the yard or at a local garden center. Other things to try include using aromatherapy with essential oils, visiting a bakery and serving the senior their favorite meals.
Activities to Stimulate Touch
Stroking a furry animal can be very soothing for seniors with dementia. If you don't have a pet, some local senior centers offer animal therapy days when older adults can interact with a dog or cat. More options include playing with molding clay or giving the senior a hand massage.
Activities to Stimulate Sight and Sound
If your loved one is comfortable going for a walk, visit a local park and allow them to sit by the water, watch wildlife and enjoy the sound of children playing. Alternatively, play audio recordings of nature sounds, such as bird songs, rainfall and flowing rivers.
Cognitive Activities for People With Dementia
Cognitive activities offer ways for people with dementia to keep their minds sharp and may even slow the rate of mental decline. In one research trial, older adults with a mild form of dementia scored better on cognitive tests when they practiced multiple mental activities compared to seniors who did fewer activities.
Reading a book aloud together is a relaxing activity that can allow you to bond with your loved one. Choose books in their favorite genre with easy-to-follow stories and encourage discussion about themes, characters and plot.
Brain teaser books with crossword puzzles, word searches and other simple games can help seniors exercise their cognitive abilities. Try playing an easy board game or putting a jigsaw puzzle together.
People with dementia may find enjoyment in routine chores such as folding clothes, sweeping and dusting. Have them follow along while you cook a meal by asking them to gather ingredients, organize kitchen tools and tell you the next step in a recipe.
Reminiscing Activities for People with Dementia
For many seniors, difficulty remembering is one of the first signs of dementia. According to the Alzheimer's Society, people with dementia may find it easier to remember feelings associated with major events, such as weddings, as well as routine activities they've done many times before. Reminiscing activities can stimulate these memories, helping seniors feel happier and more relaxed.
Explore Family History
Pull out the family photo album or put on home videos to watch with your loved one. Encourage them to talk about any familiar people and places they recognize. Reminiscing about vacations, weddings, the birth of children/grandchildren and other memorable events is a helpful way to spark thoughts of the past.
Make a Memory Box
Fill a box with favorite things from your loved one's past. Include items such as family heirlooms, meaningful jewelry, supplies from their favorite hobbies, childhood toys, newspaper clippings and any other important objects they may recognize. Have them talk about each item as they go through the box.
Visit a Memory Cafe
If your loved one is in the early stages of cognitive decline, you can visit a local Memory Cafe for social interaction with other seniors and family caregivers. Memory Cafes give seniors a chance to reminisce about the past with others in a safe and comforting environment.
Need Help? Our Senior Living Consultants are Standing By