Meaningful Activities for Dementia Patients: 15 Ways to Keep Your Loved One Engaged
Are you searching for enjoyable, stimulating activities for your loved one who is suffering from dementia?
You want to do all you can to enhance their quality of life, bring them joy, and reduce harmful behaviors — but where do you start?
If you’re looking for ways to engage your loved one with dementia, you’re in the right place.
Here, we will discuss a wide variety of therapeutic activities for dementia patients, so you can choose the activities that best meet your loved one’s needs.
Table of Contents
3 Things to Remember When Planning Activities for Dementia Patients
#1: The Timing Must Be Right
In order to ensure success in activities for dementia patients, the timing has to be just right.
People suffering from dementia can be unpredictable, so be prepared to be flexible and patient.
Pay attention to times when the person seems:
- Anxious; or
Make sure that your loved one isn’t preoccupied, so they can fully focus on the activity. If the time is not right, switch gears and try a less-stressful activity.
When the timing is right, pick a clutter-free area away from noise and distractions.
As you are planning activities for dementia patients, it can also help to consider the time of day. For instance, choose calm and relaxing activities, like listening to music, around bedtime.
And remember, an activity that was a great success one day may not receive the same welcome the next.
The key is to focus on the needs of your loved one and be ready to move on to a new activity, if necessary.
#2: Choose Failure-Free Activities
Success is the goal!
As you plan activities for dementia patients, pick projects that will be frustration and failure-free. Of course, this will need to be done on an individual, patient-by-patient basis. One activity does not fit all.
Find activities for your patient that:
- Match their ability level.
- Are low-maintenance, with simple, easy-to-follow steps.
- Are something they can complete without experiencing a sense of frustration.
A good plan is to stick with activities the individual has enjoyed in the past, adjusting the skills as needed to match the person’s current abilities.
As your loved one is working through the activity, you can support them by:
- Assisting with parts of the activity that they may seem to be struggling with.
- Helping them to focus on one part of the task at a time.
- Never criticizing or correcting them — the activity doesn’t have to be done just so.
- Understanding that the focus is on the process, not the product. If they are enjoying an activity differently than you had planned, encourage them to continue.
- Always being ready to adapt or change to a new activity if necessary. For example, if your loved one starts to shuffle their feet on the floor, turn on some music, so they can ”dance.”
#3: Activities Must Be Stimulating
It’s important that dementia patients stay active physically and mentally as much as they are able. This is why you’ll want to choose activities that stimulate your loved one’s mind and senses.
A great way to do this is to keep an eye out for things that your loved one loves to do or things that they enjoyed in the past. For example, if they had always owned a dog, they may find pleasure in having a stuffed dog to pet and care for.
Engage your loved one in conversation. If they’re unable to respond, you can give them a play-by-play account of what you are doing. For example, talk with them about the steps you’re taking to prepare the meal or describe the dish you are drying. Even if the person is unable to respond, they will benefit from hearing your voice.
Encourage your loved one to be involved in daily life, with activities such as setting the table or folding laundry. This will help them feel a sense of accomplishment and success.
Are you considering memory care for your loved one who is suffering from dementia? Senior Services of America can help. Our years of experience and extensive knowledge direct you to the senior community that will best meet the unique needs of your loved one.
15 Fun Activities for Elderly Dementia Patients
If you’re looking for activities for dementia patients, we have you covered!
We’ve assembled a wide range of activities, including:
- Sensory activities for dementia patients
- Creative activities for dementia patients
- Group activities for dementia patients
- Cognitive activities for dementia patients
6 Sensory Activities for Dementia Patients
#1: Get Cooking
There’s nothing quite like cooking to stimulate all five of your senses. Cooking is the perfect activity for dementia patients at home or in memory care.
Not only is cooking practical, but it also delivers a tasty treat as a reward.
Allow your loved one to do as much of the process as possible, always keeping safety at the forefront of your mind.
Depending on their abilities, your loved one may create the entire recipe from start to finish.
Or, they may only be able to help with a step or two. And if they are unable to perform any of the processes but are interested and engaged, they may benefit from simply watching you cook.
Keep it simple with recipes such as:
- No-Bake Cookies
- Garlic bread
- Fruit Salad
Encourage your loved one to do whatever steps in the process they can, focusing on the:
#2: Look at Scrapbooks
Looking through photo albums is a wonderful way to bring back favorite memories and spark meaningful conversation.
Lend a listening ear as the senior reminisces over their photos.
Ask questions to help them remember, or encourage them to create simple stories about what they see.
#3: Do Pasta Threading
Threading pasta is not only a fun activity, but your loved one can wear the end product as evidence of their success.
Simply use colorful yarn and plenty of dry pasta with big holes, such as:
You can easily make a “needle” by wrapping masking tape around the end of the yarn (making sure the “needle” is longer than a single piece of the pasta).
Your patient can even create patterns by using different colors of pasta or varying the types of pasta.
And if they are unable to complete this project on their own, you can help them go through step-by-step, giving them directions such as, “Pick up the pasta, put the needle through the hole, etc.“
#4: Work in the Garden
Many patients with dementia likely had a garden at some point in their lives, making gardening a great activity for dementia patients.
Whether the garden is outdoors or inside, working in a garden is the perfect way to stimulate the mind and the senses.
Consider investing in a raised mobile garden that can go indoors or out. Not only will this make it easy for your loved one to garden from a standing or sitting position, but it will also ensure that they get;plenty of fresh air.
Fill the garden with edible plants such as:
- Cherry tomatoes
- Green beans
- Herbs, such as:
- Lemon balm
And if space allows, give each person their own small patch of dirt to dig and plant in.
#5: Explore the Fish Tank
Place a large fish tank in a prominent area that is easily accessible to your loved one and fill it with fresh-water aquarium fish such as:
- African leaf fish
- Clown Loach
- Jack Dempsey
Not only are fish engaging and enjoyable to watch, but your loved one will love the opportunity to help feed them and clean the aquarium
#6: Experience Textures
If you’re looking for texture activities for dementia patients, the possibilities are virtually endless.
Unique textures not only provide sensory stimulation but also can also invoke memories. For example, if the person is an animal lover, consider the soft fur of a cat.
Some ideas for texture activities for dementia patients include:
- A bag with swatches of various types of fabrics, such as;
- Sorting wooden beads by shape
- Playing with modeling clay or play-dough
- Rubbing hands with lotion
- Painting with shaving cream or non-toxic finger paint
- Sorting coins
- Popping bubble wrap
2 Creative Activities for Dementia Patients
Creating art provides the opportunity for individual expression and may improve memory.
If you’re worried that allowing a dementia patient to paint may be messy, you may be right. Try using butcher paper, so your loved one doesn’t have to worry about making a mess — and you don’t have to worry about clean-up.
#2: Make a Memory Box
Assemble a box of items that are special to your loved one.
You can include things like:
- Photographs of family and pets
- Special mementos
- Items that remind the patient of past professions, such as:
- Paperclips, a calculator, and a notepad for a secretary
- Bolts, sandpaper, and a piece of PVC pipe for a handyman
- Items related to favorite hobbies
5 Group Activities for Dementia Patients
#1: Play Balloon Volleyball
Balloon volleyball can be played with a group or with an individual patient. The goal is for the patients to try to keep the balloon in the air by slapping it with their hands.
Not only is balloon volleyball fun, but it’s also the perfect activity for improving:
- Cardio function
#2: Play Balloon Whack
Balloon Whack is similar to balloon volleyball, except this time, the patients are hitting a balloon with pool noodles.
And this game has several fun variations, including:
- Attempting to keep the balloon in the air
- Hitting it back and forth
- Seeing how far each patient can “whack” the balloon
#3: Try Karaoke
Not only is singing and listening to music enjoyable, but it also may be instrumental in improving memory. If you have ever heard the lyrics to a song and been transported back in time to your high school prom, you know just how powerful music can be.
Singing songs from days gone by not only piques memories, but it can also invoke warm and happy feelings.
Have a sing-along with songs from your patients’ era. Singalongs were common during the mid-century, and you will probably be surprised at how many songs your patients remember from their childhoods.
And if no karaoke machine is available, don’t worry. The patients will love singing into a pretend microphone just as much!
#4: Dance to Favorite Songs
Everyone loves to dance!
As with singalongs, dances were a common occurrence in days gone by.
If your loved one doesn’t know how to dance, just doing a simple shuffle will be sure to result in smiles.
#5: Tell Jokes
In 2014, a group of Australian researchers conducted what was known as the SMILE Study.
Their goal was to discover whether humor could improve the lives of individuals suffering from dementia.
During this three-year study, humor therapists were given the assignment of getting 400 dementia patients to laugh more frequently.
The result? The patients experienced a 20 percent reduction in anxiety and depression, proving the positive power of humor.
2 Cognitive Activities for Dementia Patients
#1: Play Games
Games come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, such as:
- Shoots and Ladders
- Old Maid
- Go Fish
- 20 Questions
Just remember to keep your loved one’s ability in mind and have another game on hand just in case you need to change the plan.
#2: Work Puzzles
Like games, puzzles are a go-to when you’re looking for activities for dementia patients.
Not only do puzzles help stimulate the brain, but they also provide social interactions that can help patients and caregivers create positive emotional connections.
In fact, a recent study found that the onset of accelerated memory decline among dementia patients who regularly worked crossword puzzles was delayed by nearly two and a half years compared to those who did not.
Puzzles appropriate for dementia patients include:
- Jigsaw puzzles
- Children’s puzzles with large, tactile, or shaped pieces
- Find-a-Word puzzles
Senior Services of America Offers Resident-Centered Memory Care Communities
Whether you are currently looking for memory care for a loved one or are preparing for the future, Senior Services of America is ready to assist you.
Our senior living facilities range from independent living communities to memory care facilities. Our goal is to support you and your loved one’s unique needs in any way we can.
Senior Services of America is here to be part of your care team in your loved one’s journey. Find your nearest community to see how we can assist you with navigating this important part of life.