Activities for Dementia Patients | ConsumerAffairs (2022)

Activities for Dementia Patients | ConsumerAffairs (1)

If you have a loved one with dementia, it can be difficult to spend time with them the way you used to. However, it ispossible to find new activities and hobbies. Some studies suggest brain games and puzzles can slow cognitive decline and improve certain functions related to memory and independence. According to Seniorlink, some general guidelines for planning effective activities for seniors with dementia include:

  • Establish consistent routines
  • Be mindful of their needs
  • Keep activities simple and brief

Activities for dementia patients

Below, we’ve curated a list of free and low-cost activities you can plan for dementia patients. There’s plenty of fun things you can do with everyday household items you might already have. However, some of these activities may require small purchases (yarn, for example). Remember that older adults with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia require supervision. It’s not safe to incorporate sharp objects into activities or games.

  • Help with chores: Depending on what you have to do, you can involve them in simple tasks related to cooking, cleaning and gardening. Something easy like folding towels is safe and will help them feel like they are contributing. Remember that it doesn’t matter if you have to refold them.
  • Ask questions: Asking an open-ended question about their life is a great way to communicate with a memory-impaired senior. Just don’t ask specific details —for example, “Can you tell me about your son?” is better than “What is your son’s name?” Alternatively, ask a straightforward question that has no wrong answer, such as, “Would you like some tea?”
  • Tell a joke: People with memory problems can still have a sense of humor! A good laugh will probably be good for everyone. Humor helps with stress, which can decrease blood pressure and improve cardiovascular health. When you tell the joke, try to speak in short phrases and use words they are familiar with. According to the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, dementia impairs the ability to decode social and emotional signals and is associated with an impaired understanding of cartoons and sarcasm.
  • Hold hands: Don’t underestimate the impact of a physical connection. “Since touching the hands is so familiar, hand massage may be gladly accepted by elders living with dementia,” states Ann Catlin on Massage Today. “Even five-minutes of hand massage have been shown to elicit a physiological relaxation response and decrease cortisol levels.”
  • Go for a walk: Going for a short walk every now and then is good for a change of scenery and a little fresh air.
  • Untie knots: Untangling a simple knot from a medium-thick rope might be a relaxing activity for your older companion. It might sound simple, but the process of untying a knot is a little bit like a puzzle.
  • Make a macaroni necklace: Just like when you were a kid —except it doesn’t have to be macaroni. We suggest trying rigatoni or penne, which might be easier since they have wider openings. Your older adult can thread string or yarnas long as they want.
  • Sort fabrics: Collect assorted fabrics from around the house and put them in a box. They can touch and fold the different pieces. Ask them to sort the fabrics by color or size.
  • Community engagement: Whether it’s a church or a social club, adding some elements of regular social interactions helps keep an older adult with memory problems engaged. Bingo is popular with dementia patients because there isn’t much strategy —play at home or check for regular games in your area.

Memory care activities

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, dementia is a general term used to describe symptoms like memory loss, personality change, disorientation and impaired judgment. Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia, is a progressive neurological disease. It can strike at different ages, but most victims are 65 or older. Current drugs can ease symptoms but can’t reverse the course of the disease.

For people with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, the structure of a game paired with a daily routine can sometimes help calm aggression and anxiety. From enhancing hand-eye coordination to improving recall, there are many games patients can play in order to improve their brain health and help them have fun for as long as possible.

Make a memory box

Making a memory box can help a person with dementia remember important people and events from their past. Any kind of box will work — an old shoebox or something a little larger. You can put items that remind them of a job or hobby that they used to enjoy. For example, if they were an artist, you can include a palette of paint, brushes and paper. Consider also adding magazines related to the industry they were in before retirement.

(Video) Purposeful activities for dementia: Alzheimer's Australia VIC

Improvise a scene

Improv can help stir old memories and emphasize the imagination. Try roleplaying a scenario from something they used to do. For example, if your loved one was once a contractor, make the scene about what they would do for different home improvement projects.

Improv activities encourage you to stay in the moment, which can be a safe place for people who have dementia, according to Mary O'Hara in the NPR article “Improv For Alzheimer's: A Sense Of Accomplishment.”

Music therapy

Listening to music that was popular during your older adult’s youth can help stir up old memories and get them living in the moment.

We’ve heard that rock-and-roll can soothe the soul, but one study found that music therapy can be used to treat a range of neurological conditions. Another study by the University of Miami School of Medicine found that music therapy helped Alzheimer’s patients produce more melatonin, serotonin and prolactin.

Memory game exercises

Memory games can be a great way to improve cognitive function. Some brain-training computer games and apps also analyze the time it takes to answer a question to provide insight into the player's progress or deterioration.

If you use flashcards, make sure they’re not too difficult to read. Choosing large-print versions can be helpful. We suggest looking into image association games or match-the-shape games. You could also consider an all-fabric memory game ($29.90 on Amazon at the time of publication).

(Video) Tactile Activities suitable for Persons in the Later Stages of Dementia

Fun games for dementia patients

The best types of games for people with dementia are ones that are somewhat simple but have a little bit of strategy paired with them. Here are a few suggestions for games to play with a friend or family member with dementia.

Easy board games

Simple board games like Chutes and Ladders or Ludo are a great option for dementia patients. Don’t try to push games that require in-depth strategy, as this can be distressing for some. For example, try to avoid games with long-term strategies or math, like dominoes. Remember that an easy win will help boost your older adult’s confidence.

Activities for Dementia Patients | ConsumerAffairs (2)

Logo
Active Minds 2-in-1 Board Game
  • Includes Chutes & Ladders and Ludo
  • Designed for seniors and elderly with dementia and memory loss

$24.99 on Amazon*

*As of publishing date

Simple puzzles

Sudoku, crosswords and puzzles are just some of the types of brain-training games available in large-print activity books. Some people with dementia could find these games frustrating as time goes on. Similarly, puzzle cubes (like a Rubix cube) can be frustrating for some patients, while others might find them to be a worthwhile challenge.

We suggest simple picture puzzles that can challenge your senior’s cognitive abilities in a fun way. Games like “spot the difference” and “find the star” come in this Easy Picture Puzzles For Adults on Amazon ($7.95 as of publishing date).

(Video) Art therapy helps dementia patients communicate and connect

Activities for Dementia Patients | ConsumerAffairs (3)

Logo
Wooden Tangram Puzzle
  • Includes three full-sized templates
  • Adaptable for different abilities

$30 on Amazon*

*As of publishing date

Fun toys and fidget pads

Colored blocks and patterned boards can be a soothing activity for dementia patients. Similar to a puzzle, these types of games are fairly simple and straightforward, making them a good option for dementia patients.

You can also encourage their creativity with Play-Doh. Playing with dolls and action figures might also help to spark their imagination. For some, a doll or action figure might also be good for instilling responsibility and structure for a patient.

Activities for Dementia Patients | ConsumerAffairs (4)

Logo
Memory Aid Fidget Sensory Pad
  • Includes 13 activities
  • Designed for people with Alzheimer's, dementia and anxiety

$49.99 on Amazon*

*As of publishing date

(Video) Activities for Those Who Have Dementia - Paint Swatches

Activities for dementia patients FAQ

How do you keep someone with dementia busy?
Providing a routine and setting up daily tasks are great ways to keep dementia patients busy. Games like bingo and matching games can be great keep-busy activities. Games can also positively impact a senior’s overall happiness.
Why are activities important for dementia patients?
Activities that make them feel productive and safe are important for dementia patients because they make them feel safe and relatively at ease. Keeping them occupied will also lessen the amount of agitated or scared behaviors that may arise in patients.
Can someone with dementia be left alone?
In most cases, it’s best not to leave someone with dementia alone. But if you must, make sure you have put safety precautions in place, like reminders around the house and locked doors.
How do dementia patients feel?
Patients with dementia experience a range of emotions that can be hard to deal with. Common emotions include anger, anxiety and fear.

Bottom line: What activities are good for dementia patients?

Dementia can be an overwhelming disease that creates many emotions in patients and their caregivers. By playing games and implementing constructive activities, dementia patients and their caregivers can feel more calm and productive throughout the day. However, remember that it’s not safe to incorporate sharp or dangerous objects into activities for people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

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(Video) How Can You Keep Someone with Dementia Busy

FAQs

How do you keep dementia people busy? ›

Some activities have proven to be particularly helpful for those with dementia, such as games, exercise and outdoor activities, and music and art, as well as maintaining day-to-day routines.

How do you stop dementia from getting bored? ›

How Can We Help Reduce Loneliness and Boredom for People With Dementia?
  1. Be mindful of how the person with dementia feels. ...
  2. Look for ways to capture her attention. ...
  3. Engage him in meaningful activities. ...
  4. Seek out friendships for your patient or loved one. ...
  5. Offer an appropriate, caring touch. ...
  6. Use his name.
7 Mar 2020

What should you not do with dementia? ›

I'm going to discuss five of the most basic ones here: 1) Don't tell them they are wrong about something, 2) Don't argue with them, 3) Don't ask if they remember something, 4) Don't remind them that their spouse, parent or other loved one is dead, and 5) Don't bring up topics that may upset them.

Should dementia patients watch TV? ›

For men and women with Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia, it can be especially beneficial. Watching movies and TV shows can help keep their brain active, which can stimulate positive memories, improve mood, and even increase socialization.

Do people with dementia get bored? ›

However, a person in the advanced stages of dementia can still experience emotions such as loneliness, boredom or frustration. A person might no longer be able to move independently or hold a conversation.

What puzzles are good for dementia patients? ›

For those who are in the middle stages of dementia or any form of memory loss may benefit from a 36-piece puzzle or a 60-piece puzzle, while those in more advanced stages or those with limited hand coordination may benefit from a simple wooden puzzle or a sound puzzle that make sounds for additional cognitive ...

What is the average age of death for someone with dementia? ›

Factors That Determine Longevity

Here are the main research findings: Women lived an average of 4.6 years after diagnosis, and men lived 4.1 years. People diagnosed when under age 70 lived 10.7 years compared to 3.8 years for people over 90 when diagnosed.

Why do dementia patients not want to be alone? ›

Why someone with dementia is afraid to be alone. Experts suggest that Alzheimer's or dementia shadowing happens because the damage in their brain has caused them to make you the center of their world. They're not doing it purposely to be difficult or to cause trouble.

Do dementia patients like to be alone? ›

Individuals with dementia often have anxiety which can make them feel nervous, worried, or cause them to not want to be left alone or out of sight of their caregivers.

What is the most common cause of death in dementia patients? ›

One of the most common causes of death for people with dementia is pneumonia caused by an infection. A person in the later stages of dementia may have symptoms that suggest that they are close to death, but can sometimes live with these symptoms for many months.

How do you make a dementia patient more comfortable? ›

Tips for Everyday Care for People With Dementia
  1. Try to keep a routine, such as bathing, dressing, and eating at the same time each day.
  2. Help the person write down to-do lists, appointments, and events in a notebook or calendar.
  3. Plan activities that the person enjoys and try to do them at the same time each day.

How do you calm someone with dementia? ›

Use calming phrases such as: "You're safe here;" "I'm sorry that you are upset;" and "I will stay until you feel better." Let the person know you are there. Involve the person in activities. Try using art, music or other activities to help engage the person and divert attention away from the anxiety.

How do you keep a dementia patient awake during the day? ›

Encourage physical activity during the day.

Help your loved one with dementia get some exercise each day. For example, you make take a walk together each morning. It's best to schedule physical activity early in the day, because being excessively tired in the evening may increase agitation.

Are dementia patients happy? ›

People with dementia can still have nice feelings too. They can feel happy, safe and calm. Some people with dementia may seem like their usual self a lot of the time and you may only notice small changes every now and then. Some people with dementia may not have as many good days.

Is coloring good for dementia patients? ›

The repetitive nature of colouring can help ease agitation or aggression, which are common symptoms of dementia. Some experts have likened colouring to meditation as it allows you to 'switch off', which can be extremely helpful for people with dementia.

What is the most common behavior associated with dementia? ›

Stages and Behaviors
  • Anxiety and Agitation. ...
  • Depression. ...
  • Hallucinations. ...
  • Memory Loss and Confusion. ...
  • Repetition. ...
  • Sleep Issues and Sundowning. ...
  • Suspicions and Delusions. ...
  • Wandering. Wandering among people with dementia is dangerous, but there are strategies and services to help prevent it.

What causes dementia patients to suddenly get worse? ›

other long-term health problems – dementia tends to progress more quickly if the person is living with other conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure, particularly if these are not well-managed.

What are the three behavioral problems associated with dementia? ›

Behavioral disturbances in dementia are often globally described as “agitation” including verbal and physical aggression, wandering, and hoarding. These symptoms create patient and caregiver distress, and lead to nursing home placement.

Should dementia patients watch TV? ›

For men and women with Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia, it can be especially beneficial. Watching movies and TV shows can help keep their brain active, which can stimulate positive memories, improve mood, and even increase socialization.

Do people with dementia get bored? ›

However, a person in the advanced stages of dementia can still experience emotions such as loneliness, boredom or frustration. A person might no longer be able to move independently or hold a conversation.

Why are activities important for dementia patients? ›

Overall meaningful activity provides the person living with dementia: A sense of purpose and routine. Acknowledges and uses the skills and life experiences of the person with dementia. Emotionally nurturing experiences which increase self-esteem and help the person to feel valued.

Are puzzles Good for dementia? ›

Puzzles – perhaps the ultimate brain activity

For this reason, puzzles are an excellent choice when looking for an activity for your loved one with dementia. Because they exist to be solved, puzzles provide cognitive stimulation, and that is just what we are looking for.

What do dementia patients like to watch? ›

Reality TV shows are also easy to follow for seniors with Alzheimer's or dementia. Shows such as American Idol, Dancing With the Stars and American Pickers don't have a running plot, making them easy forms of entertainment for everyone. Ambient videos may also interest patients with Alzheimer's.

Do you tell dementia patients the truth? ›

So when we hear about using therapeutic fibbing to lie to someone with dementia, it might seem cruel and wrong at first. But always sticking to the truth, especially about an emotional subject or something trivial, is more likely to cause your older adult pain, confusion, and distress.

Should you tell someone with dementia they have dementia? ›

It is recommended that a person with dementia be told of their diagnosis. However, a person has a right not to know their diagnosis if that is their clear and informed preference.

What is the average age of death for someone with dementia? ›

Factors That Determine Longevity

Here are the main research findings: Women lived an average of 4.6 years after diagnosis, and men lived 4.1 years. People diagnosed when under age 70 lived 10.7 years compared to 3.8 years for people over 90 when diagnosed.

Why do dementia patients not want to be alone? ›

Why someone with dementia is afraid to be alone. Experts suggest that Alzheimer's or dementia shadowing happens because the damage in their brain has caused them to make you the center of their world. They're not doing it purposely to be difficult or to cause trouble.

Do dementia patients like to be alone? ›

Individuals with dementia often have anxiety which can make them feel nervous, worried, or cause them to not want to be left alone or out of sight of their caregivers.

What are meaningful activities? ›

Meaningful activities are those that include physical, social and leisure aspects and are tailored to the individual's needs and preferences. They also have a form of interaction and engagement, as opposed to simply turning on a movie.

Do dementia patients do better at home? ›

Home care is often recommended by experts through end of life. However, every family and situation is different, so permanent home care may not always be possible. Research shows keeping a loved one with dementia at home helps them be happier and live longer; however, it is most impactful when introduced early.

How can dementia patients improve memory? ›

Advertisement
  1. Include physical activity in your daily routine. Physical activity increases blood flow to your whole body, including your brain. ...
  2. Stay mentally active. ...
  3. Socialize regularly. ...
  4. Get organized. ...
  5. Sleep well. ...
  6. Eat a healthy diet. ...
  7. Manage chronic conditions.

Do memory games help dementia? ›

Commercial brain training games and computer programs have as yet not been shown to reduce the risk of dementia. While exercising the brain has not been proven to prevent dementia, it may reduce the risk or delay the onset of dementia, and the general health benefits of these activities are well established.

How often should you visit a spouse in memory care? ›

Ultimately it's better to visit three times per week for 20 minutes than once a week for an hour. Do not go on outings until your loved one is totally adjusted to their living situation, and then only if you think it would be helpful and not confusing. Come with a friend or someone else who knows the person.

Videos

1. Mayo Clinic Minute: Brain activities decrease dementia risk
(Mayo Clinic)
2. Caregiver Training: Agitation and Anxiety | UCLA Alzheimer's and Dementia Care Program
(UCLA Health)
3. Caregiver Training: Refusal to Bathe | UCLA Alzheimer's and Dementia Care
(UCLA Health)
4. Activities for Dementia Residents - 4/27/2022
(HSC Resources)
5. Caregiver Training: Sundowning | UCLA Alzheimer's and Dementia Care Program
(UCLA Health)
6. Caregiver Training: Sexually Inappropriate Behaviors | UCLA Alzheimer's and Dementia Care Program
(UCLA Health)

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