Activities for Dementia Patients

All of us like to have things to do that are intriguing or purposeful. Dementia patients are no exception. The following are just a few suggestions to help extend your loved one’s experience.

Creative activities

Young or old, at any stage of life, creative activities can help with cognitive function, fine motor skills, and building social connections. While these activities may result in wonderful gifts to share, remember that the creative process is more important than the finished product. When looking for activities for you or your loved one, keep in mind their abilities, interests, and things to do that will bolster their feelings of self-worth.

  • Card making – Patients may need help with templates and cutting, but this is a great way to build connections with family and friends
  • Lego or Duplo building, using pattern blocks
  • Textile arts such as knitting, crocheting, sewing, quilting
  • Fleece blanket knotting
  • Memory dioramas or collages using photos and other items
  • Jewelry making and bead stringing
  • Clay and pottery making
  • Painting, drawing, and coloring
  • Sound exploration through instruments

Reminiscing activities

Reminiscing activities help dementia patients investigate positive memories through sensory exploration, conversation and connections to their past.

  • Create a personal memory diorama box
  • Build scrapbooks or memory boxes for family members
  • Listen to music – provide “oldies” singalongs, concerts with visiting musicians or children’s groups, listen to calming music
  • Singing – whether just singing along with a staff member to a favorite song, creating group Karaoke sessions, or doing finger plays with grandchildren – singing can lift the spirit and build brain connections in many ways.
  • Provide magazines, books, and documentaries about historic events and times
  • Interview and record their stories about historical times or events

Fulfilling activities

All of us want to feel that our lives are purposeful, no matter the ability or disability. Dementia patients can participate in many basic chores and daily living activities with help and supervision, allowing them to feel a part of their community. The following are some activities dementia patients can do.

  • Organize books for a facility library
  • Fold laundry – depending on their dexterity, patients can help fold towels, napkins, placemats and other flat items
  • Puzzles
  • Prepare ingredients for cooking activities such as gathering spices, husking corn, snapping beans
  • Cook simple items like cakes and cookies
  • Set the table
  • Sorting – whether a purse, drawer or a pile of pens and pencils

Sensory activities

From a vase of flowers to the smell of baking bread, sensory stimulation activities provide multiple benefits during the various stages of dementia. Some benefits include mindfulness, cognitive function and a decrease in agitation. For patients in later stages, sensory stimulation can build connections to daily activities.

  • A “Day at the Beach” sensory bin or box. Fill with sand, seashells, beach glass and smooth rocks or pebbles.
  • Memory boxes with loose items that are familiar to the patient i.e. photos, inexpensive jewelry, or other small items that will bring smiles
  • Hand massages with scented lotion
  • Creating with clay
  • Sensory bags – these are Ziploc bags that have found objects suspended in a gel solution.
  • Flower arranging
  • Listening walks
  • Simple cooking activities such as kneading dough, stirring batter
  • Create fidget boxes with various items for calming such as squeeze balls, fidget poppers, sensory bottles that patients can choose from

Technology activities

Technology can be one more “tool in the box” to help dementia patients build skills, cognitive functions and have fun.

  • Wii games to build physical skills, connections with other game players, and cognitive function
  • FaceTime family members
  • Use digital frames to showcase a running set of family images, historical places, or other images they are familiar with.
  • Watch YouTube videos of places around the world
  • Provide clocks that show date, time of day, and time
  • Adapted telephones and Talking Mat app help the dementia patient communicate with loved ones
  • Record messages from loved ones or staff members for reminders about appointments, time of day, medication or hygiene requirements, and “I love you” messages.

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