When caring for a loved with dementia it’s important to keep them engaged in activities and hobbies that interest them. Participating in meaningful activities can help stir memories, improve cognitive functioning, and reduce anxiety and irritability associated with dementia. While there are plenty of activities dementia patients can enjoy, be mindful not to humiliate them by having them do children’s activities. Also, your loved one’s mood and abilities may vary day-to-day so remember to take breaks or change activities if they become frustrated.
Here are some ideas for stimulating activities to enjoy with your loved one:
- Go for a walk – If your loved one is able, getting outside for some exercise and fresh air can have many health benefits such as improved mood and better sleep.
- Listen to or play music – Music has been shown to shift mood, reduce agitation and improve cognitive function and coordination for dementia patients.
- Work on puzzles – Select puzzles with extra large pieces to prevent frustration and discouragement. Avoid childish imagery, sticking instead to scenery or images of animals.
- Read together – Read short stories out loud, or simply flip through books or magazines that might prompt conversation.
- Play games – Try simple card games such as “Go Fish” or classic favorites like dominos or checkers.
- Color pictures – Coloring is a calming distraction for the mind that helps reduce agitation and boredom in dementia patients. Be sure to pick coloring sheets or books that are non-childish.
- Look through photo albums – Reminisce about favorite memories associated with the photos. Or, paste old family photos onto the pages of a scrapbook and write down memories next to each picture.
- Do housework – Stick to low impact tasks that are easily accomplished such as folding towels, wiping off the table, or sweeping the floors.
- Garden together – Raking leaves, pulling weeds, and planting flowers are great ways to get outside and be active.
- Organize items around the house – Sort or organize small items like colorful beads, small hardware items, buttons, coins, and nail polish. Or, take on more involved organizational tasks together such as organizing a closet or pantry. Remember to take a break or stop for the day if your loved one becomes frustrated.
- Bake or cook together – Try giving your loved one simple tasks like washing and peeling vegetables or stirring ingredients.
- Visit with friends or family – Experiencing meaningful connections with others and staying engaged socially can help improve brain health and prevent depression among dementia patients.
- Bond with a pet – Studies show that even just a few minutes of petting a dog’s fur can help ease anxiety and agitation in dementia patients while improving their mood and increasing social interaction. If your loved one doesn’t have a pet, ask a friend or family member to stop by with their pet for a visit.
- Decorate for the season – Seasonal decorating is fun and can help dementia patients stay engaged with what’s happening in the world around them. Together, you can put up and take down holiday decorations, string popcorn or cranberries, make wreaths, dye Easter eggs, hollow out a pumpkin, or make Christmas cards.
- Watch a familiar TV show or movie – Sitcoms, comedies, musicals and movies that feature dancing can provide entertainment without the need to follow a complicated plot.
- Give a manicure – Include a gentle hand massage with scented lotion to make your loved one feel relaxed and pampered.
- Fly a kite – Kite flying is a fun outdoor activity that may evoke old memories for your loved one. You can get basic kites online or at a hobby store. Along with flying kites, making and decorating a simple one from a kit also makes a fun activity.
- Do arts and crafts – Simple arts and crafts projects like knitting, painting, and modeling with clay can relieve stress and anxiety and promote cognitive skills.
- Make a shopping list – Sit down with your loved one and make a simple meal plan for the week. Write down the grocery list and have them help you locate the items in the store.
- Talk about old memories – Dementia patients are more likely to be able to recall memories from the distant past than the recent past. Ask them what it was like growing up, or what things they liked to do during their childhood to get the conversation started.
Keep in mind that activities should focus on things that your loved one enjoys doing and make them feel useful. Performing stimulating activities daily is important to help keep your loved one engaged with life and has even been shown to slow the progression of dementia.
To learn more about how home care services can help care for your loved one, contact Family Matters In-Home Care for a free consultation. Our caregivers are experienced with dementia and Alzheimer’s care. They will spend time with your loved one, provide companionship, activities that are mentally stimulating, and will cook nutrition meals and do light housekeeping. Most importantly, our caregivers will give you peace of mind that your loved one is being cared for with the proper support for impaired cognition.