Mar 29, 2021

8 activities for dementia residents that work

Senior woman painting

Coming up with new and engaging activities for people under your care can be challenging at the best of times. But when the care recipients have a range of cognitive and memory impairments, finding the right activity that is both engaging and elicits enthusiastic and positive responses can be even more difficult.

All people, no matter their age or ability, seek enjoyment and pleasure in their daily lives, and all people, no matter their age or ability, deserve to have enjoyable activities to fill their day. 

We’ve put together a list of activities that can brighten the days of those living with dementia, that can be easily implemented into daily routines. 

1. Music

For years we’ve known of the positive effects music can have on ageing brains. You can help to rekindle fond memories by playing music that was popular when residents were younger, or finding out their favourite genres or artists. Recently, on a HelloCare post, a reader recalled playing some favourite music to care recipients, and how they danced and sang along to the old songs. Encouraging engagement with music and songs can be an easy and effective way to lift the spirits of people living with dementia.

2. Tasks that fulfil a purpose

For many people living with dementia, feeling a lack of purpose can contribute to feelings of helplessness. Incorporating simple daily tasks that help care recipients feel useful and needed in their environment can give them an increased sense of purpose. Things like simple organisational tasks, tending to a veggie garden, or folding small things like towels and washcloths can promote feelings of usefulness. 

3. Animal time

Most people at one time or another have had a pet in their life. Whether it was the family dog or cat, or the farm cows and horses, spending time with animals can be an incredible mood booster. If a care provider is able to partner with a local animal shelter or petting zoo, having regular opportunities for people living with dementia to engage with some animals is a wonderful way to positively impact their day. 

4. Balloon games

Who doesn’t love the challenge of keeping a balloon from hitting the ground? This is a fun and low impact activity that engages the mind and body for people living with dementia. Engaging residents’ hand-eye coordination and problem solving makes for a well-balanced, fun and purposeful game. Better yet, with some staff, family or friends with good aim, this can be played from a seated position for people with limited mobility. 

5. Arts and crafts

A lot of people enjoy creative hobbies, whether it be drawing or painting, sculpting, knitting or sewing. Creating and producing art with your hands is both enjoyable and constructive. Participating in activities that engage fine motor skills, such as threading beads onto string, colouring in or painting, or engaging in hobbies like knitting or crocheting, can help maintain skills, engage with past memories, and brighten rooms with the final creations. 

6. Self-care activities

It doesn’t matter how old we get, everyone loves the feeling of being pampered. Organising spa days and activities can feel like a luxurious way to spend an afternoon. With pleasant smells, luscious creams, soothing music, and maybe even a bottle of their favourite coloured nail polish, having an hour or so to sit back, relax and feel pampered can help to brighten afternoons. 

7. Faux travel

Something we’ve all become really good at over the last 12 months is digitally transporting ourselves to places we’d rather be. One way that some care facilities around the world have achieved this for residents has been through the use of projectors or large screens, playing video of exotic locations, eating local dishes, and even dressing up for the occasion for a virtual “tour” of the city. Who doesn’t want a plate of spaghetti in Rome, a hotdog in New York City, or some sushi in Tokyo?

8. Puzzles and matching games

We all know the feeling of satisfaction at the completion of putting together a good puzzle. Or when you finally match up all the pairs and clear the board in a matching game. Again, problem solving and memory skills, matching card games or puzzles can be great activities for people who are living with moderate forms of dementia, and can offer a great sense of achievement upon completion of the activity. 

No matter your age, all people enjoy and deserve to be engaged and entertained. It can be challenging to find the right balance of fun and therapeutic, and finding activities that will keep people living with dementia engaged can be difficult. But with some trial and error, and by using a combination of the above suggestions, you’re sure to find a mix that delivers an all-round good time. 

Tell us – what activities do your residents living with dementia engage with and enjoy?

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  1. ‘Engagement’ is the key here.
    We all like to be included at various levels and our existence acknowledged.
    Story telling, someone reading, just being present when people talk & laugh, to be involved – even if it may be simply observing.
    Visits by school children – including work experience.

    Quite simply our aged care facilities need to increase empathy & consideration – from the boardroom down.

    Quality CARE!!!

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