Dementia’s progression is heartbreaking for loved ones because it can slowly take away the memories and abilities that made a person the individual they knew and loved. However, dementia doesn’t define a person or the moments they can enjoy. Creating activities for dementia patients can help enrich their lives by enhancing their sense of self. These activities also allow them to connect and interact with people and the space around them.
Activities for dementia patients can be anything from taking a stroll down memory lane, listening to music, enjoying art, or attending planned social hours. The biggest rule is respecting the patient’s individuality, tapping into their interests, and doing anything to preserve their dignity. Below, we’ll outline several activities you can try to slow a patient’s cognitive decline and enhance their quality of life.
Three Important Points to Consider When Choosing Activities
Before we get into the activities, there are three critical points to remember when planning or choosing these activities. They include:
- Timing is Everything – People with dementia can be unpredictable, so you have to be flexible. Ensure the person isn’t distracted or preoccupied and can focus on their activity. Also, pay attention to when they seem most content and happy, and consider the time of day.
- Pick Stimulating Activities – The goal is to keep dementia patients as physically and mentally stimulated as possible. Keep an eye out for things the patient likes to do or did in the past. For example, they may want to care for a stuffed dog or cat if they always had pets. Try to match the activity to the person’s likes.
- Make the Activities Failure-Free – Pick projects that are failure and frustration-free. Try to match the activity to the person’s ability level and make it simple and easy to follow.
Three Creative Activities for Dementia Patients
First, let’s go over a few fun and simple activities that engage the person’s brain and encourage them to be creative. A few options include:
Create a Memory Box
Get a small box and gather items that are special for the person. They may have special mementos or like looking at pictures of family and pets. You could include these things if they had a job they liked, including items they would have used. For example, if they were in trades, include bolts or sandpaper.
Paint a Picture
Allowing someone to create art lets them express themselves, and it could improve their memory. If you’re worried about accidental spills or messy cleanup, consider putting butcher paper down to catch any errant paint spills and make cleanup quick and easy.
Listen to Music or Dance
Music has strong ties to emotions and memories, making it vital for dementia and memory care. Playing familiar music can trigger memories and improve mood; tapping along to a song can improve motor skills. Dancing is a great physical activity that you can modify to suit varying mobility levels.
Did you know that many dementia patients have trouble sleeping? Check out MD Newsline and find out how listening to music or meditation may help improve sleep.
Three Sensory Activities for Dementia Patients
If you want more hands-on activities that encourage patients to get up and move around or explore their surroundings, the following can get an excellent option:
Gardening can be very gratifying and stimulating. Whether watering indoor plants, planting seeds, or arranging flowers, they offer a nurturing role. Gardening is also a great way to trigger fond memories and encourage conversations. Finally, it’s a beautiful way to add gentle physical activity.
Not only is threading pasta fun, but it also gives the person something to wear. You only need pasta with bigger holes like penne or ziti and colorful yarn. If you want to add more support to your thread, wrap some tape around the end to make a “needle” to thread through the pasta. You can use plain pasta or get dyed pasta to make patterns.
Pick a simple dish or side dish your loved one has liked or made for years and help them make it. You could try simple things like garlic bread or no-bake cookies. Allow them to do as much as possible, helping them if they ask or get stuck. This activity helps engage all of their senses at once.
Three Group Activities for Dementia Patients
Some things are more fun to do in a group, and it’s a fun way to get everyone to participate to the best of their abilities. A few group activities to consider include the following:
Get a karaoke machine and play a few favorite songs. Not only does this invoke happy memories, but it can also help improve mood. You can have a quick sing-a-long with a few of their favorite songs and even make a small prize for everyone at the end.
You can play balloon volleyball with a group or one-on-one, and the goal is to keep the balloon in the air by slapping it with your hands. It’s fun but also a great way to improve cardiac function, balance, reflexes, and strength. Additionally, getting up and moving can help manage weight.
Simple, silly jokes are a great way to break the ice and get people relaxed and laughing. Pick out a few jokes and try them out. You can also ask your patient or loved one to tell a joke or two.
A Cognitive Activity for Dementia Patients
Finally, keeping the mind sharp and active is a great way to help slow the progression of the disease and keep people engaged and happy. One cognitive activity to try is:
Get a range of puzzles and have the patients work on them. They can be anything from simple jigsaw puzzles to crosswords or word searches. Not only are they great for giving people something to figure out, but they’re excellent for encouraging socializing and creating connections.
Did you know that neurodegeneration is common in dementia patients? It’s also common in people with multiple sclerosis.
Embracing the Present, Enriching Lives: The Impact of Meaningful Activities in Dementia Care
Giving dementia patients meaningful activities is an integral part of their care and well-being. These activities, whether creative pursuits like art, music, or dance or engaging with nature through gardening, enrich their lives, stimulate their minds, and connect them with their pasts and the world around them. Importantly, these activities are about the process and the enjoyment it brings to the individual, not the end result.