While Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are life-changing, many people are living with these conditions and still enjoying activities they love. Caring for someone with dementia isn’t easy but finding an enjoyable and enriching activity can help create a supportive and safe environment in a challenging time.
When determining what activities might be best for people with dementia, we found this advice from the Alzheimer’s Association to be particularly helpful:
“Having an open discussion around any concerns and making slight adjustments (after a diagnosis) can make a difference. For example, a large social gathering may be overwhelming, but the person may be able to interact more successfully in smaller groups. As Alzheimer's progresses, you may need to make other adjustments to the activity.”
The Alzheimer’s Association recommends caregivers consider the emotional aspects of an activity, when determining which ones will be the most appropriate for people with dementia. We created these tips based on their advice:
There are so many things that a person living with dementia can enjoy, but physical, mental, and emotional limits must be considered. Be mindful of signs of fatigue so activities can remain joyful instead of overwhelming.
As a caregiver, you may be required to continually change your expectations of a person with dementia. Cognitive and physical abilities may vary widely from day to day. Patience and attention are key to finding enjoyable activities.
Determining what activities are most appropriate, helpful, and healthy for a person with dementia can feel like an overwhelming and impossible task. Routines can be very helpful in households with a family member living with dementia, as many find routine to be comforting and calming, during a time when their memory lapses may leave them feeling anxious and worried about their future.
Caregiving is challenging and emotionally, mentally, and physically demanding as you manage your own emotions related to your loved one’s memory condition in addition to a heavy load of additional responsibilities. You are not alone. Reach out to community resources, online message boards for Alzheimer’s caregivers, or search alz.org for ideas for new activities that may bring more peace to you and more joy to your loved one.
One popular activity that people living with dementia may enjoy is creating a Memory Box. A Memory Box can be filled with photographs, postcards, small toys, candies, or any other items reminiscent of a particular era to help a person with dementia connect to their past.
Memory Boxes can stimulate long-term memory and encourage a person with dementia to tell stories about their family, childhood, or any memory that may come to mind.
Senior care experts recommend filling a Memory Box with both personal and universal items from a specific time period, such as a toy car from the 1950s and personal photos from the same era. They are a great way to stimulate positive conversation, rather than focusing on struggles or distressing moments with dementia.
Many people enjoy the familiarity of old programs or movies they once enjoyed. Streaming services and cable channels include a variety of older movies and TV shows that can offer hours of enjoyable entertainment with family and friends.
Music can bring back pleasant memories and with free online radio services and in-home devices, music is available to help soothe or excite a small dance party. Whether they love 70s country or classic rock hits, there’s a channel that you can play to create a comforting and familiar ambiance in their living space.
Board games like checkers and card games like Go Fish are easy to learn and don’t require a lot of focus or attention. These games can also be great for family time, as they can include everyone from small children to great-grandparents.
Spending time outside can be relaxing and fun, whether you’re taking a walk in the neighborhood or feeding birds from a park bench. Simple outdoor activities can help a person with dementia feel less isolated and more connected with their community.
Puzzles, trivia, and matching card games can help an individual stave off boredom and mental decline while improving concentration and cognition. Adjust the challenge level of any brain game to ensure it’s fun for an individual and not overwhelming or stressful. There are also several apps designed specifically to help people with dementia care for virtual plants or animals, try new brain games, or watch fun videos that enhance brain activity.
AARP’s Staying Sharp is dedicated to helping seniors maintain their cognitive function and memory. Free with an AARP membership, Staying Sharp includes memory games, brain health resources, assessments, and more to help individuals take control of age-related brain health concerns.
Activities for people with dementia may need to be closely monitored to accommodate a waning attention span, higher frustration levels, and cognitive concerns. These tips should help:
The best activities for dementia patients vary greatly based on their unique circumstances, likes, and the progression of their disease. We recommend that you try a variety of different activities to determine what they will enjoy the most.
You can also talk to your loved one’s doctor to get a referral to a social worker if you’d like to find out what activities may be available for your loved one living with dementia in your community. Resources like your local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association can also help you connect with both support groups and more helpful information.
There are medications and supplements for people with early Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia that can help maintain an active lifestyle and stave off or minimize some of the potential effects of these diseases. Well-researched and clinically-tested supplements like Memory Health can improve both the brain’s cognitive function and overall brain health so you can continue to enjoy activities with your loved one.