7 Activities You Can do with Your Loved Ones with Dementia
If you care for someone who has dementia, identifying dementia-friendly activities is key to maintaining their physical and mental health. Suitable activities can soothe agitation and distract from distressing emotions. They can also help a person with dementia maintain their sense of identity and a healthy amount of self-esteem.
If a loved one or a family member has dementia, your familiarity with their likes and dislikes will help you to identify activities that they find enjoyable.
Here are some suggestions of dementia-friendly activities you and your loved ones can do together!
1. Arts and Crafts
The therapeutic effects of arts and crafts have positively impacted the mental wellbeing of people with dementia. The benefits of art therapy for those living with dementia include improved mood, self-esteem, and overall quality of life.
Encouraging creativity can also give people with dementia a sense of purpose and identity and an outlet for self-expression. Some examples of artistic activities you can share with your loved ones include:
2. Helping Hands
If you live with or care for someone who has dementia, try to involve them in daily household tasks as much as possible. This can help them to maintain a sense of inclusion and purpose while providing a natural environment for verbal interaction. Sticking as closely as possible to a consistent, daily routine can also help to reduce restlessness, agitation, and anxiety.
It is important to tailor activities to suit the physical and cognitive health of people with dementia. Possible kitchen, garden, and household tasks may include:
- Chopping or peeling vegetables
- Folding clothes
- Planting seeds or weeding
- Setting the table
3. Brain Stimulation
Activities that stimulate the brain are very important for people with dementia and may help to combat the effects of memory decline. Studies have found that cognitive stimulation can improve overall memory, thinking, and communication skills, all of which contribute to a better quality of life.
Appropriate brain-boosting activities for people with mild to moderate dementia include:
- Reading books
- Playing board games
- Completing crosswords or jigsaw puzzles
- Watching TV or movies
- Playing instruments
4. Sensory Stimulation
Sensory stimulation is highly therapeutic for people with dementia and can improve communication, behaviour, and overall quality of life. Familiar songs and scents can encourage a sense of calm and safety and may even be used to evoke pleasant memories. Loved ones with dementia may enjoy sensory experiences such as:
- Pampering treatments (like hair brushing, hand or foot massage, or nail care)
- Listening to music
- Reading aloud
- Tactile toys and games
- Walking in a familiar and pleasant location
5. Take a Trip Down Memory Lane
Progressive memory loss is the best-known and, often, the most impactful symptom of dementia. Helping your loved ones to re-visit their best memories is a meaningful shared activity that can lift the mood of everyone involved. See these questions to ask your loved ones about the past.
Many people find that photo albums and memory boxes greatly help boost memory recall in people with dementia. By including items of personal significance, you can also help your loved one to maintain their sense of identity and self-esteem.
6. Physical Exercise
Physical exercise is a cornerstone of strong cognitive health, which is especially important for people with dementia. Even those with physical restrictions can participate in light physical activities, such as:
- Gentle walking
- Seated stretches and exercises
Those with reasonable physical fitness may also enjoy:
- Weight lifting
- Playing catch
7. Interact with Animals
Simply being around animals can spark joy for many people, and those living with dementia are no exception. Interacting with animals has been found to reduce anxiety, encourage communication and improve the overall mood of people with dementia.
Therapy animals are an increasingly popular choice for many people, but you don’t necessarily need to adopt a pet. Some low-maintenance animal-themed activities include:
- Watching or feeding birds
- Visiting local farms
- Watching movies or TV shows featuring favoured animals
- Spending time with the pet of a friend or relative
Finding meaningful activities for people with dementia can be challenging. In many cases, ‘normal’ everyday situations can trigger confusion, frustration, anxiety, or fear. If you live with a person with dementia, identifying and participating in dementia-friendly activities is key to helping your loved one to maintain a good quality of life.
Activities that speak to the person’s identity are the most likely to benefit them, as doing things they have always enjoyed can elicit positive emotions. It is also important to consider the person’s physical and cognitive abilities when choosing activities, as people are most likely to engage in situations in which they feel comfortable.
About the author:
Relish designs products to bring joy to life with dementia. Their mission is to enhance the wellbeing of people with dementia by offering meaningful, fun activities that help them build relationships with their loved ones and caregivers.