Dealing with dementia is difficult for everyone involved. Fortunately, with advances in medical science, there are excellent ways to treat and engage with dementia patients. With some trial and effort, caretakers can find the activities that keep a dementia patient engaged and entertained. Proper dementia caregiver support is vital to the process, of course. So, here’s a list of ideas of things to try – remember engagement and enjoyment are more important than accomplishment.
Interest & Hobbies
Relating activities to the person’s life interests and hobbies is an excellent start. Try these activities:
- Music – play music from the patient’s younger years
- Sorting – sort coins, stamps, buttons, or other small, easy to handle items
- Art – paint, color, draw, mold clay, create pottery, etc.
- Puzzles – jigsaw, word, number, etc. – there are all kinds. Find one the patient enjoys.
- Excursions – visit museums, theaters, music concerts
- Foods – try new foods at home or a restaurant – or prepare family comfort food
- Games – cards and board games, especially those played in their youth work well.
Physical activity is key to engagement. Keep the activity at an intensity easily handled by the patient. Keep in mind; it should be enjoyable and safe for the patient.
- Dance – try different styles until the patient reacts positively.
- Walk – go for a walk outdoors, if possible.
- Seated Movement – if mobility is an issue, turn on some music and move arms and legs from a seated position Use props such as pom-poms, scarves, hats – whatever causes a smile.
- Swim – this is a great low-intensity exercise.
- Yoga or Tai Chi – The slow movement of these practices makes them easy to follow, plus they help maintain strength and balance.
- Slow Marching – Good movement and add counting to stimulate the mind.
Social interaction is an important activity, so repeat activities with a positive outcome.
- Personal Visits – if a patient has a particular person or persons they connect well with, encourage regular visits.
- Technology – Nowadays, video chats are easy to do, but pre-recorded videos of family and friends can be fun for the patient as they can watch them repeatedly.
- Old Family Movies or Photos – Dementia patients often remember their younger lives over the present. Going through old photos, scrapbooks, or movies often triggers happy memories.
- Children & Animals – Visits from children and small animals, bring a smile to most patients’ faces. The children do not have to be related for this to work – a child’s giggles, smiles, and hugs always lifts spirits.
The patient can enjoy simple, household tasks. These can be things they’ve done most of their lives without thought, but now bring comfort with their familiarity. Choose tasks they can quickly complete without frustration.
- Folding Clothes
- Preparing Food – Cooking or just preparing food to be cooked
- Watering plants
- Washing Dishes
- Setting the Table
The five senses trigger memories from different parts of the brain. So stimulating those senses works well for some patients.
- Textures – collect items having different textures in a box—fabrics, blocks, balls, etc. Let the patient hold each item and ask what it makes them think about
- Smells – Collect items that have a pleasant odor (i.e., sandalwood, cinnamon sticks) or place a few drops of essential oils or extracts on small pieces of cloth (i.e., vanilla, peppermint). Let the patient smell and reminisce on the memories it brings back.
The emphasis on all activities should be enjoyment and not accomplishment. Whatever brings a smile to the patient’s face is enough.
Dr Liz Geriatrics
Do you need support as a caregiver for a dementia patient? Dr Liz Geriatrics can help. We can advise on general patient care or specific to your situation. Our services aim to benefit the dementia patient and the caregiver. Contact us today at 650-357-8834 x1 for more information.