Dementia and Occupational Therapy - Home caregiver and senior adult woman

Purposeful Engagement for Those Living with Dementia

September 9, 2020

If you have a loved one living with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, you’ve likely experienced that person exhibiting signs of frustration and withdrawal from family, friends, and activities. Providing your loved one with opportunities to engage in meaningful and stimulating activities ensures that their needs are being met and also provides them with a sense of purpose, no matter how far their dementia has progressed. Purposeful engagement, or offering activities to a person living with dementia based on their likes and strengths, has been shown to increase self-esteem, encourage independence, decrease depression, and support memory.

When thinking about keeping your loved one engaged, consider hobbies and interests they enjoyed before their diagnosis. Below are some suggestions to help you get started:


Painting is a fun and relaxing activity and helps to sharpen the mind while delivering numerous health benefits. If your loved one is mobile and willing, head outdoors to a local park to paint the scenery. Coloring and drawing are great alternatives that offer similar benefits.


Whether your loved one is an old pro in the kitchen or a total novice, cooking is an excellent way to connect and get creative. To limit frustration and mess, pre-measure your ingredients, and encourage your loved one to help with simpler tasks like pouring and mixing.


Knitting, along with sewing, quilting, and cross-stitching, is a terrific way to engage the brain while strengthening fine motor skills and, in some cases, relieve chronic pain. If knitting has become difficult, they may enjoy helping you plan for your next project. Ask your loved one to help sort the yarn by color and type, choose a pattern, and pick out a pair of knitting needles.

Brain Games

Brain games, such as chess, crossword puzzles, Scrabble, and jigsaw puzzles, are excellent choices for those who may have difficulty with mobility and prefer staying close to home. While helping to keep your loved one engaged, brain games also fight against cognitive decline, short-term memory loss, and forgetfulness.

Family Photos

Choose a few favorite family photos and use them to help your loved one stir up and talk about old memories. Encourage your loved one to share their memories and engage them by asking questions, but try to refrain from correcting them if they make mistakes or confuse names. You can also ask them to put the photos in chronological order. After a few days or a week, introduce a new set of photos to discuss.

We hope these ideas inspire you to engage your loved one in a fun and creative way. However, if caring for your loved one is proving to be overwhelming, consider looking into a senior living community that can provide daily care and intellectual engagement focused on your loved one’s unique needs.

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