Dementia poses such challenges for those suffering from it, as well as for their caregivers; it can be tough to find the bright spots sometimes. But it’s important to remember that dementia patients can find joy and satisfaction, particularly when you focus on what they CAN do (versus being discouraged over what they cannot), and keep things simple, suited to their interests, and sensory-driven. Here are some hands-on activities we’ve found work very well:
- Gardening tasks, like pulling weeds; transplanting potted plants; planting seeds or bulbs
- Kitchen jobs, like shucking corn; shelling peas; mashing potatoes; making a simple boxed muffin or cake mix
- Sorting and organizing activities, like Tupperware by size or color; buttons, by size, color, or style; playing cards, into decks that match; pantry items, arranging cans and jars by size, brand, or content
- Games and puzzles, like Old Maid, Go Fish, dominoes, or jigsaw puzzles with very large pieces
Alternatively, it also can be soothing and relaxing to listen to music together, sing along to old favorites, or even read a book aloud.
Memory-based projects can be a wonderful way to spend a few hours while stirring up feelings from happy times! Put together a memory box, full of mementos and favorite photographs; or go through old photo albums, labeling and dating photos as you go; or assemble a photo collage around a theme, like a beach vacation, or a grandchild’s birthday.
Even those with more advanced dementia can engage in and get satisfaction from some simpler activities, like
- Arranging a sock drawer
- Having a friend to visit with a well-trained pet
- Giving a manicure or hand massage
- Sitting on a park bench and watching the birds, or sitting near the ocean
- Look through a coffee table book of beach photos or tourist spots they may have visited
You can find more ideas at Dementia Today and on the Alzheimers.org website.