6 Activities for Dementia Patients: A Fascinating Guide

The term dementia is associated with a wide variety of cognitive deterioration or dysfunction symptoms1 like loss of memory, difficulty in speaking, and deterioration in problem-solving skills that interfere with optimal functioning on a daily basis.

The most common cause of progressive dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia is caused by loss of neural connections in the brain or damage to nerve cells that lead to deterioration over time.

However, depending on the type of dementia, the symptoms can sometimes be reversed as well. These days, activities for dementia patients have made it easier for seniors with the diagnosis to live their lives more comfortably.

1. People With Dementia

The stages of dementia progress in seven steps in which the person affected will experience a gradual decline in cognitive functioning, eventually leading to the 7th stage which represents very severe damage. Having dementia, however, doesn’t signify that the person has to abandon doing things that they enjoy.

There are different kinds of activities for dementia patients that are available for such people. After all, elders with dementia also desire connection and togetherness just like everyone else.

activities for dementia patients
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1.1. Seniors With Dementia

As much as 7-8% of adults aged 60 and above are diagnosed with dementia.

As mentioned, the most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s which affects 1/3rd of adults aged 85 or older. Several factors like smoking, drinking, high blood pressure, and uncontrolled diabetes increase the risk of developing dementia.2

Staying active is useful for physical and cognitive health. Therefore, it is essential for people with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease to engage in fulfilling activities with their loved ones. But, one must also keep in mind the physical limitations that are applicable to their age.

The following sections of the article will now discuss fun, stimulating, and productive activities for dementia patients that can calm erratic behaviour and promote cognitive function and a sense of security.

2. What Is Cognitive Stimulation?

It is a method that can have numerous benefits for people with dementia. According to an article published by Elmcroft, cognitive stimulation is “an approach to brain exercise for adults with dementia to participate in enjoyable activities that stimulate thinking, concentration and memory.”

This approach can have a helpful impact on social interaction, communication, and increased quality of life. Several stimulating activities for people with dementia have proven efficient in terms of bringing happiness to them while also keeping them engaged thereby, improving cognitive functioning.

3. Activities for Dementia Patients

3.1. Creative Activities

Tailoring and other activities for seniors with dementia based on individual interests are very helpful. With the help of knitting or crocheting, let the person feel the weight or the rough textures of the yarn for sensory stimulation. Serious memory loss and cognitive dysfunction don’t appear to be a hindrance to knitting.

If the family member was a musician or involved with music, introduce them to instruments or sing-alongs. Musical abilities outlast other memory functions in people with dementia who have milder cognitive decline.

Nursery rhymes, maracas, and tambourines encourage creative self-expression in patients with advanced impairments.

Another method of safe creative expression is through painting and drawing. Encouraging the use of bold, bright colours on large surfaces along with the use of butcher paper is a great activity for dementia patients that allows them to express themselves without the stress of enclosed spaces.

activities for dementia patients
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3.1.1. Games

It might get harder for a person with Alzheimer’s to engage in arithmetic calculations and simple counting might also become very difficult. Games like Snakes and Ladders and Ludo help in boosting the person’s confidence. Bingo is a game enjoyed by everyone as it is easy to comprehend and play. Furthermore, it is essential to note that games like bingo are stage-specific and not applicable to those in the last stages of dementia.3

In the earlier stages, such games are beneficial due to the existence of a certain level of cognition. Card games and other activities that involve matching help in improving memory, and concentration, and aid in stimulating hand-eye coordination and problem-solving skills. This idea improves self-esteem and self-confidence4 too.

activities for dementia patients
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3.1.2. Playing with Clay

Creative activities also include the use of slippery clay or play-dough. These activities are essential for older adults or seniors with dementia in terms of tactile stimulation. Feeling a variety of objects of different shapes and sizes in addition to rubbing hands in motion is very stimulating for the person.

With the help of scrapbooking, dementia patients can choose and cut out pictures from magazines according to their interests, for example; cars, cooking, or fashion.

The caregiver may also scan or take printouts of family photos and help the people with dementia to arrange them in ways that create a scrapbook for memories.

3.2. Reminiscing Activities

Reminiscence therapy is provided to allow seniors with dementia to connect with their memories with the help of visual or sensory cues. Instead of asking direct questions that cause stress and confusion, the therapist may approach with gentle guidance.

For example, while looking at a childhood photo, people with dementia could be asked to describe what growing up felt like instead of being asked to tell when the picture was taken.

It is a form of talk therapy where certain smells and sounds from the person’s past are also used to spark memories. Reminiscence therapy is also used with other forms of therapy like psychodynamic therapy or art therapy.

It has successfully treated patients with dementia and thus, it is also useful for Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s disease.

activities for people with dementia
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3.2.1. Memory Box

Activities that lead to reminiscence include putting together a memory box. Making a memory box is a great way of stimulating the recollection of memories. Old photos, favourite objects, and items from work that the person used to do can be put into the box. Looking at these objects may help an agitated senior to calm down.

The therapist may also bring in props like objects, photos, music, or certain shows the seniors used to watch in the past. Looking at photos from the person’s childhood or young adulthood, watching their favourite movies and shows, and listening to old classics and Christmas carols will help a loved one remember certain memorable things from the past.

Back in the day, people did most of their shopping from magazine catalogues. Activities like finding original versions of such magazines and prints that they enjoyed during their younger days could help bring back memories of that period in time.

3.3. Fulfilling Activities

These kinds of activities that are free of failure increase their feelings of self-worth. Folding laundry is a repeated motion that brings about a sense of calmness and the smell of classic detergent may elicit comforting memories. However, items like fitted sheets and buttoned shirts may be difficult to handle.

If loved ones like to fix things or tinker, fitting together PVC pipes is a great activity for dementia patients with high motor function. For those in the more advanced or late stages, wooden and plastic toys provide the same experience. The elderly may also enjoy untying knots from thick and loose ropes. Avoid rough ropes with knots that are too tight.

activities for dementia patients
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Puzzles with large, tactile pieces are fail-safe and help with matching. Picking a puzzle with wooden colours or activities that include pieces of different shapes are very useful. A person who enjoys crossword puzzles will also enjoy a puzzle book too.

3.4. Sensory Activities

Studies suggest that activities that include familiar smells from their childhood, like flowers or freshly baked Christmas cookies can lead to the recall of positive memories and emotions. But, it is important to avoid smells that lead to anxiety. Through tactile exploration, it is possible to bring up memories that are not accessible through verbal or pictorial prompts.

For example, a person may not remember their wedding or the first time they bought a car. However, feeling weighty keys and embroidered pearls may encourage reminiscence.

activities for dementia patients
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3.4.1. The Power of Taste and Touch

Just like smells, taste also has the potential to elicit emotions and memories. For example, a taste of chocolate cake could lead to the recall of birthdays, or sipping on freshly brewed coffee could bring back the quiet, early mornings enjoyed by the person.

For sensory stimulation and memory cues, activities that provide the person with unique textures may be considered. For example, if they like animals, think about the soft fur of animals or if they are into gardening, touching damp soil or leaves is a great way to induce recall.

3.5. Outdoor Activities

Walking a couple of times a week may help to reverse the direction of the disease by improving physical fitness in seniors who have common age-related memory loss that does not require too many medications and treatments. Activities like hand massages may also be gladly accepted by seniors as the sense of “touch” is very familiar. Just five minutes of hand massage has been shown to provide physiological relaxation5.

activities for dementia patients
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3.5.1. Tai Chi

Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese technique of exercising that uses slow, flowing movements with controlled breathing. It is a great way of bringing about a relaxed state of mind not only in patients with dementia but also in their caregivers. Yoga and meditation help the patient engage different parts of the brain that facilitate neuroplasticity.

Simple types of dancing and riding a bicycle are also great activities that improve their quality of life. Cardio workouts facilitate the flow of blood into the brain, which is beneficial for those suffering from dementia. Swimming for many is associated with happy childhood memories. Thus, swimming can have a lasting positive impact on the individual’s mood.

3.6. Technological Activities

Immersive technology has a lot of safety benefits and it can provide mind-stimulating activities for dementia patients.

Technological-based activities offer internet live streams for your loved one. Patients can view zoos, nature preserves, aquariums, and art museums like The Louvre, and since the live camera footage changes constantly, it provides visual stimulation to home-bound dementia patients.

Through Google Earth, the caregivers of the loved one might load the location of their favourite place or childhood home and allow the patient to explore.

Activities that include technology also facilitate connection through video calls and chats. Even if the senior is unable to speak, the presence of their family can still provide some comfort.

Record videos of their pets, family members, and auspicious moments and install them into a tablet for the patients to watch when they are feeling restless.

activities for dementia patients
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As the effects of the disease get worse, the loved one will require support at home. As the disease advances into its later stages, more intensive round-the-clock care is required other than just activities. In order to establish care as a part of their routine, an early acknowledgement is required for those with memory loss to help them remain independent.

4. Residential Care

In addition to activities, a residential facility may be the best alternative if the person with Alzheimer’s or other dementia wants a community living setting or requires more care than can be provided at home.

4.1. Types of Residential Care

There are various types of residential care to evaluate which one best suits the needs of the dementia patient. Some of them are:

4.1.1. Alzheimer’s Special Care Units (SCUs or Memory Care units)

For those with Alzheimer’s or dementia, memory care is aimed at providing a safe, controlled environment with established routines to reduce stress. Employees, like those at assisted living homes, prepare meals and assist residents with personal care responsibilities.

Residents in normal assisted living are expected to manage their own meals and mealtimes are displayed, but no one checks in on them. In contrast, caregivers in memory care make sure people get to meals, participate in activities and go on to the next thing.

Memory care facilities contain alerted doors, coded elevators, and enclosed outer spaces to keep residents with dementia on-site as they are prone to wandering. Such residents are also provided with tracking wristbands that allow them to roam freely while still allowing their caregivers to keep track of their whereabouts.

activities for dementia patients
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4.1.2. Retirement Housing

Individuals in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease (often referred to as the mild stage in a medical context) who are still capable of caring for themselves may benefit from retirement living.

4.1.3. Assisted Living

Assisted living is a middle ground between independent living and nursing home care. It usually provides a mix of lodging, meals, supportive services, and medical treatment. The federal government does not regulate assisted living, and its definitions differ from state to state. Because not all assisted living facilities cater to persons with dementia, it’s crucial to look for one that does.

activities for dementia patients
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4.1.4. Nursing Home

Nursing homes offer 24-hour care as well as long-term medical therapy. Nutrition, care planning, recreation, spirituality, and medical care are all addressed by services and employees in most nursing homes. Nursing homes have varying staff-to-resident ratios, as well as differing degrees of experience and training among their employees. Nursing homes are regulated and licensed by the state.

4.1.5. Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs)

Individual requirements are met by CCRCs, which offer several degrees of care (independent, assisted living, and nursing home). If a resident’s needs change, he or she can transfer between the various levels of care available within the community. These types of facilities can be paid for with an initial admission fee followed by monthly payments, or they can be paid entirely with monthly costs.

5. Conclusion

As discussed, Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of memory loss. Dementias are frequently classified according to what they have in common, such as the protein or proteins deposited in the brain or the affected brain region. Some disorders, such as those caused by pharmaceutical reactions or vitamin shortages, resemble dementias and may improve with therapy.

Dementia is a deadly disorder because it causes the digestive system, lungs, and heart to fail due to progressive brain cell death. Following a dementia diagnosis, someone can expect to survive for about ten years. However, with the help of advancements taking place in the form of treatments and activities for dementia patients, this fact has come to vary greatly across people, with some living for more than twenty years. It’s crucial to try not to get caught up in the numbers and to make the most of the time left with your loved ones.

6. Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What Does Dementia Do to a Person?

It is the loss of cognitive functioning — thinking, remembering, and reasoning, to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities. Some people with dementia cannot control their emotions, and their personalities may change.

Q2. Can Dementia Patients Live at Home?

Yes with proper care, Dementia patients can live at home.

Q3. What Organ Causes Dementia?

Dementia is caused by different diseases that affect the brain. Lewy body dementia – also known as dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) – is caused by Lewy body disease. In this disease, tiny clumps of proteins known as Lewy bodies appear in the nerve cells of the brain

The 7 Stages of Dementia
Icy Health
  1. Dillon, Carol, et al. “Behavioral symptoms related to cognitive impairment.” Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment (2013): 1443-1455. ↩︎
  2. Byers, Amy L., and Kristine Yaffe. “Depression and risk of developing dementia.” Nature Reviews Neurology 7.6 (2011): 323-331. ↩︎
  3. Huang, Huei-Ling, et al. “Family caregivers’ role implementation at different stages of dementia.” Clinical interventions in aging (2015): 135-146. ↩︎
  4. Martin-Morales, Antonio, et al. “Efficacy of vardenafil and influence on self-esteem and self-confidence in patients with severe erectile dysfunction.” The Journal of Sexual Medicine 4.2 (2007): 440-447. ↩︎
  5. Vermunt, Riel, and Herman Steensma. “Physiological relaxation: Stress reduction through fair treatment.” Social Justice Research 16 (2003): 135-149. ↩︎

Last Updated on by ayeshayusuf


Samraggee Bhattacharya
  1. The article was very helpful and insightful. I’m sure many will benefit from reading this article and better understand a situation that someone with dementia is going through and better deal with them. Very well written.

  2. As I have relatives who suffer from dementia. This was a very informative article. I have started implementing some of the activities mentioned in the article with my relatives and they are really enjoying it. Thank-you for writing this article I am very grateful for it. :)

  3. Samraggee ! it is so very nice to read your articles. Very well compiled and the best part is the simplicity in your writing. You research work is amazing. Keep it up !

  4. Found the article insightful. I also read about the use of technology (tablets) which assist in overcoming the challenge. It might be useful to understand more about the role people (family) can play.

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