Caring for a loved one with dementia is incredibly challenging on all fronts. If your loved one has been diagnosed or is showing early signs of dementia you may feel worried. Dementia creates emotional turmoil for you and other family members as your loved one feels like they’re slipping away and you may feel this way, too. There are physical challenges as they start needing assistance for tasks they could once manage alone safely. Not to mention the added financial burdens, administrative work, anxiety, stress, and responsibilities of caring for them. But at the end of the day, the thing most important to caregivers is making the most of the time you have together. In this article, we’re going to give you some ideas to make that time inclusive and positive. Here are some activities, games, and music for people with dementia.
Considerations for People with Dementia
When deciding on activities for your loved one, you’ll want to consider activities that:
Unlock as many memories as possible
Teach new skills
Boost or encourage independence
Strengthens the connection between them and their loved ones
Gives a sense of pride, accomplishment, or purpose
Makes them smile and feel joy
Offer a sense of comfort or peace
Avoid any opportunity for failure
Any activity you try with one of these goals in mind will be meaningful and a hopefully positive experience for all involved. Next, we’ll discuss some ideas that fit these criteria.
Activities for People with Dementia
The everyday life of someone living with dementia can be discouraging and terrifying. That’s why it’s a good idea to keep activities light, encouraging, joyful, uplifting, nostalgic, and fail-proof.
Beyond these generic tips, it’s also important to recognize that every person is different. Activities that work for some may not work for others, so be prepared to experiment a bit. Keep in mind their occupational work and hobbies.
Here are some ideas to help you do just that:
Folding laundry is a great activity to do together. It offers your loved one a genuine opportunity to contribute to the household, feel useful, avoid failure, and use their hands.
Even if everything ends up poorly folded, there is a lot of value in their self-esteem.
If your loved one enjoys spending time outside, gardening may be the perfect activity. Raking, picking weeds, or watering plants may be nice, simple, repetitive tasks that your loved one will excel at.
If gardening isn’t appealing, maybe a rocking chair on the porch will fit the bill a bit better. Outdoor time is great for the mind, body and soul.
Get them outside for a walk around the neighborhood. Take an online dementia or elderly-friendly yoga class. Let them explore the local park or zoo.
Exercise is a great thing for anyone — including your loved one with dementia.
Get them working with you in the kitchen to create something delicious. Let them stir the batter of a simple brownie recipe, or pour the sugar into the bowl. These simple parts of baking will be more accessible, yet offer that sense of a job well done.
Playing around with finger paints, watercolors, colored pencils, crayons, and more can spark a lot of joy in dementia patients. They can unleash their inner child uninhibited from criticisms they may have once put on themselves.
Create a box of objects (like scraps of fabric, colorful blocks, plastic cups, etc.) and let them sort by color, size, texture, pattern, or anything else they’re interested in. There’s no wrong way to sort, and only a sense of accomplishment awaiting them on the other side.
Get a custom puzzle
Find a meaningful image of a fond memory and turn it into a simple puzzle. You can print, laminate, and cut it into simple pieces yourself, or take it to a print shop and let them do it for you.
Be sure the puzzle is simple - don’t get a 100 or 1000-piece puzzle that leaves ample room for frustration. Instead, 4 to 20 pieces should be just about right (depending on the stage of dementia they’re in).
Many elderly adults and adults suffering with dementia respond positively to music and movies from their past. What artists do you remember them enjoying?
If you can’t remember any of the specifics, try looking up some popular music from their teens, twenties, and thirties as a good place to start. Classic holiday songs or familiar religious songs (as applicable) are other great places to look for the music they’ll respond to.
If you are a caregiver for your loved one, we recommend you check out our article about getting paid to be a caregiver. Becoming a caregiver is difficult and expensive–out-of-pocket annual costs average in the thousands for a family caregiver. The state of California offers several paths to receiving at least partial compensation or subsidized assistance, so click here to learn more about how to get paid to be a caregiver.
For further reading and resources, we invite you to check out our library of information for family caregivers by clicking here. You are also welcome to call us at 800-543-8312 to find out more about how we can support you in your caregiving journey.