Stimulating Dementia Activities You Can Try With Your Loved One

For people living with dementia and Alzheimer’s, lack of stimulation and boredom can be one of the most frustrating things. It’s important to provide activities that engage and bring pleasure to people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Exercise and physical activity

Exercise and physical activity can have lots of benefits for people with dementia. It can help regulate their sleep and prevent restlessness and sleeplessness in the evening. It can also help maintain a positive mood and lower the risk of them developing depression.

Physical activities may include:

  • Walking around their neighbourhood or a local park
  • Depending on age and fitness, you could try tandem biking
  • Water aerobics – health and fitness centres often have workshops and classes specifically for elderly people or people with dementia
  • Fishing

Reminisce about their life

Long-term memory often remains stronger for longer in people living with dementia. It can be wonderful to engage your loved one in discussions or activities about their lives. It’s also a fantastic opportunity for you to learn more about your loved one.

Some ideas include:

  • Interview your loved one about their life using a video recorder
  • Talk to them about their life, their childhood, and their family
  • Look through photos and make a photo album
  • Watch family videos together
  • Ask them about their favourite memories around a particular topic, such as their favourite holiday or oldest friend

Engage them in their favourite activities

Doing their favourite hobbies and interests them can be a great way to engage them in stimulating activities. It’s always useful to ask your loved one what they might like to do first, so that you can make sure activities are really tailored to them. One way of doing this is by asking them to show you their favourite hobby.

Cooking and baking

Cooking or baking simple recipes together can be a good way to get them doing something practical whilst also offering a tasty treat as a reward. It’s important to let them do as much as is safe and possible. Depending on their stage it may be the case that they simply watch whilst you cook or they may take the lead and you just help with the steps that they find most challenging.

Animal therapy

If your loved one is an animal lover but doesn’t have a pet, animal therapy could be a great way to provide stimulation. Pets have been shown to relieve stress and symptoms of depression and anxiety whilst also providing a sensory experience for your loved one. There are other benefits too. Pet therapy can help lower blood pressure and heart rate, reduce the stress hormone cortisol, and boost levels of the feel-good hormone, serotonin.

Why not consider the following?

  • Invite a friend or family member over who has a well-behaved pet
  • Take your parent to visit a local animal shelter or a local farm to see the small animals
  • Research local animal therapy organisations

Go out and about

People with dementia often complain about being bored or not getting out enough, so this can be a wonderful way to ensure that this need is met and that they have varied stimulation. It also has the added benefits of providing purpose to their day, offering a chance to exercise, and relieving depression and anxiety, whilst minimising problem behaviours, such as sleeplessness and agitation.

You might want to do the following:

  • Go shopping together
  • Visit their favourite place around town
  • A short day trip to a local place of interest
  • An afternoon in the park

Explore nature

Exploring nature is the perfect place to get some fresh air and see new things. There are many stimulating activities that you and your loved one can do. This can be particularly good if your loved one has a green thumb or a love for wildlife.

Activities to consider are:

  • Garden together, especially if your loved one has a green thumb
  • Visit a local botanical garden
  • Go bird watching at the local park or nature reserve
  • Feed birds at the pond
  • Sit in your garden – you could organise a BBQ or simply sit listen to bird song and wind chimes
  • Watch a nature documentary – if the weather your loved one’s condition won’t allow you to go outdoors, TV can still provide some great opportunities to explore nature
dementia care at home

Read their favourite book

If your loved one loved to read but is now struggling to do that, you could read them their favourite book. You can even let them listen to their favourite book, or new books, on tape or as an audiobook. This can be a better alternative to television if they don’t find television stimulating or are no longer able to read themselves.

Engage them in their favourite topics

Everyone has different interests and hobbies. It can be hugely engaging to talk to your loved one about their favourite topics or sports teams. To facilitate this, you could even watch YouTube videos with them about their favourite singer, public figure, or sports team. This has many benefits, such as stimulating positive discussion, helping them to reconnect with their youth, and also making them feel like a valued person.

Music therapy

Music offers a powerful way of providing comfort to people. Music can both soothe and stimulate people. It can elicit powerful emotional responses and also help people reconnect with memories. Nostalgia can also be a great way to help your loved one connect with their past if they are living with dementia.

  • Listen to their favourite signer, band or genre together
  • Create a Spotify playlist of their favourite artist or genre
  • Show them videos of their favourite singer or band performing live

Arts & Crafts

Arts and crafts are a wonderful way of letting your loved one express themselves whilst also exploring their creative side. For many, even if they were never particularly artsy or creative, arts and crafts can provide a wide range of sensory stimulation.

Activities to consider include:

  • Painting
  • Knitting
  • Colouring-in

A wide range of adult painting books like Alzheimer’s Art Therapy and other dementia activity products can be purchased over on Active Minds website.

Care Professional Polina had the following to say about the Aquapaint, “The Aquapaint was simple to use and very calming for my client. All we needed was a paint brush and glass of water, there are 5 different canvases which can be re-used without creating any mess. My client with Dementia enjoyed painting them by himself and I would recommend it to any other clients too!”

Simple and fun activities

Sometimes, simple but fun activities can offer great results. Not only are they familiar to your loved one and relatively easy to follow, but they can help your loved one to feel productive.

Why not try the following?

  • Jigsaw puzzles – as dementia progresses, fewer pieces will be necessary
  • Crosswords
  • Dominoes
  • Old board games, such as snakes and ladders, and scrabble
  • Have an afternoon picnic or tea party
  • Untying knots – this gets their hands working and requires a surprising amount of focus

Simple ideas

Finding new activities to do with your loved one every day can be exhausting. Fortunately, everyday tasks can provide stimulation throughout the day. Not only does this allow you to get jobs done but it can also make your loved one feel productive and give them a sense of purpose.

Tasks include:

  • Folding laundry
  • Pairing socks
  • Sweeping
  • Cleaning silverware

Perseverance and flexibility is key

If your loved one isn’t interested in the activity or seems resistant, just take a break and try again later. You could also try a different activity or ask your loved one how you could make this one more enjoyable for them. You should also focus on the process of the activity, not the results – what matters most is that your loved one enjoys the time and feels useful.

Learn more about how we can assist with dementia care at home today.