15 Activities for Those Living With Dementia
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It’s important that those with dementia are able to engage in activities just the same as anyone else. In fact, activities can both stimulate the brain and trigger memories. Whether or not you live with someone with dementia, or are considering elderly live-in care for a loved one for someone with dementia, this guide provides some useful ideas for activities to enjoy with your loved one.
We take a closer look at the below activities:
You can read our guide to understanding the difference between dementia and Alzheimers here.
Helping keep the person with dementia active is important for their overall mental and physical wellbeing. Exercise can be incorporated into their daily schedule, even if this just includes a stroll outside or a yoga class. They might enjoy swimming in the local sports centre which can be a great way to not only include this as part of their exercise routine but also as a way of increasing their social lives. There may be other classes at local centres that offer tai chi, aqua aerobics, tennis and other sports that the person may be interested in.
Jigsaws and puzzles can be great ways of helping pass the time on rainy days. They can also help keep a person with dementia’s brain active and give them a good opportunity to practice fine motor functioning. You can even buy personalised jigsaw puzzles that might make the activity more enjoyable for the person.
Doing sudoku and crosswords will not reverse dementia symptoms but they can be enjoyable activities for people with dementia. Since these are also problem-solving exercises, they can encourage connections in the brain to continue to remain active, hopefully reducing the speed at which they are lost.
Listening to music
Listening to music can be relaxing for people with dementia and there are studies that suggest it can improve mood and therefore wellbeing. Certain songs may also activate and stimulate specific memories which can be important for someone who is losing their memory.
Playing a musical instrument
If the person plays a musical instrument or shows interest in doing so then this can be an enjoyable activity to help encourage them with. Playing a musical instrument has also been shown as beneficial for people’s cognitive health which is a great reason to help support them with this activity.
Going for Walks
Walks outside in nature can be an easy activity to incorporate frequently. Walking has many psychological and physical benefits. It helps stimulate your senses and encourages connection with other people. Local parks can be good locations for walking as they are usually away from busy roads. If the person is prone to falls then using walking aids such as a walking stick can be helpful. They may also experience disorientation or forget the route home so try not to leave them unattended outside the home.
Arts and crafts
This can include anything from drawing, colouring, sewing, knitting or collaging. This will be very much dependent on what the person would like to do and this can change each time they engage with this activity. If you notice that they like a particular activity more so than others, then you can support them with buying enough supplies for what they want to do.
If the person with dementia has a garden then you can help them to maintain any plants or flowers they may have. You can also support them with mowing the lawn and planting new plants. Even if the person does not have a garden, you can support them with watering indoor plants and if they have a keen interest, they can even grow edible plants inside such as herbs. This can be rewarding for the person with dementia and help them feel a sense of achievement.
Baking or Cooking
This can be a great activity to do together and it can be an opportunity for people with dementia to try to remember recipes that they used to make or follow a new recipe using clear instructions. You may need to support them with each step but try to prompt rather than do it for them. Be careful of the person with dementia using sharp knives or other potentially dangerous equipment as they may be clumsier, which could result in injury.
Looking at old photos
This can be a useful activity to help people with dementia recognise familiar faces of family members and friends. It can also be an opportunity for them to reminisce and recall any memories that may be triggered by the photographs.
Reading the newspaper together can be a good activity to keep them up to date with topical information and help stimulate conversation.
Animals can be therapeutic for people with dementia and pets can improve companionship and reduce anxiety. One activity a person with dementia might like to do is take their dog for a walk or spend time with their cat.
Watch a favourite TV show or film
This can be incorporated into a routine but should not be the main activity someone with dementia engages in. Watching TV is a passive activity, despite the flashing images and lights and therefore does not stimulate the brain in the same way as other activities on this list. However, sometimes the person will need to sit down to rest and putting on their favourite programme can be enjoyable for them, especially if you are there too.
Playing card games that the person with dementia is familiar with can help stimulate cognitive processes involved with memory and problem-solving. Adapt games if you need to and remind them of the rules as you go along.
If the person has a smartphone then they will be able to download different apps that they might like. You will most likely need to support them with downloading the apps and helping them onto an app.
These are a few apps to consider:
- My Reef 3D (download from the App Store or Google Play)
- Let’s Create! Pottery (download from the App Store or Google Play)
One activity could be going through the different apps available together and choosing those that they would like to try.
What games are suitable for the elderly?
Games that are enjoyable for an elderly person are the most suitable as they are likely to be engaged in on multiple occasions rather than just one time. This can be anything from board games with other people, which can also facilitate socialising, to doing crosswords in newspapers, to games that are played on a smartphone or computer. The important aspect is that the activity is not “passive”, such as watching TV or a movie. The activity should engage the older person so that they are taking an active part in the process (i.e. the game or activity would not work unless the elderly person is doing something). Physical games are also possible but these should be tailored to meet the needs of the person playing because it can be more likely that an elderly person’s balance may be poor or they may be more susceptible to injury.
Elderly activities and games can be helpful for improving cognitive health, maintaining social skills and providing physical benefits. Board games can be a really great way of bringing people together which can be more enjoyable for elderly people as they can have the opportunity to spend time with friends and family. Board games for the elderly also take a lot of cognitive processing and require cognitive skills such as problem solving, memory and a need to follow instructions. These can be areas of cognition that are affected in dementia so it is good to keep these skills practiced.
Brain games which can be offered through applications on smartphones or computers are more targeted at helping improve specific cognitive functions such as memory and attention, however, they lack the social involvement that board games offer and they may be more difficult for elderly people to use if technology is less familiar for the elderly person. If this is the case then engagement in sudokus, crosswords or reading can be sufficient.
Why should older people play brain games?
Brain games for the elderly can be a helpful way of keeping their minds active. Although there is some doubt in the literature as to whether brain games can protect against dementia or cognitive decline, there is also a suggestion that brain games are helpful in maintaining neural connections that may be lost when someone retires and becomes less engaged in stimulating activities. Scientists mention the “use it or lose it” theory which suggests if you are not using parts of your brain then these functions become lost. Therefore, if someone is engaged in brain games that stimulate memory, then areas of the brain that are involved with memory will stay active, helping to maintain such cognitive functions. This is only a theory and is not yet proven but there has been no evidence of harm in keeping the mind busy through brain games. Brain games for seniors with dementia may also be able to protect against further decline and can be a way of keeping elderly people motivated and engaged, however games will need to be tailored to the ability of the person doing them since something too challenging will cause a loss of motivation, whereas a game that is too easy will not have such a beneficial effect.
How do seniors stay mentally active?
Seniors can stay mentally active through a variety of different ways. Social interactions, physical exercise and mental exercises help keep elderly people psychologically, cognitively and physically well. Mental activities are not just those that are derived from brain games but also include social interactions, engaging in everyday activities and carrying out household tasks. All these things require planning, organisation, memory and attention which are important elements of our cognition. Thus, seniors can stay mentally active by doing things that involve their brains in different tasks throughout the day. It is important for someone to not just spend the day sitting down, watching television and having everything done for them as this will limit mental stimulation. If an elderly person struggles with their mobility or already has a cognitive impairment, it may be difficult for them to engage in tasks. In such cases, activities such as reading, doing puzzles or spending time with family can be beneficial for them.
Why are memory games important?
Memory improvement games are important because memory is something that tends to decline if someone has dementia so memory training can be helpful to try to generate more activity in those parts of the brain. Although memory games have not been shown to reduce the risk of developing dementia, they can help keep the mind active and have not been shown to do any harm. Some people have found memory games benefit all of their memory whereas others have only found memory games to improve their performance on the particular game in question. Either way, it can be a way of including activity into a senior’s daily life to try to help them not be passive recipient of information but to try to continue to actively stimulate their minds.
Brain Games for seniors with dementia
Brain games for adults and games for older adults can help keep the mind active and stimulated whilst also providing a means to help improve mood. Once someone has dementia it can be more difficult to encourage that person to engage in brain games since their attention will likely be poorer and they may struggle to adhere to the rules of the game and understand instructions. In such cases, it is important to provide training through familiar games that the person may have previously enjoyed and it can be helpful to have a loved one or a carer supporting the person with dementia when they carry out any brain games, since motivation may be reduced.
There is also no evidence to suggest that brain games are effective at reversing dementia and therefore there may be a point when brain games are ineffective for someone with more advanced dementia. This will be noticeable as the person with dementia will likely show disinterest or they will not be able to sustain attention in the game.
The above are just some of the activities you can enjoy with a loved one. For those who think their relative may have dementia, but are unsure, you can read our guides on dementia for more information. The Live in Care Company can provide elderly live-in care for a loved one, meaning they can remain in comfort in their home, one of the benefits of live-in care. For more information about what types of elderly live-in care are available, or to speak to one of our friendly team, contact us today.