Community Blog

15+ Activities for Seniors Battling Dementia

By Debbie Humphrey

A caregiver friend recently ran into a challenge with a dementia patient. The woman lives in an assisted living facility that is short on help, which is why my friend continues to visit the lady to help.

Even though the woman has made a few friends in assisted living, she is usually found lying on her bed in her room, essentially isolated, somewhat withdrawn, depressed, and seemingly hopeless.  It breaks the hearts of the woman’s family, as well as her caregiver, who all clearly remember the vibrancy she exuded as a former social butterfly.

Her daughters requested the caregiver take their Mom for a tour at a local adult activity center, or adult daycare, to see if their Mom would find people she knows and activities in which to become engaged. So the caregiver went on a fact-finding mission to “read” Mom’s behaviors and attitudes before a financial commitment was made. It was a good thing they waited, because Mom didn’t want anything to do with an adult daycare facility or their “babysitters!”

If senior activity centers are not an option in your case, either, I found an amazing resource chocked full of free or low-cost activities for seniors with dementia to help minimize boredom, depression, anxiety and anger; keep their minds stimulated; and their fidgety hands occupied. Here, I have consolidated the most popular options with links to the original sources to help spark the best ideas for your situation:

  • Board Games – When counting and simple math become a frustration for someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s, “Sometimes games like Snakes & Ladders, Ludo, etc., help boost a person’s confidence,” says Dementia Care Notes.
  • Trivia Games – “A study published by Dr Robert Wilson and a team at Rush University Medical Center, tracked almost 1,100 people with an average age of 80, for nearly five years, and found that playing trivia games and other forms of board games helped stave-off mental decline by promoting activity changes in the temporal and hippocampus regions of the brain. These are areas where working memory functions,” according to Dana Hinders’ Trivia Games for the Elderly
  • Puzzles – “In a review of several studies, researchers found that seniors with memory loss who worked on puzzles for 45 minutes, two time a week, had improved scores on memory tests. These improvements accounted for approximately six-nine months delay in symptoms or decline,” reports Clarity Pointe Specialized Memory Care “Living” Neighborhoods in Jacksonville, FL.
  • Bingo – “Bingo is an ideal game for people with dementia. It is enjoyed every day by people of all ages, so it is stage-specific for anyone except those in the very last stages of the disease. It requires that the person distinguish and match colors and shapes, so it is beneficial at a cognitive level,” says John Schmid, Best Alzheimer’s Products.
  • Brain-Training Computer Games – “A study of 2,800 people over the age of 65, has found that those who did a type of brain-training intended to boost a person’s brain processing speed were 29% less likely to develop dementia over a ten-year period,” says Mallory Locklear, New Scientist.
  • Memory Boxes – “Putting together a memory box is a good way of stimulating and drawing out memories. Put favorite objects, old photos, and items from the person’s work in the box to be examined. If the person is agitated, looking at the objects may calm him or her down. During quiet moments, when the person is tired or you don’t want to go out somewhere, looking at the photos and objects can be a very relaxing way of being together,” according to Alzheimer Scotland.
  • Spelling Trays – “Sticking colorful magnetic letters on a metal tray is a fun way to spell familiar words or just play with the shapes and colors. Use a simple baking sheet with raised sides as a tray,” suggests Daily Caring.
  • Gardening – “Gardening provides a change of scene and will also ensure you both get some fresh air and exercise. It may be a good idea for the person to have his or her own patch of garden to dig and plant in. Weeding, trimming lawn edges, sweeping paths, and general tidying in the garden can all be tasks many people with dementia can cope with,” Alzheimer Scotland
  • Outings – Visiting fun, familiar places a person with dementia used to enjoy, like parks, coffee shops, restaurants, etc., can be a great way to lift their spirits and prompt big smiles. “When they visit familiar places, they can enhance their mental health. Family caregivers may take them to places that they enjoy most and may spark their old memories,” states Survivor Shop’s, Activities for Seniors with Dementia.
  • Visit a Museum – “Persons with memory loss and their loved ones value comfortable, engaging, and joyful experiences outside of daily routines. Through these special programs, museums can provide unique opportunities for people to have meaningful experiences and activities , and to socialize with new people, and their care partners and families,” says Lisa Eriksen, American Alliance of Museums.
  • ExerciseChair exercises, walking, riding a tandem bike, yoga, dance, Tai Chi, doctor-recommended cardio and almost anything that gets the body moving can help improve mood and mental acuity by increasing oxygen and blood flow to the brain.
  • Crafts – Many people love to craft, and crafting can take many different forms. Knitting, painting, stringing beads, arranging flowers or making musical instruments all
  • Music – “Use music to sooth your loved one, or to connect to and communicate with them. Play their favorite tune when you’re spending time together, or put on a quiet, calming song when they’re upset.” From The Music Connection and Dementia by Homewatch Caregivers. Furthermore, the Alzheimer’s Association concurs, “Studies have shown music may reduce agitation and improve behavioral issues that are common in the middle-stages of the disease. Even in the late-stages of Alzheimer’s a person may be able to tap a beat or sing lyrics to a song from childhood. Music provides a way to connect, even after verbal communication has become difficult.”
  • Occupational Activities – A brochure by the Alzheimer’s Association also suggests occupational games or activities. “A former office worker might enjoy activities involving organizing, like putting coins in a holder, helping to assemble a mailing or making a to-do list. A former farmer or gardener may take pleasure in working in the yard.” An article from Autumn Grove Cottage continues, “Many seniors have fond memories of being handy in their homes. You can create a handyman game to help them maintain those memories as well as give them something to do with their hands. Gather inexpensive PVC pipe in varying lengths, some elbows and t-joints, and have your loved one put them together in different ways. The pipes and fittings can be put together and taken apart repeatedly to make different shapes.”
  • Dolls – Anna Gorman of Kaiser Health News via CNN said, “Senior care providers and experts say the dolls are an alternative to medication and help draw in elderly people who are no longer able to participate in many activities.”

I have shared this list with my care-giving friend, and I am sharing with you, because it contains many resources for finding fun, engaging activities for seniors with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.  No matter what stage of dementia your loved one is currently facing, our compassionate caregivers are certified in Alzheimer’s and dementia care, and they are available to help 24/7/365.

Home Helpers® offers a Safe Wheelchair Transport Service for transportation assistance to/from doctor and therapist appointments, or adult activity or senior centers. We also provide companionship for seniors who live alone, and these caregivers are always willing to assist with, and participate in, fun activities with those in their charge. I am happy to offer a FREE Consultation to assess your needs and/or those of your loved one to see what we can do to help keep them actively engaged for a better quality of life!

We, at Home Helpers® Clearwater, are honored to have received the Home Care Pulse – Best of Home Care® Provider of Choice Award for 2017, 2018 & 2019. We proudly serve male and female seniors in Clearwater, Dunedin, Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor, Tarpon Springs, Holiday, New Port Richey, Trinity, Port Richey, Hudson and surrounding areas. Home Helpers®…we are Making Life Easier℠  727.942.2539


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