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Sensory Activities for Individuals With Dementia & Alzheimer's
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Sensory Activities for Individuals With Dementia & Alzheimer's

October 09, 2017

One challenge family members or caregivers typically agree on is just how difficult it can be to find meaningful, stimulating activities for senior loved ones who have dementia. Staying engaged and connected helps adults living with Alzheimer’s disease or a related form of dementia enjoy a better quality of life.

But knowing how to provide stimulating activities for your family member or loved one might be difficult. It starts by understanding what “meaningful activity” really means. It is also important to consider what your loved one enjoys doing, as every individual may prefer one activity more engaging and exciting than the other.

What is Meaningful Activity for Dementia Patients?

Elderly adults with dementia are often given tasks designed to fill time. They might be simple activities that are used to redirect attention if the older adult is experiencing agitation or sundowning symptoms. By contrast, meaningful stimulation for dementia patients are those that engage the person with an activity that is important to them.

The key to planning meaningful and failure free, stimulating activities for the elderly is to consider what hobbies and interests they’ve always enjoyed. For example, if your loved one always enjoyed having a flower garden, think about how you could adapt that hobby so it works around their current skills and abilities. These failure free activities for seniors with dementia are important because they need activities where they're successful. Being happily involved in stimulating activities helps reduce agitation, anxiety, depression and anger among dementia patients.

Perhaps it might be a raised bed in the side yard that allows them to plant and maintain a smaller version of their former garden? Or a container sensory garden on the back patio? Get creative! Keeping your loved ones engaged and stimulated is crucial for their day-to-day morale.

What is Cognitive Stimulation?

Cognitive Stimulation is an approach to brain exercise for adults with dementia to participate in enjoyable activities that stimulate thinking, concentration and memory. Cognitive stimulation can have many benefits for seniors diagnosed with dementia or other memory care conditions. Cognitive stimulation can lead to a positive impact on social interaction, communication, and increased quality of life.

There are stimulating activities for seniors with dementia that have been proven to be effective. Taking a few minutes to review this list might give you some good ideas for creating meaningful activities for your loved one.

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10 Stimulating Activities to Try When a Loved One has Dementia

When a loved one is diagnosed with dementia or another memory ailment, it is important to remember to keep them engaged, active and happy. Sensory activities for dementia patients can help maintain cognitive function, while also adding joy to their day. Here are various forms of sensory activities that your senior loved one with dementia might enjoy:


  1. Nature Walk

  2. Whether it is in your own neighborhood or a local park, communing with nature is a mood elevator. Many local parks have handicapped accessible trails for seniors who might need to use a wheelchair or walker. Taking a stroll and smelling fresh flowers, or enjoying the sunshine can brighten a senior's day.

  3. Inner Picasso

  4. Art therapy is another activity that has been proven to successfully engage adults with dementia. Whether it is painting with watercolor, assembling a collage or creating a clay ornament, art allows people who have lost verbal skills to express themselves. If your loved one with dementia isn't willing or able to try art therapy, watching others paint can be a calming activity they can enjoy.

  5. Head Over to The Kitchen

  6. Most of us love the smell of a home cooked meal that reminds us of different memories. You might enjoy baking cookies because it reminds you of baking with your children. The aromatherapy value can be especially meaningful for people with dementia as it allows them the chance to reminisce on fond memories.

  7. Watch Old Family Videos

  8. Because seniors with dementia may have an easier time accessing older memories, watching old family videos can be a great way to engage them and connect them with faces and places that seem familiar. Even breaking out old photographs and displaying them on a projector can bring back memories that put a smile on their face.

  9. Housekeeping

  10. While it might not be your idea of a good time, tasks like sorting laundry, dusting and running the vacuum can provide a senior with dementia an opportunity to feel successful and productive. Having your loved one sort towels by color or size can help activate their mind, while keeping them engaged.

  11. Sing Along

  12. Music is another good way to engage a person with dementia. Create a playlist of their favorite old tunes for them to enjoy. Sorting albums and songs by different decades can help them feel young again, as they sing to songs they danced to when they were younger.

  13. Activity Box

  14. Many memory care programs utilize activity boxes as activities for dementia patients. They are created with the senior’s specific interests in mind. It might be a box of tools a teacher would use for a person who was a teacher or accounting supplies for someone who was an accountant. These memory care activity boxes don't have to be job specific, they can include anything that makes them happy like old photos, jewelry they used to wear, or a stuffed animal they like to hold.

  15. Pet Therapy

  16. Spending time with animals is another activity seniors with dementia usually enjoy. Whether it is a trip to a local petting zoo or a visit from a friend’s well-mannered dog, pets can help lift the spirit. Many assisted living and memory care facilities allow pets to live on-site because of the positive effects they can have on seniors with dementia.

  17. Hand Massage

  18. A relaxing and comforting activity for individuals with dementia can be those that involve gentle touch. A hand massage with a lightly scented lotion or oil can be both engaging and calming.

  19. Make a Scrapbook

  20. Sort through old photos and print copies of some of your loved one’s favorites. Then use them to create a scrapbook together. You can even turn photos from scrapbooks into puzzles that seniors with dementia can put together at a different time.

    We hope this list gives you some good ideas for creating meaningful days and memories for your loved one.

Memory Care at Elmcroft Senior Living

If you are interested in finding additional support to keep a senior loved one safe and engaged at home, call the Elmcroft Senior Living community nearest you to learn more about our dedicated memory care program.

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