One challenge family 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 might be difficult. It starts by understanding what “meaningful activity” really means.
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 activities 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.
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 garden on the back patio? Get creative!
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 suffering with dementia such as a positive impact on social interaction, communication and 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.
10 Stimulating Activities to Try When a Loved One has Dementia
Here are some sensory activities for dementia patients that your loved one might enjoy:
Nature WalkWhether 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.
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.
Most of us love the smell of cookies baking in the oven. The aromatherapy value can be especially meaningful for people with dementia. It can also be an opportunity to reminisce about baking or cooking favorite family treats.
Watch Old Family Videos
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.
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.
Music is another good way to engage a person with dementia. Create a play list of their favorite old tunes for them to enjoy.
Many memory care programs utilize activity boxes. 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.
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.
Stimulating activities for dementia seniors includes those that involve gentle touch. Hand massage with a lightly scented lotion or oil can be both engaging and calming.
Make a Scrapbook
Sort through old photos and print copies of some of your loved one’s favorites. Then use them to create a scrapbook together.
We hope this list gives you some good ideas for creating meaningful days for your loved one.
Memory Care at Elmcroft Senior Living
If you are struggling 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.