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  • Karen McPhail, RN, MSN

Activities for those with Dementia

For a variety of reasons many people are now choosing to keep loved one's at home with dementia. This can be successful if certain steps are taken to ensure proper care support, routine, structure, and safety. Routine and structure is key for those with dementia! I am often asked by families to advise on these aspects for many clients that are living at home. I generally outline a customized, structured daily schedule for caregivers to follow for my clients with memory impairments. Providing a balance of structured, engaging activities at the clients level along with down time to avoid fatigue and limit the potential for behavior triggers is key.

Whether it is simple shape sorting, folding laundry, doing puzzles, helping to prepare a snack, doing simple crosswords, exercise or movement with prompting, gardening, or gently sweeping or raking leaves, the key is to draw upon the clients strengths, past experiences, culture, and behavioral patterns. Do they seem to like movement? Do they enjoy sorting or need to have their hands busy? Have they always been a helper? Help them to connect with the sounds, smells, and visual surroundings in their environment in a way that is enjoyable for them! Routine and activity will not only be cognitively therapeutic and keep them busy, it will also help them to feel secure and often times give them a sense purpose.

See my list below for more suggestions! The possibilities are endless with a little creativity and imagination!

Activity Ideas: 1. Listen and move to music 2. Toss or hit a balloon (try to keep it from landing) 3. Color, draw or paint pictures. Lot's of fun coloring books on the market! 4. Make homemade orange juice, lemonade, smoothies or a simple snack. Use cookie cutters to cut out bread for fun finger sandwiches. 5. Count or sort trading cards or flash cards with pictures 6. Clip coupons and sort into plies 7. Sort shapes, poker chips, paperclips, etc 8. Read out loud chapters from favorite books, short stories, comics, or poetry 9. Pick up, throw in the air, sort, or rake leaves 10. String large beads or popcorn! 11. Bake cookies, even simple break and bake, or roll / cut out cookies to bake and decorate with sprinkles and icing. 12. Take photos of the person, family and other areas of interest and create a collage 13. Brush or fix each other’s hair 14. Take a drive in the country discuss the sites and sounds 15. Garden/ plant seeds indoors or outdoors 16. Look at scrapbooks or family photographs, talk about feelings 17. Do household chores together such as wiping off the kitchen table or counter 18. Weed a flowerbed or do some simple digging or gardening 19. Fold laundry 20. Have a pet visit or a friend visit 21. Cut pictures out of the newspaper, greeting cards or magazines 22. Play dominoes or other simple games from their youth 23. Ask about their favorite childhood trip, books or characters 24. Sort quilt squares or objects by shape or color 26. Sing old songs or to a sing along program / tape 27. Encourage the person to tell you more about a memory or favorite holiday / event 28. Help to sort and put silverware away 29. Make a simple card for a family member (sing happy birthday or a holiday song) 30. Play with clay or play dough 32. Play with spinning tops or other cause and effect toys. 33. Try giving them a fidget spinner. Keep a basket out with several types for them to try on their own. 34. Make a scrapbook together. 35. Take a walk around the yard 36. String popcorn or ringed cereal in bright colors such as Cheerios® to hang outside for birds. 39. Make a fresh fruit salad or tossed salad using hands to rip the lettuce 40. Use a broom to sweep a pathway, etc 41. Make holiday decorations out of paper (such as hearts, shamrocks, stars, trees) and decorate 42. Fold towels 43. Have an afternoon tea party with fun hats, etc! 44. Talk about great inventions from the past or that they remember. 45. Look through the pages of a clothing catalog 46. Look at a map of the United States or a globe and talk about places 47. Make a family tree 48. Draw a flag or clock and color 49. Pack in a basket and eat a picnic lunch outside 50. Fill a light watering can and water plants 51. Dance to music from their generation. 52. Watch a simple show from the past such as Dean Martin, old Disney movies or even Sesame Street together 54. Make homemade ice cream using a ziplock bag or ice cream ball to shake and pass back and forth 55. Pop popcorn 56. Do a spa afternoon, give a manicure, pedicure, neck massage 62. Make paper dolls, snowflakes, butterflies 63. Plant a small tree or vegetables in the garden (check progress over time) 64. Read out loud some famous quotations or trivia from their youth 65. Go to a park and feed the birds or ducks 65. Do a simple puzzle together 66. Pick and/or arrange flowers in a vase 67. Use sidewalk chalk if able to draw a simple mural or free form, play with jacks or pick up sticks, or blow bubbles 68. Help to take care of a pet such as feeding dog, cat, bird or fish 68. Bake a small cake or cupcakes to decorate and enjoy 69. Sort coins in jars 70. Decorate a pumpkin or small pumpkins 71. Collect, sort, trace or cut out autumn leaves 72. Do a simple craft such as making a picture frame out of popsicle sticks, gems, shells, glitter, etc 73. Have basket of simple instruments to experiment with and play. 74. Make a favorite snack or meal together. 75. Look at the newspaper and magazines talk about current events

76. Do some Finger painting or splatter painting! Try pouring medium mixed with acrylics on canvas to make interesting swirled designs! Cause and effect is fun!

77. Explore the senses! Have them smell oranges, cloves, cinnamon, perfume and other items and talk about what it reminds them of. Bring out a variety of items to touch: soft, furry, etc. Discuss or ask about how if feels and encourage the sharing of thoughts and memories. Have a small basket of instruments or noise makers to try and explore.

78. Have some colored boxes with an activity packed inside and ready to go! This can be presented to them as a fun surprise to open!

79. Wrap presents: wrap and decorate small boxes! Talk about holidays!

80. Place out a basket of small plastic animal figures, cars, dinosaurs, trains, or other. Let them explore, look at, touch and talk about them. See what memories and ideas come!

Contact me today if you need further input or a custom plan for your loved one!

#behavioranddementia #dementia #dementiacare #activitiesanddementia

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