If you are living with dementia, it is important to keep as active as possible, not just physically but mentally. Lack of stimulation and boredom can be frustrating to a person living with dementia. Engaging in activities and keeping active prevent depression, reduce anxiety and irritability and offering enjoyment in life.
Dementia friendly activities have many benefits to the person living with dementia, including:
Help the person connect with positive memories
Help the person to reminisce about their life
Create emotional connections with others
Help the person feel more engaged with life
Help the person feel productive
Builds confidence and self-esteem
Here we explore the types of activities for people with dementia. We provide information on how to plan and choose dementia friendly activities. We aim to help families learn how to engage in their loved one’s favourite hobbies and interests so they can live a better quality of life.
HOW TO PLAN FOR DEMENTIA ACTIVITIES
If you are providing dementia care to a loved one it is recommended that any dementia friendly activities are planned well. It is important not to overwhelm the person with dementia. If they are overstimulated, they may withdraw from engaging in activities altogether. Positive and gentle encouragement is key to getting them to take part in activities.
The environment in which activities take place should be planned. For many taking part in activities in the home provides familiarity and comfort. There are now many dementia friendly places in most communities that are considerate to those living with dementia. It is important to consider how many people will be involved when planning activities in a community setting. Many people living with dementia can feel anxious or frightened when confronted with large groups of people, even if they know them.
Consider and plan activities that they can physically and mentally participate in. Never make your loved one aware of what they can no longer do. Focus on positive dementia friendly activities that will stimulate, be enjoyable and not frustrate.
Create a support bubble or family and friends that can help keep your loved one engaged in activities throughout the week. A simple, weekly activities plan can be supported and enjoyed by all the family and will add variety to the type of activity and where it takes place.
HOW TO CHOOSE APPROPRIATE ACTIVITIES FOR PEOPLE WITH DEMENTIA
There will be several factors that will determine what activities are suitable for a person living with dementia. The plan of activities will need to be flexible and should respond to the progression of the person’s dementia and changes that take place. Dementia friendly activities that are suitable in early-stage dementia will not necessarily be suitable when a person is living with advanced dementia. You should always consider a person’s abilities and skills, as well as any physical limitations whilst engaging them in activities they enjoy. When organising activities for dementia you will need to be patient and focus on the process of the activity, never the result. Making a result the focus over enjoying the activity will only seek to frustrate your loved one and can cause irritability and anxiety.
WHAT ACTIVITIES CAN YOU DO WITH SOMEONE WITH DEMENTIA
Here we detail the types of dementia friendly activities you can do with your loved one and how they are beneficial to their overall well-being. Consider a blend of activities that are physically stimulating with those that gently challenge the mind to give balance to how your loved one spends their time.
Exercise and physical activities
Staying physically active has many health and well-being benefits for those living with dementia, no matter where they are on their journey or the type of dementia they have. Health benefits include improvements in the health of your heart and blood vessels, better bone strength reduces the risk of osteoporosis, and it reduces the risk of falling by improving balance and strength. There are also significant benefits to mood and mental health well-being as it provides an opportunity to engage with others reducing social isolation, whilst promoting a good night’s sleep. Being flexible and strong can mean that you are able to continue with daily tasks, like getting dressed and going out of the home, improving overall independence for a person with dementia.
Types of suitable activities for people with dementia include:
Simple household tasks – putting clothes away, organising laundry and making beds
Walking – is one of the best all round activities for people with dementia. It also combats the restless urge some people experience with dementia to wander. Combine a walk with a useful errand like walking a dog or going to the shop.
Water aerobics – this is a gentle and relaxing exercise suitable for people with dementia.
Aerobic exercise – there are dementia friendly aerobic classes in many communities, or you could invest in some light arm weights and resistance bands and enjoy this in the comfort of home. There are lots of exercise videos online that you can use.
Dancing – whilst not a traditional exercise dancing has the added socialisation benefit and connecting with music can boost mood and promote positive self-esteem.
Reminiscing about your loved one’s life
Reminiscing and life history work can be a powerful way of communicating with a person with dementia. Those living with dementia can continue to access long-term memories even if the short-term memory is impacted by the condition.
Reminiscence activities for people with dementia can provide an opportunity for families and friends to spend quality time together. The person with dementia feels empowered by these dementia friendly activities as they can emotionally connect in a positive way to the past and the life they led. It gives them an opportunity to talk and share something meaningful to them. Talking about happy memories of the past brings much joy, which can help alleviate stress and anxiety sometimes experienced. Families can also enjoy reminiscing as it enables them to find out more about their loved one.
Types of reminiscence activities include:
Interviewing your loved one to find out about their life, their childhood and their family
Watch family videos together and talk about family events
Look through photograph albums
Make a photograph album on special memories
Listen to their favourite music and talk about memories associated with certain songs
Find objects that stimulate positive memories, for example a wedding dress or a piece of jewellery
Create a scent jar of smells that evoke positive memories, for example stones from a beach
Cooking and baking
Whether your loved one was a keen and able cook or not, providing an opportunity for them to create a meal or bake a cake can help boost mood and self-esteem. Depending on their ability, choose a recipe that is easy to follow. If they are experienced in the kitchen, help them recreate a dish from their past that evokes positive memories. Always provide the support they need throughout and ensure safety in the kitchen.
Activities with pets and animals
Animals have a very positive effect on people living with dementia. The calming nature of most animals can be soothing and can help a person with dementia communicate and articulate themselves better. Pet therapy or animal-assisted therapy involves guided animal interaction to improve a person’s physical, mental or social health. Research has found that people who have pets or interact with pets are generally healthier compared with non-pet owners. It can lower blood pressure and heart rate, reduce stress hormones and boost levels of the feel-good hormone, serotonin.
An animal’s unconditional love and acceptance as well as the therapeutic benefits from physical pet contact can improve quality of life for a person living with dementia. Other well-being benefits include:
Reduces stress and anxiety
Has a calming effect, promoting relaxation
Pet companionships can reduce depression
Improves social interaction
Improves physical activity
Reduces behaviours that challenge a person living with dementia
Types of pet therapy activities for people living with dementia, include:
Taking the family pet for a walk
Take your loved one to an animal sanctuary or local farm
Research animal-therapy organisations
Getting out and about with your loved one
Ensuring your loved one continues to get out and about enjoying the activities they always have is critical to maintaining quality of life. Social isolation and lack of engagement with your community can have a negative impact on a person living with dementia. Arranging activities, trips out and participating in hobbies like they always have will give your loved one a sense of purpose. It will also mean they are getting exercise, which can help with behaviours that challenge and sleeplessness.
Many places in the community are now dementia friendly places, so you can have the reassurance that your needs will be considered by those around you. Typical activities you could explore include:
Going shopping together
Visit your loved one’s favourite place in their local town
Short day trips
Visit local areas of interest and landmarks
Spend time in a local park
Exploring nature and wildlife
If you loved one has previously enjoyed the great outdoors or wildlife, this should not stop just because they are living with dementia. Enjoying fresh air and open spaces can bring many well-being and fulfilment benefits to a person with dementia.
Types of activities you can enjoy with your loved one include:
Visit the park and feed the ducks
Visit a local forest for a walk
Join a local nature trail
Watch a nature documentary together
Reading and books
Many people who have dementia have experienced a lifetime of reading and enjoying books. Living with dementia, even in early-stage dementia causes difficulty with short term memory making reading challenging. That does not mean they cannot enjoy books and listening to stories. Use this activity for dementia as an opportunity to reminisce as well by choosing a book that has been a childhood favourite. Reading to your loved one can be relaxing for you both. You could even provide your loved one with audio books for when they are on their own to give them something to enjoy.
Dementia friendly games and activities
There are many compelling benefits to a person living with dementia to engage in games. Participating in game can slow the decline of dementia and boost creativity, expression and mood. It can also provide a person with dementia something purposeful to focus on, whilst being enjoyable for the all the family to take part in.
Some children’s games are often the right level for someone with dementia, but you should ensure they provide some level of challenge but not be too simplistic your loved one become frustrated.
Card and board games – there are a several games created for people who are living with dementia to stimulate cognitive function including:
Jumbo slide-slot bingo cards – these enlarged bingo cards are perfect for those living with dementia as are easy to follow and all the family can use.
Marble mazes – these hand-held marble games are suitable for those who have visual or dexterity difficulties. ‘Amazing Chase’ is a well-known marble maze and is suitable for those with advancing dementia.
Call to Mind – this is a board game for dementia designed to encourage and stimulate memories for those living with dementia, boredom and irritation.
Unforgettable and Puzzler – this 140-page book includes puzzles and activities, including crosswords, nostalgia and much more specifically designed for those living with dementia to stimulate the mind and conversation.
Snakes and ladders – using an adapted version of this popular game, using numbered cards instead of dice can provide those living with dementia much enjoyment and stimulate memories of family and the past, or childhood.
Other dementia-friendly games include:
Word search – specially adapted word search games with no more than 30 words, provides cognitive stimulation to those living with dementia.
Colouring books – colouring books are increasing in popularity in adults. For someone living with dementia it provides relaxation and builds self-esteem. The Alzheimer’s Society a range of books on their website for dementia patients.
Arts and crafts
Participating in arts and crafts can help a person living with dementia to express themselves through creative activity. Creative arts, where you use different materials can provide sensory stimulation for your loved one. There are many specialist suppliers of arts and crafts for dementia activities and charities also supply suitable supplies.
HOW THE GOOD CARE GROUP CAN HELP
For families who are considering long-term care for a loved one, you will no doubt be thinking about where your loved one should receive that care. Many will naturally consider a care home where there is likely comprehensive programme of activities for your loved one to enjoy. However, live-in care is fast becoming the preferred choice for those who wish to stay in the comfort and familiarity of their own home, especially when they are living with dementia. There are many benefits to receiving one-to-one live-in care from a trained and dedicated carer who enables your loved one to enjoy games and activities that are meaningful to them, not just a group of people.
We will match a carer team to meet not just specific care needs, but to provide companionship, socialisation and emotional support. This can involve simply providing much-needed company, avoiding feelings of isolation, but can also entail facilitating and taking part in dementia friendly activities.
As part of our comprehensive care planning process, we will ensure that things to do with dementia patients, including any hobbies and
activities, are included in the plan of care. The plan will be regularly reviewed by a dedicated care manager in line with a person’s care and support needs.
The care we provide is flexible and our carers are on hand to provide gentle encouragement to try new activities that may make life more stimulating and enjoyable. Our trained dementia carers understand which activities and games are suitable for those living with dementia and use best practice tools and techniques to help maintain cognitive function. They aim to make life engaging and interesting, significantly reducing feelings of low mood, frustration and anxiety sometimes associated with the condition.
Taking part in dementia friendly activities provides an opportunity for our carers to socialise and have fun with their client. It enables a carer to develop a social bond with them, enjoying hobbies and activities they both enjoy.
TALK TO US ABOUT YOUR LIVE-IN CARE NEEDS
Find out more about how we can help you to live well with dementia in your own home and enjoy dementia friendly activities with your own dedicated carer. We will help you every step of the way.