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Keeping Older Adults Busy: 22 Bedside Activities

Whether it’s a temporary situation or more permanent, if one of your family members is bedridden, you likely don’t want to dwell on their limited mobility.

Instead, I’m sure you’d rather spend quality time bonding and creating memories together.

What are some activities that the bedridden can enjoy?

Here are some recommended activities for the bedridden:

  • Read together (or listen to audio books)
  • Join on online bookclub
  • Have a tea party
  • Play games
  • Work on puzzles
  • Work on crafts
  • Try out some Lego projects
  • Watch television or films, especially old ones
  • Put together and look through photo albums
  • Create a themed day complete with room decorations
  • Listen to music together
  • Learn a new language
  • Video chat with others
  • Virtual Travel

Although being bedridden is difficult, your loved one doesn’t have to languish away. The activity ideas we listed above can be a great opportunity to enrich a bedridden person’s life.

Plus, the added social stimulation of doing them with you will make them look forward to the good time you’ll have each time you two get together!

What Can You Do While Bedridden?

People assume that when you’re bedridden (or even on bed rest), you can’t do much of anything. While your physical activity will be limited when stuck in bed, there are still plenty of fun activities to share together.

Here is a laundry list of options for bed-bound older people.

1) Read A Good Book Together Or Listen To Audio Books

Everyone has a list of books to read that’s a mile long. Being bedridden is a chance to catch up on all those books that there was never time for..

Reading is a great way for a bedridden person to be transformed into other worlds outside of their own. They can also temporarily forget about their circumstances as they’re embroiled in the lives of others.

If your loved one can see well and hold onto a book, then you can take turns reading passages aloud to one another.

For those who struggle to read, audio books are a great alternative. You can listen to an impassioned reader narrate the book from beginning to end.

You might also look for (or start) a virtual book club. Since the pandemic, so many things have gone virtual and book clubs are no exception. Just do an online search or turn to Facebook to find one.

2) Join An Online Book Club

You probably weren’t aware that there are online book clubs! My sister belongs to 3 of them.

If you enjoy reading and discovering new books, then being part of a book club is right up your alley. And being bedridden doesn’t have to prevent you from joining in on the fun.

There are plenty of online book clubs that you can join regardless of your location. All you need is a computer and an internet connection.

Some of the benefits of joining an online book club include:

  • Finding new books to read: Members of online book clubs share recommendations with each other, so you’re sure to find some new titles that you’ll enjoy.
  • Connecting with other book lovers: When you join an online book club, you’ll get to discuss books with like-minded people from all over the world. This is a great way to make friends and connect with people who share your interests.
  • Never having to leave your house: One of the best things about online book clubs is that you can participate from the comfort of your own home. So if you’re bedridden or otherwise unable to leave your house, you can still enjoy all the benefits of being in a book club.

If you’re interested in joining an online book club, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First, make sure to choose a club that’s right for you. There are clubs for all different kinds of readers, so finding one that matches your interests shouldn’t be too difficult.

Click here for a list of online book clubs.

Second, be prepared to be active in the club. Most online book clubs require participants to read a certain number of books per month and to post regularly in the club’s discussion forums.

If you’re not an active reader or if you don’t like discussing books, an online book club probably isn’t the right fit for you.

Third, remember that online book clubs are still social groups. That means there will be times when you need to be patient and tolerant of other people’s opinions, even if you don’t agree with them.

If you’re the type of person who gets easily offended or defensive, an online book club might not be the best environment for you.

Joining an online book club can be a great way to connect with other readers from around the world and to stay active in your reading habit, even if you’re bedridden.

3) Have A Tea Party

Although being bedridden might not feel like a festive occasion, you can make it so with tea parties. Perhaps you throw a tea party with your loved one once per week or once a month at a certain time.

During the tea party, you can bring out a table with doilies and break out your finest china.

Make it even more fun by dressing up – even if you simply wear a feather boa and a pretty fascinator hat like this one:

Go one step further and make finger sandwiches, or bake small pastries and tarts. Or, take an online cooking class.

Then, of course, you’ll need tea, whichever flavor is your loved one’s favorite to start. You can then branch out and explore all the different tea flavors together.

If a tea party isn’t your idea of a great time, try to think of the next best thing along the same lines. Maybe you can bake together? I did this with my mother after she was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor.

It left her with very limited physical movement from the waist down, but she had upper body strength until the end of her life.

We found creative ways to bake cookies together. I ran the mixer and she measured the ingredients as I brought them to her in her hospital bed.

Once the recipe was made, she put the cookie dough on the baking sheet and decorated the cookies. We had a great time, which was the most important thing.

4) Work On Puzzles

I think puzzles are a great idea for anyone, whether they are bedridden or not.

Working on word search puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, and games like Sudoku (which is really a form of puzzle, in my opinion) are great for keeping an elderly mind sharp and warding off cognitive decline.

If the puzzle has a “connection” to something in the puzzler’s life, all the better. Customizable puzzles with images of loved ones and beloved pets are wonderful for dementia patients, too (bedridden or not).

For example, if you are working on a jigsaw puzzle with an image that resonates with an older adult, ask them to tell you about the time they visited the place or what it means to them. You will likely find out something new about the person.

You might find it easier to use an overbed table (see online) that can roll over the bed or a foldable laptop table (see online) to work on a jigsaw puzzle with someone who is bed bound.

5) Try Some Great Lego Projects

I love Lego projects. Especially the ones that are available today. There are so many clever designs and fun projects that you can build!

You can build everything from cars to Star Wars fighters to buildings and flowers and just about everything in between.

Believe me, Lego is not just for kids any more. I’m personally planning on building a Lego room when I retire!

Check out the many Lego projects available here.

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6) Watch Television Or Films, Especially Old Favorites

Here’s an activity that the bedridden usually do alone but can become a fun thing with your involvement: watch movies or TV shows. Rather than flick through the channels or comb through Netflix for hours, why not ask your loved one what they want to watch?

More than likely, they’ll request an old film or television show. Thanks to streaming services and DVD box sets, it’s easier than ever today to get your hands on old media.

As you two watch, they can relive memories while you get to take in films and television that you wouldn’t otherwise see.

If your loved one has dementia or Alzheimer’s, watching old films and TV with them is especially recommended.

Read our article, How Does Reminiscence Help With Dementia?

7) Put Together And Look Through Photo Albums

Speaking of old memories, creating or paging through a photo album is a fun way to spend some time with bedridden seniors.

If you’re like me, you have bins and bins of photos that are patiently waiting for the day I have time to put them into an album. So rather than making a day going through photo albums a passive activity, help your loved one get involved whenever you can.

Depending on your needs or preference, the pages can have pockets that hold photos or the pictures can be arranged on a page with an adhesive.

You can also buy decorative papers, paper frames and stickers to make your memories pop.

If you are working on old family photos, ask your loved one to describe people who are in the photos, especially those people you don’t recognize. It’s a good idea to number the photo and make a corresponding list of the people in them, so you don’t forget.

Also, ask your loved one if they remember where and when the photo was taken. As they waltz down memory lane, they could have stories to tell for hours.

Appreciate this time, as it can detail the rich history that is your heritage.

8) Create A Themed Day Complete With Room Decorations

One of the worst parts of being bedridden is that you can no longer see and appreciate the world outside. Your loved one might begin to miss places and events from their past.

Although you can’t bring them back to those places, you can recreate what they love about those experiences by hosting themed events in their room.

Ask your loved one to choose the theme, then you pull together all the decorations and events to make the day fun.

For example, if your loved one misses the carnival, you can decorate the room with carnival items, make cotton candy, and maybe even hire a clown (if you (or they) don’t have a clown phobia, of course).

For a luau, you can play tropical music and give your loved one a flower lei. You can even wear a grass skirt!

9) Listen To Music Together

Music is powerful stuff. You and your loved one can listen to the radio (or Spotify or whatever your favorite music streaming service is) and try to find a new favorite song. You can also take turns playing songs that mean a lot to you.

For the bedridden with dementia, activities like watching films or looking at photo albums and listening to music will undoubtedly dredge up plenty of faces, feelings, and emotions.

If you want to join a sing-a-long, try Music Mends Minds free Zoom sing-a-longs held every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 11:30 Pacific Time. Click here for more information.

10) Learn A New Language

These days, you don’t have to physically sit in a classroom to learn a new language. All you have to do is download an app to an electronic device, pay for an online course, and you’re off to the races!

One word of caution: we recommend only embarking on a new language journey with your loved one if they’re mentally able, i.e. they do not have dementia or Alzheimer’s and you don’t suspect they have cognitive concerns.

Otherwise, trying to learn a new language can be very frustrating for them.

A 2020 report from Science Daily cites a New York University study which found that becoming bilingual might be able to ward off dementia or delay its onset.

Plus, on top of that, learning a new language is fun. You and your loved one can practice the language with each other by having conversations.

11) Video Chat With Others

Once someone is bedridden, their social circle can become very small, especially if visitors are only allowed at certain times. Expand your loved one’s world again by using modern technology!

Services like Skype or Facetime will allow them to keep in touch with others. They’ll love being able to have conversations with their favorite people again.

We started doing this with far-flung family and friends at the onset of the pandemic. It’s been a great way to see everyone without risk and fosters a more intimate connection than texts, emails, or even a phone call.

12) Start An Indoor Garden

Plants are very beneficial. Being surrounded by greenery might be able to improve your mood, lessen your stress, increase your creativity, boost memory and attention, and reduce anxiety.

Since your bedridden loved one can’t get outside to tend to a garden anymore, bring the garden to them with some houseplants. You can grow an indoor garden year ’round if you get a kit with a grow light like the one above (see online).

Together, you two can grow simple houseplants like vegetables or herbs from seed, watching the plant grow day by day.Plus, it’s a bonus to have fresh herbs and veggies available for cooking.

13) Bonsai Trees

Another gardening type of activity could be to pick up the hobby of caring for Bonsai Trees. There’s certainly an art to it.

Here are some tips on how to care for a bonsai tree if you’re unable to leave your bed.

First, make sure you have the right type of tree. Some trees are better suited for indoor growing than others. If you’re not sure, ask a nursery or a bonsai specialist.

Once you have the tree, you’ll need to water it regularly. The frequency will depend on the type of tree and the pot it’s in. A good rule of thumb is to water when the soil is dry to the touch.

You’ll also need to fertilize your tree every few weeks. Again, the type of tree and pot will dictate how often you need to fertilize. A general rule is to use a fertilizer that’s made for indoor plants.

Finally, you’ll need to prune your tree regularly. This helps keep it healthy and looking its best.

If you follow these simple tips, you’ll have a beautiful bonsai tree that will brighten up any room in your home.

14) Virtual Travel

This is one idea many seniors are not aware of and many family members / caregivers don’t think about. Virtually traveling the world!

When I was caring for my mother, we used to go on Google Maps and virtually visit her home town in Trento, Italy.

Not only do you get an “overview” of the area with images. But you can get down to the street level and virtually “walk” the streets of Trento. It was great.

There are also many museums around the world that offer virtual visits as well. Check out these wonderful museums in England, virtually.

How To Entertain The Bedridden Elderly

Most of the ideas above can entertain the bedridden elderly, but not all.

Playing games and doing crafts is a great way to keep busy together, but you have to make sure the activities you choose are appropriate for less mobile seniors.

Here are our favorite ideas.

Games For Bedridden Elderly

How about a game? Playing games together (not video games, mind you) can spark a senior’s creativity, challenge them to think critically and strategize, and keep them feeling young.

Here are some classic games to play together the next time you visit your elderly loved one.

15) Board Games

You probably grew up on board games and so did your senior parent or grandparent. Although the games you both played were generationally different, you two can surely agree on a game to play.

If you have other family visiting, make sure they get involved too, as many board games require three to four players.

Board games are fun, challenging, and sure to create lots of laughs and pleasant memories. Try games like Scrabble or Monopoly.

Read our article on the most popular board games for older adults.

16) Card Games

All you need is a deck of cards, and you can play games for hours.

From Go Fish to Spar, Kemps, Agram, Forty-Five, and Kings Corner, the list of games just goes on and on. Those are only two-player games, by the way.

If you’re not sure what the above card games are, you can ask your senior loved one, who might be able to teach you how to play.

Or you two can also look up the rules and learn to play together, which will be very rewarding.

17) Memory Games

Memory games are a good way to keep your senior’s mind sharp. There is some evidence that memory exercises can improve memory-related tasks, according to an article from

Incorporate the following games into your time with your bedridden senior loved one:

  • Sudoku
  • Bingo
  • Word search puzzles
  • Trivia games
  • Crossword puzzles
  • Chess
  • Concentration

Crafts To Do While Bedridden

Besides playing games, you and the elderly bedridden can also dig into arts and crafts. Here are some crafts to start with.

18) Crochet Or Knit

If your bedridden loved one doesn’t suffer from arthritis or other painful limb conditions, then spend some time crocheting or knitting with them.

The AARP, in 2018, found that knitting can both lessen instances of chronic pain as well as potentially reduce your dementia risk.

Even if you don’t know how to knit or crochet, that’s okay. Ask your bedridden loved one if they will teach you. They’ll be happy to feel like they have a purpose again.

If neither of you know how to do these crafts, turn to YouTube for step by step tutorials to learn your new hobby. They will have you both turning out fun projects in no time.

19) Make A Collage

Collages are fun and give a senior a chance to express their creativity.

Let them choose the theme and you two can then compile pictures for the collage. If your senior’s hand dexterity is on the decline, offer to cut out the photos for them.

Your senior loved one can then glue the photos into place exactly as they want them.

Dress up your collages with pretty bling, colorful costume jewels, and artificial flowers from a craft store.

20) Build With Clay

What can you make with clay? The possibilities are endless!

Perhaps you and your senior parent or grandparent could make a clay vase or a small sculpture.

You can also make ornaments for various holidays or small ornaments that can be strung on a necklace, or made into a decorative wall hanging.

For other ideas, check out Pinterest or head to YouTube for tutorial videos that will give you tons of ideas.

If you use air-dry clay, you won’t need a kiln or oven to harden them so they become permanent.

21) Paint On Rocks

This is an easy project that is great for everyone in the family. You don’t have to be an artist to do it either! What you put on the rock can be as simple as writing an inspiring word or drawing a colorful, stick figure flower.

You can get some great ideas from Pinterest or watch a few YouTube videos for ideas and tutorials.

All you need to make painted rocks are some paint pens or Sharpie markers and a few flat rocks. If you are going to put your masterpiece in an outdoor garden, then I would also recommend using a clear, spray on UV-resistant sealer so your artwork doesn’t smear or run.

*TIP: One thing about using paint pens – you have to shake them well before using. You also have to “prime them” by holding them like you are writing with them and then pushing down on the pen tip repeatedly until the paint starts to flow.

Here’s a video I did that will give you an idea of how easy it is to create painted rocks.

22) Press Flowers

Pressing flowers is not only an enjoyable craft, it’s a beautiful one as well.

To get started, recommends gathering the flowers you would like to press (get permission first if they are in someone’s garden!). Make sure they are as close to perfect as possible, without any blemishes.

Next, take off any leaves you don’t want to include in the pressing, then lay the flowers face down on parchment paper.

Open a heavy book, such as a phone book, and lay the flowers and parchment paper on the book’s page. Use a book that you don’t care about damaging, in case water from the flowers leaks out.

Lay a second piece of parchment paper on top of the flowers, then carefully shut the book without moving the flowers around.

Put one or two more heavy books on top of the one containing the flowers you are pressing. If you don’t have any other heavy books, use another heavy object, such as a heavy cooking pot or pan that you won’t need to use for a couple of weeks.

Set the stacked books aside where they won’t get knocked over.

You and your senior loved one will have to wait at least two weeks after applying pressure to the pressed flowers so they stay put; it can sometimes take up to a month.

In the meantime, work on other pressed flower projects! 

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