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How To Keep Someone With Dementia Busy and Active

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Someone with dementia (or Alzheimer’s) may withdraw from social activities causing them to get restless and possibly fidgety. It’s very common to see someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s to be constantly moving their hands, rubbing their fingers, rocking their body, etc.

Dementia makes it very difficult to process stimuli and new information, causing many people with Alzheimer’s disease to become anxious. This anxiety often manifests itself in the form of restlessness, pacing, hand-wringing, and rocking.

A person’s hands can often become restless and fidgety when they are suffering from dementia. It can be hard to find ways for them to keep their hands busy, but there are many creative ideas that will help a caregiver out in this situation!

So, what can you do to help someone with dementia to keep busy? There are some great activities that we can recommend.

But one word of caution – not all tasks are the same and sometimes people with dementia can become frustrated when they are asked to learn something new. It can be extremely frustrating for them and this frustration may lead to an increase in agitation, which could be detrimental for both the person with dementia as well as those who care for them.

One way of avoiding this type of scenario is by having a variety of items that a person can choose from depending on what you have available in your home. An activity calendar may be useful for you.

It can be hard to find activities for elders with dementia. There are a few things you should consider when coming up with ideas of what to do together:

  • The elder’s interests and hobbies
  • Their current capabilities (know what they can and cannot do)
  • Where are they most comfortable? Indoors or outdoors?

10 Activities For Elders With Dementia

There are many different activities that can be done with elders with dementia. Whether it’s for a small group or one-on-one, the caregiver should always ask permission before beginning any activity. It is important to remember that even if an elder doesn’t seem interested in participating at first, they may change their mind later on as they start to feel more comfortable with the person who is caring for them.

The first and easiest type of activities are to play the piano or sing a song together. This will help remind them of their youth and trigger happy memories. You could also try painting, cooking, gardening, or making jigsaw puzzles with your loved one.

In this article we’ll go over 10 types of activities and some very specific ones that you can do with your senior loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Arts and Crafts – there are some wonderful arts and craft ideas that your senior loved one can enjoy. Some of the ones that we recommend are:

Metallic Rock Painting

Activities that are repetitive are usually very good for someone with a cognitive deficit. So painting kits work well.

Large Lego Blocks

Large Lego blocks or PVC pipes or anything that can be put together and then taken apart again can be an activity that can keep someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s busy.

Purposeful Activities

One thing that we advocate very much is to provide seniors who are suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s purposeful tasks. It’s important to tap in to the person’s previous experience.

Of course, you want to make sure that the activity is safe. Some that I can recommend are…

  • Folding towels, sheets, napkins, etc.
  • Tending to a garden (indoor or outdoor garden)
  • Making cookie dough, rolling out pie dough, etc.
  • Raking the leaves
  • Sweeping (indoors or outdoors)
  • Organizing a drawer or box of buttons or box of pens, etc.
  • Brushing the dog or cat
  • Pairing and folding socks
  • Any type of sorting activity. Sorting colorful clothes pins or coins or golf balls, etc.

One tip I can give you is to not interfere with how they are doing the task. They may not fold the socks the way you want it done or sweep the floor perfectly (or well at all) but it’s important that you simply let them do it how they can do it.

Instead of automatically helping with a task, we should adapt activities as needed to allow them to do as much as possible for as long as possible.

For seniors with severe dementia or Alzheimer’s a Busy Board may be enough to help them feel that they are accomplishing a task.

And if you are a crafter or very handy at sewing, you may even want to try to make your very own Busy Blanket!

Board Games and More

Most everyone enjoys recreational games and it may be no different with someone suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Of course though – you have to be careful to make sure that the activity is simple enough so that it’s not frustrating for your senior loved one. Some that we can recommend are…

Any games that they have played before or that they are familiar with may also work well.

Large Piece Puzzles

Most seniors do better with large piece puzzles but of course – you can determine whether or not your loved one would do well with smaller pieces.

Match It Games

Any game that involves matching shapes or words, etc. normally work well with patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Walking and Movement

Of course, walking and any movement type of activities are always excellent as long as they can be performed safely.

It may be that your senior loved one can follow a DVD of simple stretches or chair yoga exercises. Or just taking a walk with someone in the park or around the neighborhood could be a wonderful way to get some fresh air and some exercise.

Music Can Soothe The Soul

There’s no doubt that for many humans (and animals too) music can truly soothe the soul and the mind. So listening to a favorite singer or genre of music can help to pass the time beautifully.

This great mp3 music player is very easy to use and has a 4 GB capacity and holds between 1500 to 2000 songs.

Movies For Entertainment

Choose your favorite genre of movies, collect some DVD’s and spend some time reminiscing about the golden age of Hollywood! Comedies are my favorite because no matter how bad a day may be – humor can somehow always make it better.

Outdoor Picnics / Meals

If the weather is great why not spend some time having a picnic! It could even be just in your own backyard or front porch. Even better if you have bird feeders and can watch the squirrels and birds. Make it more fun with an old fashioned basket to pack your meal.

Check out our article on creating an Activity Calendar for Seniors With Dementia for even more ideas and activities.

There are more activities of course that you can do with your senior loved ones who are suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s and I recommend that you do try to find the ones that are best suited for them.

A review of multiple research studies has suggested that structured activity programs may slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s or even improve cognitive functioning for a time.

It can provide you with some wonderful memories of your time together.

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