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Activities For Keeping Seniors With Dementia or Alzheimer’s Busy

Someone with dementia (or Alzheimer’s) may withdraw from social activities causing them to get restless and you may notice agitation through fidgety hands.

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 dementia patients 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 in the later stages of dementia can become frustrated when they are asked to learn a new activity.

Their frustration may lead to increased agitation, which could end up in a difficult situation and 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 choosing activities that are familiar to them and 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. I’ll talk about them later in this article.

Keeping a daily routine of activities is a good idea and an effective way to keep someone with dementia on a schedule.

It can be hard to find stimulating activities for elders with dementia.

There are a few things you should consider when coming up with ideas of what to do together:

  • Their interests and hobbies. Are they an animal lover? Do they enjoy board games? Gardening or taking a drive?
  • Their current physical abilities as well as cognitive abilities (know what they can and cannot do)
  • Avoid presenting a new activity to them (i.e. something they have never done before). This includes vacationing, although taking a drive can be calming.
  • How to present an activity to them. Do they require visual cues? Auditory cues?
  • Where are they most comfortable? Indoors or outdoors? Standing or sitting?

11 Activities For Elders With Dementia

There are many different activities that can be done with elders with dementia.

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 can help to remind them of their youth and may trigger happy memories.

You could also try painting, cooking, gardening, or working on jigsaw puzzles.

Any of these meaningful activities can be a wonderful way for family members to engage with their senior loved one who is suffering from dementia.

In this article we’ll go over 11 types of activities and some very specific ones that you can do with an older adult with dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Also, check out our ideas of gifts for seniors with dementia.

Arts and Crafts – the first step to helping someone keep busy is usually with arts and crafts. There are some ways that your senior loved one can enjoy their time by working on a crafty project.

Some of the ones that we recommend are:

Metallic Rock Painting

Metallic Rock Painting Box Set – DIY Rock Painting for Adults – Rocks, Brush, Paint Included – Mandala Stone Artist – Create Rock Artwork at Home – Arts and Craft for Adults – Adult Hobbies
  • PERFECT for those who enjoy the creative and meditative pastimes of arts and crafts, Metallic Rock Painting will teach you how to create eye-catching works of art that will stylishly shine and glimmer.

Activities that are repetitive are usually very good for someone with a cognitive deficit. So painting kits work well and can provide a great sense of accomplishment.

Large Lego Blocks

Strictly Briks Toy Large Building Blocks for Kids and Toddlers, Big Bricks Set for Ages 3 and Up, 100% Compatible with All Major Brands, Blue, Green, Red, and Yellow, 108 Pieces
  • GUARANTEED TIGHT FIT: Our products are 100% compatible with all major brands of building bricks. Let your child’s creativity soar as they build & create their own unique designs without spending a fortune. Our versatile products can be used to build a city, a wall set, an activity table base, or anything their imagination can dream up. Don’t settle for flimsy cardboard bricks, invest in Strictly Briks for high-quality, durable building blocks that will last for years to come.

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.

Video Calls

Using Zoom or Amazon’s Echo Show to make video calls with loved ones is a wonderful way to spend some time – especially for seniors in the early stages of dementia.

Purposeful Activities

One thing that we advocate very much is to provide seniors who are suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s purposeful tasks.

Such activities can be very meaningful and provide a sense of purpose. But it’s important to tap into the person’s previous experience.

Of course, you want to make sure that the meaningful activity is safe. Some types of daily activities 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 busy boards may be enough to help them feel that they are accomplishing a task.

Memory Loss & Alzheimer’s Dementia Fidget Board Activity Center – New Compact Size: 11″ x 5″ – DEEP Blue
  • Our COMPACT & Portable, MADE IN THE USA Fidget Board is great for Seniors suffering with any type of memory loss. This Fidget Board will HELP STIMULATE THEIR MIND & KEEP THEIR HANDS BUSY. Perfect for adults with DEMENTIA or ALZHEIMER’S, especially those who liked to work with their hands.

And if you or other family caregivers are very handy at sewing, you may even want to try to make your very own fidget blankets!

Board Games and More

Most everyone enjoys recreational board 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…

  • Bingo
  • Dominoes
  • Jenga
  • Spinning Tops
  • Cornhole

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

Large Piece Puzzles

Relish Large Piece Puzzles for Seniors, 35 Piece Bathing Birds Jigsaw Puzzle, Dementia Products for Elderly
  • ESTABLISHED SINCE 2011 – Relish, formerly Active Minds, has a wealth of experience creating fun, meaningful dementia activities, age appropriate toys and products that are designed specifically to improve the overall wellbeing of the elderly and people with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

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

Keeping Busy Match The Shapes Low Vision Edition Dementia and Alzheimer’s Engaging Activities/Puzzles/Games for Older Adults
  • DESIGNED FOR SENIORS WITH DEMENTIA – not childish, age appropriate puzzles, games and toys for elderly with dementia. No mention of “dementia” or “Alzheimer’s” on the product or packaging

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, tai chi and any physical activity as well as outdoor 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.

These types of physical activities can also provide social interaction which can be very difficult for many older adults suffering from a deficit in their cognitive function.

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.

This is also very true for Alzheimer’s patients and anyone suffering from any type of dementia.

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 and TV shows. 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.

Picnic Basket Natural Woven Woodchip with Double Folding Handles | Easter Basket | Storage of Plastic Easter Eggs and Easter Candy | Organizer Blanket Storage | Bath Toy and Kids Toy Storage
  • Beautiful picnic basket for any event: great size [12.8” x 7.8” x 6.5”] for any occasion wood chip is waterproof so it protects against wet grass while you enjoy your picnic, preventing ground. moisture from penetrating – no more ‘wet food’ picnics. ideal for grass, picnics, camping, outdoor concerts, tailgates, stadium, sporting events and any other time you’ll be hanging out outside.

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,

I recommend that you do try to find appropriate activities that are best suited for the various stages of dementia that they are going through.

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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