8 Meaningful Activities For Dementia Patients and Seniors With Alzheimer’s

The most meaningful activities for dementia patients are ones that engage the mind without causing stress or overwhelm. Soothing, familiar activities are best. Joining in the activity with your loved one makes it more meaningful than anything else!
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If you are caring for a loved one with either Alzheimer’s or dementia, you need to ensure that you keep them engaged in activities that they find interesting. Engaging in meaningful activities helps dementia and Alzheimer’s patients improve their cognitive functioning, stir memories, and reduce the irritability and anxiety associated with the conditions.

Alzheimer’s and dementia patients may find everyday activities too difficult, but they still have the need to feel successful like everyone else. It is why you need to choose failure-free activities for such patients since they will always be successful regardless of outcome.

While there are plenty of failure-free and meaningful activities for dementia patients to enjoy, you need to be careful not to humiliate them by having them engage in children’s activities. It is also important to understand that the abilities and mood of a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s can vary from one day to the next, which is why you need to change activities or take breaks if they become frustrated.

meaningful activities for dementia patients social graphic

8 Meaningful Activities for Seniors with Dementia or Alzheimer’s

It is important to understand that each individual is different, so it might require some creative thinking or experimentation to find the right meaningful activities for dementia patients that actually appeal to your own patient.

1. Newspaper or Book Reading

Reading is a mentally stimulating activity that just about any senior can participate in. Depending on the stage of the disease, a dementia or Alzheimer’s patient might not either understand or remember everything they read.

Asking dementia or Alzheimer’s patients about what they read can help, but the act of reading is in itself quite helpful. Reading books helps patients use their imagination more while reading newspapers helps them connect to the community better.

RELATED GUIDE: Best Audiobook Players for Seniors

2. Hobbies Such as Knitting or Painting

Caregivers often assume that their loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia have to give up their favorite hobbies such as painting or knitting. However, that’s not actually true.

Such hobbies can help give your loved one some much needed stimulation. Activities such as knitting require a lot of concentration and skill. Painting and other artistic activities, on the other hand, allow for self-expression.

You always need to ensure that the activity and tools provided are appropriate for the patient. For instance, knitting needles are often sharp while heavy needles can cause aches and pains if your loved one is also suffering from arthritis.

close up of senior woman knitting

3. Household Chores

You might mistakenly assume that household chores such as laundry or running the vacuum cleaner are tedious. However, they can be incredibly rewarding for dementia or Alzheimer’s patients. The tasks are simple and failure-free, which can make your loved one suffering from either condition feel important and useful.

Completing household tasks also gives patients a sense of accomplishment too. If possible, you can try tackling the chores together with the patient and ensure that you only assign tasks that are appropriate for the person.

4. Enjoy Nature by Gardening or Taking Nature Tours

If your loved one always loved connecting with nature before they had dementia or Alzheimer’s you shouldn’t stop them from tending the garden. Gardening as well as other outdoor activities has many benefits for such patients.

Gardening is just one of the ways to connect with nature. If it isn’t what you loved one wants, there are still other things for you to do.

For instance, you may consider going for hikes or walks with your loved one.

senior couple watering plants on porch

5. Music Therapy

Music has been found to be highly beneficial for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Much like playing games or reading, engaging with music is an incredibly stimulating activity. Making music can also be a social activity, which is good for your loved one’s emotional well-being.

Your loved one might enjoy singing along to their favorite songs or even playing an instrument. Doing that also provides an emotional and creative outlet for them. Old songs can even allow them to share memories connected to music.

6. Animal Therapy

If your loved one loves animals but does not have a pet of their own, animal therapy can be great for providing stimulation. Pets have been shown to relieve stress along with symptoms of anxiety and depression while providing Alzheimer’s or dementia patients with a sensory experience.

Animal therapy also has other benefits. It has been shown to help lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce the levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as boost the levels of serotonin, which is also known as the feel-good hormone.

RELATED GUIDE: Best Pets for Elderly People

senior man with his pets

7. Engaging Dementia or Alzheimer’s Patients in their Favorite Topics

Each person has their own hobbies and interests. It can be quite engaging to talk to your loved one about their favorite sport teams or topics. To facilitate this, you might even consider watching videos with them about their favorite sports team, public figure, or favorite topic.

Engaging with dementia or Alzheimer’s patients in their favorite topics has numerous benefits such as making them feel valued, helping them reconnect with their youth, and even stimulating positive discussion.

8. Baking and Cooking

Baking and cooking simple recipes together with your loved one is an excellent way to get them to do something practical that offers a reward in the form of a tasty treat. You need to ensure that you allow them to do as much as they can handle as long as it is safe for them.

Depending on their stage of the disease, it could be the case that they simply watch you while you cook or they might take the lead and you just lend a helping hand with the steps that they find most challenging.

RELATED GUIDES: Kitchen Safety for Seniors

Final Thoughts

The most meaningful activities for dementia patients are those that are mentally engaging without being stressful or overwhelming such as the eight discussed here. If the activities you choose have a soothing physical component to them, it is even better.

RELATED GUIDE: Best GPS Tracking Watch for Adults with Alzheimer’s or Dementia

Finding the right activities for your loved one will take some work and creativity, but it will be worth it in the end to see the joy your loved one feels when he/she sees a sense of purpose in the activities that they participate in.

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About Scott Grant, ATP, CRTS®

Assistive Technology Professional, Custom Wheelchair Specialist, Medical Equipment Guru, Dad and Grandfather

I am a lucky dad to four awesome daughters and grandfather to three pretty terrific grandkids. When not working as a custom wheelchair specialist at a regional home medical equipment company, I enjoy early morning runs and occasional kayak trips. I am also a self-admitted nerd who loves anything from the 1980's. Learn More

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