Dementia can cause a person to withdraw from their usual activities, or from communicating and socialising. Stimulating activities for people with dementia is essential in the reduction of boredom. Boredom creates stress which is one of the main cause of many of the behavioural problems that surface. The person may have plenty of energy but lack the ability to continue their former activities.
The best way to combat this is to be active and participate in activities that can serve as a distraction from the dementia, as well as helping to focus on positive aspects of life.
These activities will help get you started and remember that it is important to create meaningful activities, not just ones that fill time.
Begin with conversations about the past, and keep notes on the things they talk about. Memories are usually a stimulating activity for someone with dementia.
The conversations also help them to feel that they are important and valued by you, helping with their sense of being loved and belonging.
Simply start by asking questions about the past, this will lead to other interesting memories. Reminiscence can be a long lasting activity that you can go back to regularly.
2. Creating a Memory Box or Book
While reminiscing and gathering information about your loved one, you can start putting together a memory box or a book of memories. Use your notes to look up things they talk about on the internet and print photos.
Get some old magazines to go through together and cut out things you agree to add to the memory box.
Try adding things with different sensory qualities so that it’s more stimulating to take things from the box and handle them. This could be a vinyl record, some things you can pick up in antique shops, and old fashioned sweets.
Find the music they talk about during reminiscence activities and create a YouTube playlist that you can later play through the television for them. YouTube can be a good resource – search for 1940s reminiscence playlist for example. Music is highly stimulating for people with dementia.
4. Day to Day Household Tasks
You can offer things for the person with dementia to do, such as laying the table for lunch. These tasks may be small things to you but they are a fairly big deal for someone with dementia; feeling involved in daily life helps them to feel valued and improves self-esteem.
Things you can involve them in:
- Laying the table for meals
- Sweeping the yard/floor
- Folding clothes
- Dusting/wiping down tables and sides
Everyone is different and depending on the stage of dementia, you may need to give more or less complex things to do as appropriate.
5. Arts, Crafts and Hobbies
If you have discovered some hobbies the person used to engage in, whether that was many years ago or fairly recently, you could start there. Depending on the hobby, you may be able to help them become engaged in it again.
Arts and crafts can be a stimulating and therapeutic activity. Try adult colouring in books, these are widely available in shops, book shops, and even garden centres (you could combine purchasing the pens and colouring books with a trip out).
There are many interesting arts and crafts things you could do together.
Puzzles provide a good source of mental activity which can actually help improve cognitive ability. If they like paper based puzzles, try some crossword books, word searches, or Sudoku. If the person is familiar with using a device, there are some good applications for exercising the brain, such as Peak.
7. Physical Exercise
Exercise is good for everyone, and this doesn’t change for someone with dementia. If the person used to be physically active and has become withdrawn, then you may need to encourage them to exercise. Try starting with a regular brisk walk, even a daily ten minute brisk walk will improve self-esteem and mood, as well as help with improving sleep.
8. Gardens, Walks in Nature
Walking in nature, as well as being good exercise, can help with a person’s spiritual needs as well as being a nice change of scenery. Sitting in a peaceful area with nice scenery can be a good relaxing break.
9. Cooking or Baking Together
Baking some cakes or biscuits together can be fun, as well as providing a sense of accomplishment. Perhaps invite some friends and family over for tea and bake a Victoria sponge together for the occasion. You can offer things to do, like weighing and mixing ingredients.
Cooking can also be a good daily task for them to get involved with, anything like stirring and serving can be easy to do, and help them feel like they have contributed.
10. Outings and Socialising
Try and have a once a month outing at the least, this can be something like a garden centre, a stately home, a walk around parks and gardens, or a trip into town. Getting out of the home and to interesting places is stimulating and helps a great deal with feelings of well-being.
Socialising can be more difficult depending on the person and the stage/type of dementia. There may be support groups in your area that you can join that also hold a regular memory café event, or day centres where you can go and meet other people who are caring for a loved one with dementia.
Finding appropriate ways to stay active and pass the time without being bored can be difficult. You will find that using your creativity to find different ways to stimulate someone with dementia can bring you closer together, help you find new ways of relating to each other and be very rewarding and satisfying.
More ways to help someone with dementia
If you found this post useful, then you might like to read our 10 Tips for Caring for Someone with Dementia At Home