Dementia Friendly Wyoming


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Activities for People with Dementia

Each day there are many things that provide us with purpose and pleasure.

For a person with dementia, the need for a good quality of life is not diminished.

However, without some assistance from family and partners, their ability to achieve purpose and pleasure is much more difficult.

Ideally, activities should:

  • Compensate for lost activities
  • Promote self-esteem
  • Maintain residual skills and not involve new learning
  • Provide an opportunity for enjoyment, pleasure and social contact
  • Be sensitive to the person’s cultural background

Below are a range of helpful guidelines that can help you plan appropriate activities.

Consider all that has made the person unique

This means knowing the person’s former lifestyle, work history, hobbies, recreational and social interests, travel and significant life events.

Activities can re-establish old roles

Make use of skills that have not been forgotten, such as buttering bread, washing up or watering, sweeping and raking in the garden. These are also ways in which a person with dementia can contribute to the household and feel useful. Encourage an area of responsibility no matter how small.

Activities can give relaxation and pleasure

A person with dementia may enjoy an outing even if they do not remember where they have been. What is important is that the moment is enjoyed, even though the experience may be soon forgotten.

Simple and unhurried activities that are meaningful are best

Give the time and space necessary to allow the person to do as much as possible. Focus on one thing at a time. Break down activities into simple, manageable steps. Communicate one instruction at a time.

Prepare a safe working area

People with dementia often have difficulty with visual perception and coordination. Ensure that surfaces are uncluttered with few distractions and noise. Good lighting, without glare, individual seat preferences and correct work heights are all important. Using plastic containers might help to avoid breakages.

Don’t allow activities to reinforce inadequacy or increase stress

Abilities can fluctuate from day to day. Activities can be adapted and tried another time if not successful or enjoyable.

Use times to suit the person’s best level of functioning

To ensure maximum success when carrying out activities it is best to consider the times of day when the person is at their best. For instance, sometimes walking is best done in the morning or the early afternoon. However, for some people who are particularly restless later in the day, or who have had a particularly long or meaningless day, a late afternoon walk may be better.

Don’t over stimulate

Be selective with outings. Avoid crowds, constant movement and noise which many people with dementia find overwhelming.

Allow an emotional outlet

For many people, music or contact with babies, children or animals provide positive feelings. Excellent memories of past events are often kept and looking through old photos, memorabilia and books enables the recall of earlier times. The opportunity to relive treasured moments can be deeply satisfying. If reading skills have deteriorated make individual audiotapes. Locate picture books and magazines in the person’s areas of interest.

Include sensory experiences

Some sensory experiences that may be enjoyed are:

  • Hand, neck and foot massage
  • Hair brushing
  • Smelling fresh flowers or potpourri
  • Using fragrant essential oils
  • Stroking an animal or different textured material
  • A visit to an herb farm or a flower show
  • Provide a rummage box that contains things that the person has been interested in

A sense of movement and rhythm is often retained longer than most abilities

Use an exercise bike or a walking machine for rainy days. Be spectators or participants at dance classes or walk the dog together. Walkers enjoy the wider world while getting much needed exercises.

Creative Caregiving

The National Center for Creative Aging (NCCA)

NCCA developed a Creative Caregiving Guide.  Using any available computer, tablet, or smart phone, care partners can learn, experience, and share vibrant, research based creative caregiving exercises to help them flourish through the art exercises—all from the convenience of their own home or care setting.   This free resource is designed to be shared.  It provides an expanding array of creative lessons to address the physical, mental and social needs of family and professional care partners of adults living with dementia.   Click on the link below to be the lessons and have fun!!


Information adapted from © Alzheimer’s Australia 1999 Reviewed 2005, 2012, 2013, 2016