Tips and ideas for Alzhemiers or Dementia caregivers to do with their loved ones (that are NOT children's toys!) How to keep your loved one amused without treating them like a child.
Keeping Your Dementia Loved One Amused
Okay, let's call a spade a spade, sometimes we want our loved one to do something without us having to be involved. With that in mind, some of these ideas are “do alone” activities.
But honestly, most of these, at some level, will require you to participate even if your loved one is at the early stages of dementia.
I KNOW, you wish that you could plop them down and get a few minutes to do the dishes or (gasp) take a long hot bath, but I have found that if I think of my Mother In Law as an adult sized kid, I do the best.
My kids will do some things by themselves, but it is MUCH more fun if I participate.
Tried And True Alzheimers Activities
So many of the lists about Alzheimers or Dementia activities look like someone took a list of baby games and put them online. Well, my Mom is not a child and she doesn't want to do kid things, she wants to do adult tasks.
Buying her a 6 piece puzzle of fire trucks will not work! Imagine if you had to sit around all day with no mental stimulation… you would go a little stir crazy too.
These activities are all ones that we do with Mom on the regular and that keep her amused for much of the day!
Where Does Your Loved One Live?
Mom is in middle stages of dementia, with a bunch of memory loss, but still able to do limited activities.
Some of these will be good for loved ones being cared for at home like Mom is, some will work for a dementia patient staying at assisted living or even in memory care.
The key is to find at least a few meaningful activities that YOUR loved one Alzheimer's disease or dementia likes doing!
Additional Resource: 13 Tips For When You Move Your Dementia Mom In With You
13 Enjoyable Activities For Dementia and Alzheimers
Mom LOVES coloring! She will spend hours coloring on a new project and then proudly show us her work. (I do the same thing with my magazine collages, showing her my latest work, so this is something that we both can share!)
Some things that we found make coloring more enjoyable:
Getting smaller pieces to color… instead of getting a huge, letter sized picture, we get smaller pages that are easy to start and finish.
Having a lap desk or easel to color on. Sometimes Mom wants to sit in the chair and color, a lap desk with a soft backing is great for that When she sits at her desk, having an easel helps her sit straighter and lets her work longer!
Tip #2… Lots of tips on this one (Mom spends about 4 hours a day coloring!) Get a solid plank easel. If you get one with holes the smaller coloring pages will fall through.
Okay, here is a tricky one! I KNOW the common wisdom is to have your loved one do super simple puzzles that they can succeed at, but my Mom thinks doing kid puzzles is stupid.
So this is how we do puzzles together. We get big puzzles that everyone (okay, me and my daughter) likes doing and then invite Mom to come out and help.
We find pieces that she can put in or have her find all the “blue pieces” or all the edges.
The key to this is doing it with her AND she really is helping us do the puzzle, even if she can't figure out how to put the pieces together anymore.
3. Walking the Dog
If your loved one has a pet dog, she may be much more willing to go for a walk and get a bit of exercise if you take the dog with you!
Our Mom doesn't really want to move around too much anymore, but if you tell her that Maxie wants to go for a walk we can get her almost half way around the block!
Tip… don't let them hold the leash. Our dementia loved one uses a walker so that is not a problem, but being tippy already and adding a pulling dog is a recipe for disaster! Just have a family member hold the leash and the dog can walk ahead!
Related Resource: Should You Get Your Dementia Parent A Cat or a Dog
4. Reading Magazines
Because magazines are not as complex or detailed as books, they are a great time filler. Mom loves to flip through magazines and see what all the celebrities are doing!
Tip… find magazines that match your loved one's interests! My Dad doesn't have dementia, but if he did I know I could get him model railroad magazines to flip through. He LOVES model trains.
Your Mom may love knitting or cross stitch, dogs or decorating, there are magazines out there for EVERY kind of interest!
I KNOW, it may seem weird to read a magazine about a hobby or interest that you can no longer do, but even if they can't do it, they remember the liking of that long afterwards!
5. Watching TV With The Family
Yesterday my husband took my youngest daughter to a ball game and I invited Mom out to eat junk food and watch home shows with me… so fun!
I thought she would watch one or two and disappear back into her room like she usually does, but I actually had to kick her out when it was time for bed (kidding!)
Now, it was active watching, talking about what was going on, complaining about the commercials and being aware of what was on the screen instead of staring at my computer, but it was super fun to spend some quality time with Mom doing something we both enjoyed.
6. Getting Outside
We live in Florida so part of the year it is too hot to sit outside (for you it might be winter and snow), but getting Mom to sit outside in the sun is a great activity!
Yes, she thinks she can still get into the pool, but we always just say next time and that makes her happy.
Sunlight is great for anyone, but make sure to put sunscreen on your loved one, even if they are sitting in the shade (and especially if they haven't sat outside for a long time!)
7. Shopping Online
This one is not my favorite (so many Amazon boxes), but it is a favorite of my Mother In Law.
She cruises Macy's on her iPad and that makes up for the fact that she can no longer go to the store and dink around.
If your loved one is on a fixed income, for sure skip this one, but if they have a wee bit of disposable income, shopping might be a fun way to pass a couple of hours.
Tip… generally Mom can't figure out how to put her credit cards into the sites. If your loved one is spending too much, call and say her card is lost. They will issue a new number and the one that is stored on her computer will no longer work.
Mom loves decorating her room! She gets different flowers for different seasons and even goes with me to Michaels from time to time to pick out new ones.
Whether your loved one is in a nursing home or living with you, you can take some time to tart up her room with the most recent season.
Funny thing… a gal in an Alheimers Facebook group just said her Mom had her house decked out for Christmas (in September!) My Mom keeps saying Fall is almost over. Maybe because Christmas is such a fun time they like to get there sooner!
No judging on this one… let them decorate for whatever season is in their world right now!
9. Watching Birds
This one is a super good one! Mom got a bird feeder for outside her window and she spends hours watching the birds (and squirrels) every day.
She reports who has come to her feeder each day and we all enjoy the birds.
Tip… know that you will be the one to fill the bird feeder. If you are already stressed out, this could be the straw that breaks the camel's back, but I just think of how much time she spends and the couple of minutes to fill it is totally worth it!
10. Reading Books Online
There is a free app called Hoopla that let's you read library books for free on your iPad.
All you need to do is put in your library card number and you get access to all the ebooks your local library has available (yep, even the brand new titles that just came out!)
Tip… you can get audiobooks for free too! Our Mom doesn't like to listen to books, but if your loved one has poor eyesight this could be a lifesaver!
11. Doing Their Old Occupation
I went to a symposium on Dementia and one of the speakers told us how they had set up an “office” at the adult memory care center so the patient could go to “work”. What a great idea!
Come tax time, I have my Mom check over my tax documents before I take them into the accountant (she was a bookkeeper her whole life).
Being able to do something well is fun for anyone and since they live in the past sometimes their work is easier to do than all the “fun” activities we can come up with! Their long term memories kick in and they feel confident again.
12. Ironing or Washing Clothes
I know, all the suggested activities include folding towels, but my Mom is still able to do all her laundry so we let her (with some help carrying it back and forth).
She is super fussy about wrinkles (I couldn't care less) so we set up a little ironing area in her room so she can get rid of wrinkles to her heart's content!
Sometimes this is more aspirational than actual (she only irons about twice a month), but she likes being able to make her clothes look fancy.
Tip… make sure to get an iron that automatically turns off!
13. Helping You
This is my favorite one! Everyone likes to be needed and Mom loves when she can actually help me.
I KNOW, you might not be a blogger so taking pictures isn't it, but maybe you are a baker and your Mom can help you cook. Or your Dad can help you fix something that is broken.
There is nothing better than actually feeling needed and our loved ones have so much they can still help with if we take the time to figure it out (and be super patient with them!)
Activities For Dementia Patients Wrapup
Okay, there are some of the stimulating activities that we do with Mom! Like I said, some of them require participation and some she does on her own.
The thing is, they go way beyond just having her listen to music or sorting coins (which is GREAT for persons with dementia that are much more advanced).
I KNOW, sometimes it can be frustrating to deal with finding things for older adults to do! But finding these kinds of activities for people with dementia or Alzheimers can seriously increase their (and your) quality of life!
- Puzzles (sorting pieces & finding edges)
- Walking the dog
- Reading magazines
- Watching TV with the family
- Getting outside
- Shopping online
- Watching birds
- Reading books online (Hoopla App)
- Doing their old occupation
- Ironing or washing clothes
- Helping you!
There is nothing better than actually feeling needed and our loved ones
have so much they can still help with if we take the time to figure it
out (and be super patient with them!)