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25 Activities When Your Loved One Is Stuck In Bed

When your loved one is bedridden it can be hard to keep them engaged and entertained… sigh. While I came up with these ideas for my dementia Mom-In-Law, they are great for anyone who winds up caring for a bedridden adult!

25 Activities When Your Loved One Is Stuck In Bed

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Why I Wrote This Post

When I try to entertain my bedridden Mother-In-Law I KNOW there are plenty of things she could do, but I lose hope in the moment! With that in mind I did a bunch of searches and wrote down a whole list of things I could try and see if she wanted to do them!

Because she has dementia, her motivation to do much of anything is low, but not zero and if I can make it sound fun she sometimes jumps right in!

Sensory Activities

For these think touch, listening and seeing things that your loved one can do! Sitting in quiet rooms all the time with no engagement is not a lot of fun for anyone on bed rest!


When mom was in the nursing home they had a bunch of “actual” physical therapy things that Mom would do. These great ideas are more for at home caregivers who can use things around the house depending on your Mom's current level of activity and cognitive ability!

Folding Towels

My mom loved helping out around the house early in her dementia and having a pile of towels to fold could take up 20 minutes to half and hour… whoo whoo! Learning new things is beyond her, but a lifetime of folding towels stood her in good stead!

Now this is beyond her abilities but I am going to tell you things and then kind of give my feedback on what stage of my Mom's dementia they worked in!

Soft fabric exploration (different textures)

This one is fun because I have SO MUCH fabric around the house (I am a craft supplies hoarder!)

This one works at all the stages that my mom has been through because there isn't a “point” to this one, it is just nice to feel the different fabrics!

Note: This also works for my 10 month old granddaughter… she loves feeling fabrics so it might be this is a universal thing that people like or Mom has regressed back to that point in her life… who knows?

25 Activities When Your Loved One Is Stuck In Bed - Feeling fabric

Sensory balls or stress balls

These were recommended by the nursing home. Mom is not a “ball gal” so it didn't work for her, but your loved one might like them!

Play dough or clay manipulation

We have play dough around for the grandkids so we used to use this a lot to get the different generations playing together at the same time.

Our grand daughter loved that Gram liked to make the play dough flat so she could cut out the shapes with cookie cutters!


My Mom is super visual so these are the ones that have worked best for her off and on during the years.

Looking at family photos or picture books

After attending a symposium of experts on Alzheimers and dementia, we don't leave photo albums in Mom's room, instead we go through them with her and talk about everyone in there, referencing who the family members are to her.

The gal at the conference said it can be very upsetting to dementia peeps to have picture books of people they don't remember or to be constantly asked, “do you remember” this or that person.

25 Activities When Your Loved One Is Stuck In Bed - Looking at photos

Watching nature videos or calming scenes

My Mom doesn't like watching shows that have a plot because she can't follow it all the way through, but she does like watching golf!

I think it is because of all the nature, the slow pace and the fact that there isn't any fast action. I suggest finding something calming your loved one likes to watch and then subscribe to that channel 24/7!

Playing with a iPad

If your loved one never played with an iPad before this started, then probably don't introduce one now, but our Mom did use a large iPad and it has been such a blessing to her. We turn the resolution WAY up so she can see everything!

That said, she has a hard time remembering how to charge it and often disconnects it from the wireless or “loses” her programs so it is not totally hands off, but is a good way to keep her occupied!

25 Activities When Your Loved One Is Stuck In Bed - iPad


These are all about sounds and making some kind of connection with things they remember!

Listening to familiar music (personalized playlists)

You might be thinking that Mom would be listening to big bands or classical music, but honestly her playlist is full of Adele and Abba! Quite the combination… giggle!

Before you start thinking that you have to put “old dear” music on, try to think about what was popular when she was younger and what her favorite artists were back in the day!

25 Activities When Your Loved One Is Stuck In Bed - Listening to familiar music

Nature sounds or calming instrumental music

That said, the experts say that instrumental music might be best for creating a calm environment so try that for sure too!

Reading aloud stories or audio books

From time to time we can get Mom to start on an audio book and she will skip around and take in bits and pieces of it (she is fairly advanced in her short term memory loss).

That said, she does like if read aloud and am there to explain what is happening in the story at the present time. She can't take in whole novel, but she likes to be part of my reading game and it is fun to get to chat to her about the storyline!

If you don't have these already you can go to your local library and check them out or do an online download if your library has that feature!

Cognitive Activities

When your loved one is stuck in bed they can lose some of the sharpness that comes from experiencing new and interesting things.

These suggestions are to keep things fresh and new…. rotate them in and out when your loved one gets bored of doing them!


Now this seems a little mean for dementia peeps, but it is less memory and more keeping their brains active and interested!

Sorting objects by color, shape, or type

I have boxes of buttons and Mom loves helping me sort them into colors! Something about touching and sliding the buttons around helps her stay calm.

You could do this with anything… sometimes we have her sort coins or my fancy woo-woo rocks!

25 Activities When Your Loved One Is Stuck In Bed - Sorting objects by color, shape, or type

Simple matching games (cards, pictures)

For this one think LARGE memory cards like pre-schoolers use if your mom is advanced in her dementia.

That said, when my Dad had a traumatic brain injury he couldn't speak very well but he was able to learn his fine motor skills back by playing solitaire with large print playing cards. I think it was because he had done for so long before his brain injury that it was easy for him to go back to it!

25 Activities When Your Loved One Is Stuck In Bed - Simple matching games (cards, pictures)

Problem Solving

I KNOW, it seems like this might be a bit beyond most late stage dementia peeps, but Mom has had dementia for six years now and she is still going strong! Depending on the day she can do some of these off and on!

Large-piece puzzles

You might think all large piece puzzles are for babies, but we have found that there are some really neat large piece puzzles made for dementia folks that are actually pretty fun to do together.

This is not activity that my Mom can do by herself, but we have fun doing them together with me kinda putting the pieces close to where they will eventually end up!

Simple word searches or crossword puzzles

My Mom never liked these before she got dementia but they have been a real boon to my Dad who loves a good game of word search!

Again, pick the large format word searches that are easier for old eyes to see!

Sorting or stacking blocks

This is another one that we did with the Grandkids and Mom. Mom would stack them up and the girls would giggle and knock them all down!

We have wooden stacking blocks that don't have a particular “way” that they have to be stacked which is more fun for everyone!

25 Activities When Your Loved One Is Stuck In Bed - Sorting or stacking blocks


My Mom is still super able to speak and communicate about a severely limited number of things. While her short term memory is shot, she can remember things from way back that we would never think she could!

Singing familiar songs

She will sing along when we are doing the old nursery rhymes with the girls. The Farmer In The Dell and the Wheels On The Bus are two of our favorites.

I don't think she is remembering her childhood on this one because her Mom wouldn't have been singing those, but I bet she did sing them to my husband when he was a little guy!

Word association games

When I started researching I was like, this is never going to fly, but then I realized I had done this for hours and hours with my Dad!

Our favorite ones were things like “name 3 colleges you worked at” or “who did you play handball with in Meadville”.

If you can relate it to things in their memories that you know too then it becomes more fun for you both!

Looking at picture cards and naming objects

If the memory games are too hard, then use those cards for this! See if they can recognized different animal flash cards or simple math flash cards (Mom was a bookkeeper, she is better at math now that I will ever be!)

While she can't play card games anymore, she can do this kind of matching game!

Physical Activities (as tolerated)

While you aren't going to be helping them do calestetics, for sure the physical therapy people at the nursing home and the ones that have come to the house have given us some good ideas!

Moving Around The House

The one physical therapist was super mad that we let Mom sit in the same recliner all the time! He said that she had to move back and forth between her room recliner and the living room recliner at least for a couple of hours each day… fair!

Try to get your loved one to sit at the kitchen table or sit out back on the porch as much as you can!

Hand and finger exercises

The nursing home sent us home with Therapy putty that we had Mom play with all the time (she kinda loved it!)

If you don't have that you could use Play Dough or even anger balls (I think that is what you call those squishy balls that people squeeze!)


This was one of the first things to go with Mom, she has a hard time managing phyical activities, but there are some she can do!

Tossing or rolling a soft ball back and forth

This one is fun because she used to this with my son and they would wind up sitting at the table giggling together when she sent it off the side and he had to chase it!

25 Activities When Your Loved One Is Stuck In Bed- Tossing or rolling a soft ball back and forth

Simple beanbag toss games

We would put the bean bag bucket a little ways from Mom and a longer way from us and see who could make the most shots!

She was super pleased with herself when she “beat” us at this game!


I KNOW, it is hard to get help with keeping your loved one connected to the outside world and other people, but technology has helped so much!

Spending time with loved ones (visits, video calls)

The nice thing about having technology is that you can each other with video calls… Mom had so much trouble understanding who was on the phone and she is a little hard of hearing.

But when we had talk to her loved ones on the video, the combination of seeing and hearing at the same time was a real help to her! We reminded them that her communication skills might not be the best and it was just for the contact, not necessarily to actually catch up!

25 Activities When Your Loved One Is Stuck In Bed - Spending time with loved ones (visits, video calls)

Pet therapy (if applicable and enjoyable)

We knew that Mom was an “animal lover” and so we had her dog and cat move in with us when she was here at our house. A pet does take a lot of time so read this first if you are considering getting a new pet for your bed ridden loved one!

Once she moved to the nursing home, we found her one where she could still have her cat… they are such a weird pair! Mom forgets she is there and the cat hates everyone but Mom!

25 Activities When Your Loved One Is Stuck In Bed - Pet therapy

Creative Expression

This is one that Mom has never lost, in fact I think she has become even more dedicated to being creative than before she got dementia!

Painting, colored pencils or drawing with large crayons

Just last week Mom turned the little desk she has in her nursing home room around so she had a place to color with her colored pencils.

Now I am not sure if she is actually getting up and sitting there, but her creative streak is still going strong with the large format coloring books we get her!

25 Activities When Your Loved One Is Stuck In Bed - Painting, colored pencils or drawing with large crayons

Simple crafts (e.g., making greeting cards)

This is one that might take a little getting used to! You need to remember that it is the process not the outcome!

If your loved one is making a greeting card or drawing for someone, it doesn't matter that it is not perfect, for them it is the joy of making that counts!

25 Activities When Your Loved One Is Stuck In Bed - Simple crafts

Listening to or creating music

Music is such a great creative outlet! If your loved one like music, get them a tambourine to jingle along with or some castanets that they can shake along to the music!

Tips and Ideas For Caregivers

I have been a caregiver for one Mom for 6 years. Gigi, my daughters mother-in-law has been caring for both her Mom and Dad and I watched my Father-In-Law take care of my Dad when had a TBI.

Over the coming years and decades I think we are going to see more and more caregivers coming out more openly about the struggles that happen when you are caring for someone in your home!

Here are a few of my top tips for helping your loved one maintain activities…

FOR SURE try things that they liked before they became bedridden! Mom has loved coloring with pencils forever and that is still her favorite thing to do! Going back the familiar is a great way to get them involved now!

She also will sit happily for hours with a dog in her lap or watching the birds at her birdfeeder (see pictures in this post about 13 Fun Activities For Alzheimer or Dementia Patients).

Don't let them fool you into thinking that they can't do anything… hahaha. When the physical therapy man came and told Mom to move over to the recliner in the different rooms, she jumped right up!

Now I am not saying that your loved one is faking being tired, confused or uninterested. Just that if you find the right motivation you can maybe get them to move more, there are plenty of ways to do this if you have the patience and time!

I have gotten lots of these ideas from the Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists and doctors that I watched Mom work with! Thanks be to them all!

That said, there are so many resources on the internet like Teepa Snow on Youtube and even local symposiums that I went to! Reach out and get help where ever you can!

Activities For Bedridden People Wrapup

Hopefully this helps you to think about things that you can do to increase the activities that your bedridden loved one has to do! It is no fun being stuck in bed all the time and anything we can do to help is super important to their health and mental state!

Here are some other posts about dementia that you might like!

25 Activities When Your Loved One Is Stuck In Bed