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Keeping People with Dementia Engaged

Feb 19, 2018 by Toni Reinhart

If you're a caregiver, you're probably constantly looking for new ways to keep your loved one busy. Stimulating, entertaining activities can cut down on restlessness and irritability. In fact, such recreational engagement can be extremely beneficial for them. Here are a few ideas for new activities you could introduce.

Arts and Crafts

Many people find the act of creating something unique and artistic to be especially calming and soothing. I've taken up sewing to keep up with all the costumes I need for swing dancing, but I've found it to be really relaxing. The activities you choose may vary according to the ability level of your loved one, but the act of creating something has value. Here are a few simple ones you could consider trying.

Seasonal Crafts

Making craft projects that reflect the different seasons and holidays scattered throughout the year can help people to stay more aware of their surrounding environment. You could have them add colorful feathers to a paper turkey for Thanksgiving. Have them decorate a sturdy, plastic Christmas ornament with paint or stickers. Show them how to add colorful decoupage to a flower pot for Springtime. People often feel a great sense of accomplishment when they complete these types of simple seasonal projects. I used to run a charity called Stockings for Seniors. We had seniors in adult day centers and memory communities stuff stockings for seniors in need. Just the act of putting together a Christmas present for someone was a wonderful activity for them.

Room Decorations

There's no need to wait for a special time of year to create something beautiful! Find out what type of visual arts are most interesting to your loved one. Whether they enjoy painting, coloring, or making collages, be sure to put their artwork on display.

Tactile Crafts

Many people love the feeling of tactile craft materials like clay and play-dough. Make sure whatever materials you give them to work with are non-toxic. Play-dough can be formed into objects that are allowed to dry or placed back into the container to reuse another day.

People with Dementia May Appreciate Exposure to the Arts

Besides creating their own art, many people love to experience the beauty of other people's artistic expression. Giving them a chance to be entertained with the arts can bring them immense joy. Online venues and entertainment stores often sell recordings by artists from years gone by for inexpensive prices.

Give them Recordings of their Favorite Artists

Try to find out what type of music or drama appeals to the them most. Then give them opportunities to see and hear the artists that inspire them. For many people, music is an especially powerful medium.

Present them with Live Entertainment

Church groups, schools, and community groups are often looking for ways to reach out to the community. Contact your local senior center to see if they can put you in touch with any local groups or individual artists you could bring in to perform. Make sure anyone you invite is vetted by someone you trust and is informed about the their condition in advance.

Allow Them Opportunities to Play an Instrument or Sing

If your loved one is musical, they may find great satisfaction playing their favorite instrument. They could also sing as you provide accompaniment on an instrument or with a musical soundtrack. A good, old-fashioned sing-along is a fun way to spend an afternoon. I have seen many people with dementia who are no longer verbal, but as soon as you start singing a familiar song, they are right there with you.


Mental Stimulation is Important

Research shows that mental stimulation can slow the progression of certain types of dementia in the early stages. Along with this important benefit, many people find these types of activities particularly absorbing. Here are a few you could try:

Word Games

You can play all sorts of word games to get your loved one’s mind working. For example, play an alphabet game where a person is given a certain letter of the alphabet and has to come up with a word that starts with that letter in a certain category. We played this game often when I was a child, it works at many ability levels. Or you could have them try to repeat tongue twisters. Play a rhyming game where they have to find words that rhyme with the words you say.


Purchase some jigsaw puzzles the person may try to work on alone when they want some quiet time. Or the two of you could work on one together. Make sure to choose puzzles that have large pieces and won't be overly difficult for them to solve. Puzzles with familiar themes and pictures work especially well. We keep many puzzles here at our Comfort Keepers office so the caregivers can rotate them.

Social Activities

People are social animals and most of us respond well to the mental stimulation we get from visiting. People with dementia still need that stimulation. Check out a local Memory Café run by the Alzheimer’s Association. They are a great way for people with dementia and their care partners to socialize in an unstructured environment. Encourage members of the family to visit. Sometimes people don’t visit because they don’t know how to act or what to say, help them by having an activity like a puzzle to do or photos to go through with their loved one.

There are all sorts of activities caregivers and their loved ones can engage in together. Hopefully, these ideas will help you get into the habit of scheduling enrichment into your loved one's daily routine.

We’re here to help 24/7! Give us a call at (703) 424-9519, or stop by at 459 Herndon Pkwy #5, Herndon, VA 20170.

Comfort Keepers Herndon is a full-service, in-home care provider for the elderly - helping to keep your loved ones at home longer for better quality of life.


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