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13 Activities for Alzheimer’s/Dementia Patients at Home

Get ideas on activities that Alzheimer’s or dementia patients can enjoy at home. Caretakers can use these activities to keep their loved ones engaged and busy.

By Marlena del Hierro · Updated Apr 15, 2022
activities-alzheimers-dementia

One of the most important things to consider when choosing activities for Alzheimer’s or dementia patients living at home is to match the activities to the person’s abilities. This means matching activities to the physical and cognitive level of people with Alzheimer’s or dementia, and to your loved one’s skills and abilities in particular. This matching is necessary to keep the person from becoming overwhelmed or frustrated if the activity is too difficult or virtually impossible. Remember that even things they used to excel at might become frustratingly difficult as their condition progresses.

How to determine the level of activity?

Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease are not the same thing. Therefore, knowing what stage of Alzheimer’s someone is in is important when deciding on the appropriate activities for them. There are three different stages of Alzheimer’s disease that each include their own cognitive or physical limitations, including:

  1. Early stage
  2. Middle stage
  3. Severe or late stage

Understanding the stages of the disease and whether or not your loved one is also a dementia patient can help you match the type of activity to their ability level. Matching activities for Alzheimer’s patients should be evaluated by stage of disease, physical and cognitive functions, as well as disposition and outlook of the patient. If your loved one is prone to the irritability associated with Sundowner’s syndrome, for example, avoid starting activities late in the day.

What about individuals with dementia?

Dementia is not a disease; it is a decline in cognitive function related to aging. Dementia can be caused by a number of conditions, the most common being Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s affects some aspects of brain function, like memory, verbal processing and motor skills/coordination. A person experiencing cognitive decline might have many of these functions intact but suffer from a diminishment of them.

"The biggest thing to remember with a person with dementia is that they're a person with dementia," explained Cameron Camp, Director and Senior Research Scientist, Menorah Park Center for Senior Living.

Depending on the severity of dementia, some brain functions might be compromised severely, or even absent. A person with Alzheimer’s disease still has a normal need for social inclusion and interaction, meaning, fulfillment, warmth, affection, health and serenity, love, and happiness.

Activities for such an individual then might overlap with those of fully healthy people. In other words, people with dementia should be respected and treated with the same esteem as any other person. They should not be related to in a patronizing or condescending manner, as if they are of less value than anyone else. Try to include them in activities that the whole family is taking part in, or giving them something similar to do if they can no longer follow a game or craft as precisely as the rest of the table or room.

Benefits of activities for people with Alzheimer’s

Activities will not reverse Alzheimer’s, but they can alleviate depression and anxiety. People with Alzheimer’s may be socially isolated, and social isolation can also contribute to depression.

In fact, research has shown that chronic social isolation is associated with premature death. Other research has shown that loneliness could reduce the functioning of the immune system. For these reasons, it can be very beneficial for a person living at home with Alzheimer’s to have regular social interaction, like having visitors that are known or very familiar come over on a regular basis.

It is also helpful if visitors are informed about how to relate to someone living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, so they are not insensitive and can be more understanding. Senior life can be difficult enough, even without social isolation or a lack of compassion.

Activities to try

Here are four recommended types of activities that have shown positive results and impact for individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia:

  1. Social activities
  2. Creative activities
  3. Physical activities
  4. Learning activities

Based on these activity groups, here’s a list of 13 activities for people with Alzheimer’s or dementia, with more information on each activity below:

  1. Play card or board games
  2. Coffee or tea with a friend
  3. Massage therapy
  4. Listening to music or singing
  5. Looking at photos
  6. Dancing
  7. Cooking and baking
  8. Painting and artwork
  9. Crossword puzzles or Sudoku
  10. Meditation
  11. Yoga
  12. Gardening
  13. Mental training and mind games

Social Activities

  • Play games like cards, or board games with your loved one. Ask them what their favorite game is and play that with them.
  • They can have coffee or tea with a friend, family member or caregiver and try to have a conversation, or just listen.
  • If a person is very socially isolated she or he might appreciate physical touch, so ask if there is interest in a massage and have a body worker come for an in-home massage.
  • Listen to music, sing, play an instrument, dance solo or with a partner. One study found that singing might improve cognitive abilities in people with compromised brain function.
  • Look at photo albums and talk about personal experiences and share stories.
  • Dancing and learning to do new steps might reduce some symptoms according to a research study.

Creative Activities

  • Cooking and baking are creative and fun because you get to work with your hands and take on the challenge of making something enjoyable to eat. They can also be enjoyable shared social experiences. Some people also like to make foods that are traditional for their families or part of their culture.
  • Make any form of art like a painting, a drawing, sculpture with clay, collage, photos, or writing. If your loved one has a hard time writing by hand or using a traditional keyboard look into adaptive technology that could help.
  • Knitting, crochet and other types of yarn crafts offer simple, repetitive motions and easy shapes like scarves or blankets. Consider your loved one’s dexterity and familiarity with these activities before suggesting them.
  • Crossword puzzles or Sudoku. Make sure to find large print versions if your loved one has vision issues. These puzzles also come in a variety of skill levels, so you can tailer them to your loved one’s cognitive skillset.

Physical Activities

  • Meditation can help calm the mind and relax the body. A very simple form of meditation is to simply sit quietly with the eyes closed and put one’s attention on the inhalations and the exhalations of the breath for about ten minutes. Some research studies have found meditation can be good for reducing stress.
  • Yoga is a gentle form of exercise and stretching that can be done in the home and is low-impact. There are also poses that can be done sitting in a chair or lying down for a person that has any issue with balance and needs to be supported. Restorative yoga is particularly good for relaxing and going to sleep. There are DVDs with yoga poses and free videos can be found on YouTube, both with versions that cater to seniors or people with low agility.
  • Dance can be a good way to stay physically active, have fun with a group, and even offer physical touch from a dance partner. Additionally, music has been shown to reach even those patients in late stage Alzheimer’s.
  • Gardening or taking care of indoor plants. Gardening has been shown to have benefits like reducing stress, improving attention span, and it may even relieve symptoms of depression.

Learning Activities

  • Seniors that took mental training exercises experienced a boost in their cognitive function. It is not true that people suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s should not bother trying to learn new things. Learning can be a source of happiness and fulfillment, so presenting opportunities for learning and growth to improve memory can help maintain a zest for life.

Ongoing care for Alzheimer’s patients

If your family decides it's time for the next step in providing dementia care for an aging loved one, memory care facilities or assisted living communities near you may be a great option to provide a safe, comfortable aging environment. Memory care communities are designed to support those with cognitive impairment by providing trained caregivers and offering activities that support sensory stimulation to improve overall health and well-being.

Find memory care communities near you
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written by:
Marlena del Hierro
Marlena del Hierro, Gerontologist & Partnerships Manager at Seniorly
View other articles written by Marlena

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