Boredom and lack of simulation are one of the most frustrating things for older people with dementia. They require mentally stimulating activities to help them get better cognitive function, fight cognitive decline, lessen irritability and anxiety. Luckily, you can do lots of encouraging and pleasurable activities with them to fulfill the need whilst bringing them pleasure and fulfillment, help keep them in high spirits, and stir memories in the process. So read on below and discover our suggestions for the best stimulating activities for older people with dementia and start enjoying these exciting and creative tasks with your loved one.
Puzzles work great for people with dementia, as these help in keeping their brains active. You can choose different puzzles, from word games to crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, wooden puzzles, or shape puzzles. If they are techie, you can also play dementia-friendly puzzles with them on your computer, tablet, or smartphone. Finishing these puzzles together allows them to use their problem-solving skills and brings them a sense of fulfillment and a better mood.
2. Exercise and physical activities
Exercise and physical activities offer an array of incredible benefits for people with dementia. These activities help slow down mental decline, boost memory, and improve sleep, strength, and balance. They also provide social engagement opportunities, which can improve their mood and self-esteem and lower their risk of developing depression. Some physical activities may do together include biking, water aerobics, fishing, dancing, yoga, or taichi, depending on the age and fitness of your loved one.
3. Arts and crafts
People with dementia may lose their ability to communicate, preventing them from expressing themselves. With that, you must help close the gap and provide them with new, unique ways for self-expression. A surefire method is engaging them in arts and crafts. While they may have never been artsy before, activities like painting, drawing, or knitting can still serve as serene and liberating ways to communicate a huge part of themselves.
4. Pet therapy
Dogs, cats, hamsters, and other pets have been known to provide a sense of comfort to people with dementia. These animals have a calming and soothing nature, which helps in relieving stress and anxiety and fight depression. Moreover, pets serve as excellent companions, as they don’t judge or are critical, always ready to give unconditional love. Thus, helping your loved one feel more loved and gain a new source of support.
5. Read books
If your loved one is a bookworm but now finds it difficult to do so due to loss of dexterity or poor eyesight, reading their favorite books can be an enjoyable and calming experience. Listening to stories stimulate their memories and imagination, making the activity more pleasurable. You can even record your voice on tape or buy audiobooks so you can play them from time to time.
6. Explore nature
Interacting with nature provides positive impacts on the mood of dementia patients. It can also help them get fresh air, witness new things, feel the sun’s warmth, and achieve other sensory experiences. Other activities you can do together include: doing nature walks, gardening or flower arranging, feeding birds, visiting a nature reserve, or watching environmental videos. Yet, simply sitting on a bench, feeling the breeze, and listening to the sound of nature can also be as relaxing and rewarding.
7. Cooking and baking
Cooking and baking with your people with dementia is a fantastic way to keep them engaged and get their skills working. Plus, they gain a sense of accomplishment and a tasty reward at the end of the activity. You can assign them safe and straightforward tasks, such as beating eggs or mixing the ingredients, depending on their stage and dexterity. Once done, you can now enjoy the delicious dish or meal you’ve worked together to make. What’s great is that you can even choose recipes that can trigger memories and emotions. Perhaps, you can make your mom’s signature guacamole or dad’s famous steak. Exposing them to these familiar flavors could help them reminisce about significant events associated with them.
Listening to music also offers many benefits, from reducing agitations, providing comfort, awakening the brain while improving chances of eliciting emotions and recollection. You can play your loved one’s favorite songs or ones that are dear to them. It can be holiday carols, the OST from their favorite movie, or that song they automatically choose during sing-alongs. The nostalgia from these songs can help them reconnect with their past and display positive responses.
9. Bring back their favorite topics
Is your dad a die-hard Lakers fan? Does your mom have a particular singer or actress whom she likes to talk about before? Otherwise, they may have strong interests in politics or wildlife. What you can do is start engaging them in positive discussions about topics or personalities close to them. It can help them feel more valued and recall important figures or interests from their past.
10. Create a memory box
Making a memory box can help people with dementia recall people, things, events, and memories from the past. These recollections deemed to be “lost” may only need to be stimulated through some physical, meaningful reminders you can collate in a memory box. It can be letters, family photographs, items from their previous career or hobby, souvenirs, and other mementos meaningful to them. With all that, a memory box can spark conversations and bring back happy thoughts and emotions.
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That’s the rundown of the best stimulating activities for older people with dementia. However, be mindful that each elderly is different. An activity that may work for some may not work for others. If they don’t seem to be excited about the task or appear to be aloof, you may jump off to other activities or find other ones that can pique their interest while also making them feel valued, loved, and happy.