Daily activities that provide exercise or mental stimulation are important to maintaining overall good health. For people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, it’s especially crucial to be involved in games, exercise, arts and crafts, music, and other daily routines that protect their physical and cognitive well-being.
These activities provide structure to the day-to-day lives of people living with dementia, as well as bring them a sense of calm, a feeling of control, and fewer instances of aggressive behaviour, especially in the early stages of the disease. As the disease progresses, some of these activities could become the primary way the person communicates.
When dealing with a loved one’s dementia diagnosis, families face having to find ways to help preserve joy and fulfillment into the person’s life, while looking for ways to slow the progression of dementia conditions, most of which are irreversible.
To help, we’ve compiled a list of 31 engaging activities for people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, grouped into separate categories to help you quickly identify which ones are best for your loved one.
Games and activities
- Board games: Someone with dementia may become stressed if they have trouble counting money or adding up points, so board games like Snakes and Ladders, Trouble, Scrabble, chess, or checkers are great choices
- Trivia games: Playing trivia games helps flex memory functions in the temporal and hippocampus regions of the brain, and work to stave off memory-related dementia symptoms
- Jigsaw puzzles: Putting together a jigsaw puzzle is not only relaxing, but also gives the brain a good workout
- Bingo: Enjoy a night of bingo at home for an excellent cognitive workout
- Card matching games: Playing card matching games such as Concentration help improve memory, focus, and problem-solving skills
- Puzzle books: Books with a variety of crosswords, word searches, sudoku, or other puzzles are perfect for mental stimulation and engagement
- Walking: Doctors recommend that people get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical exercise every day, and a brisk walk is an excellent way to achieve this
- Swimming: Water sports provide an excellent cardiovascular workout that reduces anxiety, improves mood, and promotes overall well-being
- Light gardening: Weeding, planting flowers, sweeping the walk, and digging in the soil are very relaxing activities that helps you get some fresh air and sunshine
- Dancing: Put on some music that the person enjoys so they can get up and dance – either alone or with you as their partner
- Yoga: Meditative yoga can help soothe the patient, while providing a light workout that focuses on balance, stretching, movement, and concentration
- Cardio: Any kind of cardio exercise increases oxygen and blood flow to the brain, making it one of the most beneficial activities to do
- Tai Chi: This ancient Chinese practice involves slow, flowing movements combined with controlled breathing, and promotes balance, coordination, and mental calmness
Arts & crafts
- Journaling: Keeping a diary and writing down one’s deepest thoughts provides excellent mental exercise and stress relief
- Crafting: This can range from simple crafting such as scrapbooking to more involved projects including knitting, quilting, or putting together floral arrangements to promote cognitive and sensory stimulation and preserve motor skills
- Creating a memory box: Collect old photos, favourite objects, and sentimental items from the person’s work in a box they can revisit for calm, memory-flexing reflection
- Painting: Wielding a paintbrush to create art on canvas reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety, boosts mental cognition, and provides an excellent opportunity for self-expression
- Beading: Making bead jewelry is great for maintaining physical dexterity (putting the beads on a string), and the patterning involved provides a healthy mental workout
- Listening to music: Putting on a person’s favourite song can be soothing, improve behavioural issues, and provides a way to connect, especially when verbal communication has become a challenge
- Singing: Singing together connects people, as well as improves mood, memory, and enjoyment in the lives of people with dementia
- Playing musical instruments: Even if the person doesn’t play an actual instrument, they can get in on the therapeutic benefits of music making by shaking or tapping on a closed container of dry beans or pasta
- Reading: The sound of your voice when reading a book, magazine, or magazine out loud to someone with dementia can help soothe and calm them
- Visiting familiar places: Spark old memories and evoke pleasant feelings in someone with dementia by taking to them familiar places such as old family homes, neighbourhoods and public places, or current favourite locations including coffee shops, museums, and restaurants
- Cooking/Baking: Find your loved one’s favourite recipes, prepare them in the kitchen together, and then reward yourselves by dining together on the tasty treats afterward
- Reminiscing: Revisiting happy memories helps you discover what holds meaning for the person, and allows them to pass down family stories for the following generation
- Creating routines: Add structure and focus to daily life by having the person adhere to regular sleeping, eating, and activity schedules whenever possible
- Connecting with pets: Time bonding with a friendly pet can reduce feelings of anxiety and depression while improving mood
- Watching the aquarium: Setting up an aquarium stocked with colourful fish can provide hours of relaxed, soothing entertainment and topics of conversation
- Trying aromatherapy: Relieve agitation and promote healthy, restorative sleep with aromatherapy techniques that can help one lead a better quality of life
- Assigning household chores: You can promote focus in someone with dementia by “assigning” them simple tasks such as folding clothes or polishing silverware
- Praying together: Many people find peace in religious and/or spiritual practices, especially when facing inner challenges, and experience added joy and fulfillment when someone else participates with them
Support for an Alzheimer’s disease or dementia diagnosis
When a friend or loved one is diagnosed as having Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, you’ll likely have lots of questions and concerns about what the future holds. It’s important to seek out support from professionals who specialize in dementia care to ensure that you’re doing everything you can to help the person continue to live with joy and fulfillment as they enter this new phase of life.When you need some extra help with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia care, fun, engaging activities and companionship, or help with homemaking or meal prep, give the elder care experts at CareHop a call. We specialize in providing quality, respectful, and empathetic care that focuses on your loved one’s needs and the wishes of your family. With CareHop, that special person will always be in loving hands.