Best Fun Activities for Engaging Dementia Patients

Body Mind on Dementia Map

Submitted by Beth Rush
Founder and Managing Editor
Body+Mind Magazine

Dementia can be a depressing condition. Slowly forgetting fondest memories and looking confused when seeing a family member can be frustrating and heartbreaking. Witnessing their abilities decline can evoke profound sadness in cognitively impaired individuals.

These negative feelings are normal.

Still, experienced caregivers use these various nursing home dementia activities to alleviate mood swings, help patients be preoccupied with something positive, and forget their sorrows.

9 Simple Activities for Mild Dementia Patients

Challenging cognitive tasks existing of a variety of different activities are suitable for people in the early stages of dementia. Consider these social activities when caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or another types of dementia.

1. Conversations

Talking can help keep a dementia patient’s brain active. Chatting with them in social situations about mundane subjects works, but letting them reminisce about the good old days is a great way to slow the condition’s progression.

Encouraging them to recall their favorite memories when they still can remember can be cathartic. Being able to recollect the details can give them joy and a sense of accomplishment — considering the circumstances.

Actively listen to their anecdotes to keep the conversation going. Feel free to ask questions to flesh out vague stories without disrupting their trains of thought.

2. Word Scrambles

Here are the mechanics — someone picks a word and tells a story around it or selects two words and explains their connection.

Playing this word game suits older adults with early-stage dementia, although only some may cooperate. Many may refuse when put on the spot, so don’t make it about them.

Instead, think of an alibi as to why they should participate. A reason that works like a charm is needing a partner to practice your skills. Helping someone who needs them can give them a sense of purpose.

3. Alphabet Soup

This game is exciting and stimulates cognitive function. Writing words alphabetically and alternately can be a great activity for people with dementia to test their vocabulary. Avoid playing too well, though, for being the one who can’t come up with a word, and losing may upset them.

4. Card Games

Playing cards is one of the most popular nursing home dementia activities because most people love it. People with mild dementia can still enjoy complex card games. Still, child-friendly ones like Uno are universally enjoyable and let patients have fun with their grandkids.

5. Jigsaw Puzzles

Puzzles generally suit people with dementia, but putting together jigsaw puzzles is particularly helpful. This activity is one of the best ways to decelerate memory loss and combat cognitive decline.

6. Photo Sharing

Browsing through photo albums can trigger remembrance. Old pictures may help Alzheimer’s disease patients — who represent up to 80% of all people with dementia — hark back to the past, look back on memorable events, and put names to faces.

7. Family Tree Building

Mapping out immediate and extended family members is an exhilarating cognitive stimulation exercise. Every tree branch is an opportunity to encourage patients to discuss their relationships with their loved ones. Memories from early childhood through the early 30s tend to be the strongest, so ask them about their oldest relatives.

Concentrate on positive recollections. If the patient can’t remember someone or seems annoyed, move on to the next family member or a different activity.

nursing home dementia activities
Courtesy Unsplash

8. Painting

Art therapy is beneficial for cognitive health. Painting is a form of creative expression — an outlet to let out their thoughts and emotions. This activity can be messy, so provide all the supplies they need and designate an ample area where they can be as expressive as they want.

9. Beautiful Questions

“Beautiful Questions” are open-ended, so patients can answer them however they like. These questions are playful, forgiving, cognitively stimulating and thought-provoking. They can elicit honest and elaborate responses.

What is the most essential thing in life? What is your definition of kindness? What should the next generation be grateful for? What sound makes you happy? What is a food with special meaning for you? What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Asking Beautiful Questions can spark interesting conversations. It gives older people with dementia a chance to speak their minds freely and share life lessons.

5 Meaningful Activities for Moderate Dementia Patients

Dementia care experts say that individuals with moderate dementia can find entertainment-related activities delightful.

1. Binge-Watching

Movie nights and TV marathons may involve little physical activity, but they can be helpful for people fighting cognitive decline. Binging films and TV shows from their eras is a trip down memory lane. Seeing their Hollywood idols can make them feel young again. Patients may also wax nostalgic while watching family videos.

Contemplate screen time, though. Patients may need occasional breaks to refocus, so check when their attention goes elsewhere.

2. Sing-Alongs

Singing is one of the group activities perfect for enhancing cognition, improving quality of life, and benefiting the well-being of everybody involved. We all love familiar music! If the mic doesn’t agree with certain team members, let patients virtually join singing groups. Some have members with Alzheimer’s disease.

3. Step Dancing

Dance-based interventions are common nursing home dementia activities for a reason. They can be therapeutic to people with Alzheimer’s disease and care partners. Making basic moves like stepping a foot forward and clapping to the tune of a simple beat is not only enough to dance away the blues, it can enhance fine motor skills.

4. Musical Bingo

nursing home dementia activities
Courtesy Unsplash

This version of bingo replaces digits with musical instruments and plays sounds instead of calling out numbers. Players have to match the sound with the corresponding instrument. The winner gets to shout “bingo,” but nobody loses because everybody can sharpen their cognitive skills by just joining.

5. Book Reading

Reading a page-turner out loud to a book club of people with dementia encourages cognitive function. The group can discuss the story’s meaning and share their thoughts. Even patients who opt to listen will find this activity stimulating since it involves a lot of imagination.

5 Appropriate Activities for Severe Dementia Patients

People with late-stage dementia can engage in these physical and sensory tasks to experience enjoyment.

1. Cooking

Preparing meals together and hosting cooking classes for patients can be restorative. You can intrigue them with exotic dishes and expose them to innovative food products, piquing their interest enough to commit to the activity.

Only some may know their way around the kitchen, so don’t expect everyone to have the same experience and skill level. In addition, consider the patients’ physical limitations to ensure this terrific activity does more good than harm. Know each one’s strengths and build on them.

Alternatively, you can do baking. It can be challenging to do without proper equipment, though. If you take this route, pay attention to raw ingredients like eggs and flour to keep anyone from getting infected by viruses or bacteria.

2. Dishwashing

Washing the dishes by hand can be relaxing. It can give seniors with dementia a newfound sense of purpose, pride and fulfillment, making them feel fantastic about being helpful to others.

3. Pet Therapy

Spending quality time with friendly animals can help calm aggressive, agitated and restless individuals with dementia. Playing with pets counts as social interaction, so patients can feel less lonely.

Ensure the patients are not allergic to the animal they’ll interact with. They may have forgotten their allergies, so double-check their medical records to keep everybody safe, healthy and comfortable.

4. Aromatherapy

Everyone loves going to the spa. People with dementia are no exception. Give patients hand massages with essential oils. Play a soothing sound in the background and use music therapy to set the tone for the activity. This activity engages multiple senses simultaneously to use sensory stimulation to maximum effect.

5. Walking

Outdoor activities such as strolling and gentle hiking are instrumental in increasing the overall wellness of older folks with dementia. Leisure walks with caregivers present lovely opportunities for casual interpersonal conversation, curious observation of the surroundings and lighthearted commentary about changes over time.

Making New Memories With Nursing Home Dementia Activities

Forgetfulness is an unavoidable consequence of cognitive decline. Still, you can help patients remember — and create new positive memories — with fun, engaging, daily activities.


Body Mind on Dementia Map

Beth Rush
Founder and Managing Editor
Body+Mind Magazine

Beth Rush is a Founder and the Managing Editor at Body+Mind and a lover of all things health and wellness.

In her spare time, Beth enjoys cooking healthy recipes and trying out new fitness trends.

Visit Beth on Dementia Map or on her website.

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