Best Printable Activities For People with Dementia

Body Mind on Dementia Map

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

Dementia is challenging for older adults because it makes everyday activities difficult. It’s also complex for caregivers to take care of those living with dementia. How can you occupy your loved one’s time? One great way to engage them is with fun activities like artwork and games. Use free printable activities for dementia patients for easy entertainment and cognitive challenges.

Today, the Internet has numerous free resources for the older adult with dementia and people of all ages. It’s essential to keep them mentally engaged (especially if physical activity is a challenge) to fight the disease’s progression – and of course in a fun way!

Here are 15 printable, recreational activities you can give your patients with dementia.

1. Crossword Puzzles

Let’s start with a classic. Crossword puzzles have been around since 1913 and are a favorite activity for many older adults. They’re a great activity for mental stimulation because they make you think broadly and creatively about various topics. Multiple answers may fit a clue, but you have to find the word matching the rest of the puzzle.

Some crossword puzzles may be too tricky and cause frustration. You should find easy crossword puzzles with specific themes, such as holidays. Check out resources for easy crossword puzzles, including AARP, the Los Angeles Times and USA Today. Pour some coffee and have fun with the cognitive practice you get from crosswords.

2. Word Search

Crossword puzzles can be challenging for anybody, so pick word searches for an easier activity time. Word searches are popular because of their accessibility. All the words are on the printed paper — you just need to get creative to find them. The answers can span left to right or even be upside down!

Word searches are terrific games for adults with dementia because of their flexibility. Like crossword puzzles, you can design them around any theme. Use the word search to improve your patients’ cognitive function. These puzzles help those living with dementia recognize patterns, improve their attention to detail and expand their vocabulary.

3. Word Scramble

When looking for free printable activities for Alzheimer’s patients, you’ll find many word games. A popular one is the word scramble. This fun activity is better for your loved one if they enjoy quick puzzles, considering word scrambles are typically shorter than crosswords or word searches.

Word scrambles are terrific brain games because care partners can create puzzles and alter the difficulty. For example, unscramble “eplpa” to get “apple.” For more challenging scrambles, try “attosaurn” to get “astronaut.” Sometimes, they may unscramble and come up with words you didn’t think of before. For example, “welbo” could be “elbow,” “below” or “bowel.” Get creative and have fun with these word games.

4. Math Problems

While word games are fun, you can also branch into other subjects like math and science. Math problems are terrific mental exercises and you don’t need to break out the vector calculus textbook. Keep the worksheets simple enough for them to solve problems quickly and stimulate their brains.

For example, find worksheets where your loved one counts objects. The picture could contain a fruit stand, and the question asks how many apples are on the shelf. You can introduce easy addition and subtraction problems relating to their real life. “If you have five cars and sell three, how many are left?” It’s good to introduce fun math problems as a fun and different way to stimulate memory deficits.

5. Sing-a-Longs

No matter your age, singing is a fun activity that brings joy to your heart. There are songs you’ve been singing since you were a child — all it takes is a few notes to get your voice going. Print out lyrics to your loved one’s favorite songs and have a sing-a-long. Can they hit the notes like Tony Bennett or Ella Fitzgerald? Give them the lyrics to “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” or “Cheek to Cheek” and remind them of their favorite songs from yesteryear.

Sing-a-longs are excellent activities around the holidays. Christmas, Independence Day, Veterans Day and more have fun songs synonymous with the occasion. Print lyrics to “Sleigh Ride,” “America the Beautiful” and other pieces when it gets close to the holidays. Turn the songs into a game by getting your dementia patient to fill in the blanks with missing lyrics. These new activities bring fun stimulation and some holiday spirit to their days.

6. Holiday Decorations

The holidays are a special time of year. Your loved one may look forward to Christmas, Thanksgiving, Rosh Hashanah, Easter or other holidays. How can you amp up the cheer when the season comes? Print out holiday decorations and let them decorate their living space.

For example, in December, you can print pictures of Christmas tree ornaments and ask your loved one to color them. The fall is a great time to give them pictures of pumpkins and turkeys to celebrate the holidays. This is one of many easy activities to engage them in the season.

7. Mad Libs

Do your dementia patients like to joke around and share laughs? Some say laughter is the best medicine because it brings us joy and lifts spirits. A popular humorous printable activity for seniors is Mad Libs. These stories create nonsensical situations that make you shake your head and laugh. Even when you’re feeling down, a mad lib can bring a smile to your face.

Like other activities, you can create a mad lib based around a particular theme, like a holiday or a patient’s favorite hobbies. Including their interests will help keep seniors engaged and they’ll get even bigger laughs out of familiar answers in silly situations.

8. Jigsaw Puzzles

Puzzles are a relaxing pastime and a great resource for many seniors and patients with dementia. They’re calming and terrific for passing the time on a lazy afternoon. You can do them by yourself throughout the week or ask a partner to join. Jigsaw puzzles require strategic thinking because you need attention to detail to make the pieces fit. Many puzzles come in a box, but you can make the games yourself.

Find printable jigsaw puzzles online and print your loved one’s favorite designs. You’ll need to cut the picture into pieces to unscramble the puzzle. Make it easy for yourself and them by cutting an ordinary photo into large squares. Alternatively, you can carefully cut images with designated borders to make the puzzle piece feel authentic. Use colored ink to enhance the image and make it easy for the participants.

9. Letter Writing

Today’s technology has turned communication digital. However, many people still write handwritten letters to each other. Crafting and receiving letters can be one of the best activities to make you feel good inside. It lets family members know how you’re doing and makes them feel loved. Print out pretty designs with flowers, butterflies and other artwork to encourage your loved one.

Letter writing is excellent for those with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. It encourages your brain to recall memories about specific people or recent events. You can also improve your communication skills by forming sentences and expressing emotion. Writing is therapeutic for many, so try it with those living with cognitive decline..

10. Spot the Difference

Another way to stimulate the brain is to enhance observation skills. Your eyes and brain need increased focus to aid your attention to detail. A fantastic printable activity for visual stimulation is spot the difference. Print two similar-looking pictures with subtle differences. Ensure the differences are easy to spot so the participant stays engaged. The difference may be the stripes on a tiger, the toppings on a pizza, or different hand placements on clock faces.

Spot the difference is an excellent bonding activity for people with dementia. Encourage them to bring worksheets to the YMCA or other community centers and work with their friends to complete the game. You can turn it into a friendly competition or keep it simple by collaborating. Finding the differences makes them feel accomplished and improves their moods.

11. Coloring Pages

Fun, cognitive activities don’t always require mental stimulation or quizzes. You can engage your loved one with uncomplicated, stress-free activities that bring out their creative side. For example, print out coloring pages. These drawings allow them to choose different colors and be as creative as they want while coloring.

Many coloring pages on the web have beautiful flowers and smiling animals. For example, Crayola has free printable elephants, dinosaurs and gorillas. Color your sheep purple, or give your tiger pink and blue stripes. The color possibilities are endless, so it’s up to your imagination. Coloring free printable activities gives those living with dementia a relaxing way to engage their minds.

As an added bonus, these types of sensory activities can be adjusted for levels of difficulty as needed.

12. Memory Games

A significant part of dementia is memory loss. Those living with dementia may forget people or recent events that happened. It’s difficult to stop this deterioration, especially in the later stages. However, you can slow down the process by engaging your loved one with memory games. Keep the games manageable because you don’t want to overload their sensory stimulation – and support a positive sense of accomplishment.

You can aid their memory function with matching games. For example, print two pictures of five fruits — you should have 10 total. You may have two apples, bananas, grapes, oranges and peaches. Lay each card face down and ask them to flip two at a time. If they get a pair, they can keep the cards face up. Otherwise, they’ll try again.

A more accessible memory game is to play Categories. Print out a list of categories like food, sports, cities and vegetables. Pick a category and ask the participant to name as many as they can. You can increase the difficulty by isolating a specific letter. For example, vegetables starting with “A” may include asparagus, arugula and artichokes. This game is similar to what you’d see in Hasbro’s Scattegories.

13. Connect the Dots

Drawing is a fun activity for people of all ages, but it’s not easy for everybody. A great way to make it easy for older people is to connect the dots. This game makes it easy to create pictures of lions, tigers and bears. Each image brings an element of surprise because you might not know what you’re making until you finish the page.

Connecting the dots is beneficial because it provides easy mental stimulation for your loved one. Connecting each dot requires hand-eye coordination, improving motor skills. Encourage them to use a pencil so they can easily fix any mistakes or misplaced lines. This game relieves stress while promoting sequential thinking. Participants will be happy when they create a picture of Mickey and Minnie Mouse or another fun subject. It is one of many good activities to promote a positive sense of purpose.

14. Trivia

Do your dementia patients like quiz shows? Many older adults enjoy TV game shows like “Jeopardy!” and “Family Feud.” The competition and mental stimulation are fun for all ages. Bring the game show fun to your loved one by printing out trivia sheets. Keep the trivia easy to encourage your patient’s confidence and maintain the fun.

Trivia is customizable, so gear it toward your patient. Print trivia sheets about specific holidays. For example, which of Santa’s reindeer has a red nose? What do kids say at the door on Halloween? Another suitable trivia game could entail their favorite childhood memories. Where was Elvis Presley born? Who was the U.S. president during World War II?

Memory Joggers

Memory Joggers on Memory Cafe DirectoryRelated to the recall value of trivia is the ability to complete the last word of a familiar phrase. When connected to a patient’s interests, idioms like nursery rhymes, slogans, and “that phrase grandpa used to say” can all make a connection to a memory when attempting to complete the phrase.

Memory Cafe Directory’s Memory Joggers is a one of the best activity ideas to stimulate memory.

15. Hangman

Another popular game show among older adults is “Wheel of Fortune.” This classic show provides word puzzles for contestants to solve — similar to the game hangman. Play hangman with your loved one and let them join the fun of these word puzzles. Many word games are independent, but hangman encourages direct interaction with them.

Print hangman templates and choose easy words and phrases they’re familiar with. Make it easier by giving them specific categories like soda brands, fast-food chains and other public figures they’ve known their whole lives.

Having Fun With Free Printable Activities for Dementia Patients

Dementia can be frustrating for older persons. Their brains face constant challenges with memory and ordinary tasks during the progression of the disease. Finding printable activities like coloring pages and word scrambles to promote brain activity and fun are simple activities, but can boost their health and happiness. Choose appropriate activities like these, add them to their To-Do List, and make them part of their daily routine.

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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