Written by Active Minds on Monday the 11th of April 2016.
Stimulating activities can have a positive effect on someone who is living with dementia, especially because dementia can cause a person to withdraw from activities and isolate themselves from experiences in the process. Putting together activities that can bring pleasure to someone living with dementia and that can maintain a connection to their past are ways of providing a welcome distraction from their disease.
What activities you choose can all depend on the interests and personality of someone living with dementia and it is important to think about the types of activities that will be suitable. Some activities might go down well at certain times of the day and the stage of dementia someone is living with may impact their ability to perform an activity. At Active Minds, we have put together 10 simple activities that you can choose from and that someone living with dementia can get involved in.
Playing someone’s favourite piece of music or songs from a certain era can provide a relaxing way for someone with dementia to reconnect with the past. It can evoke memories and prompt discussion about what they enjoyed at that time and who they listened to music with.
Films are a great way of revisiting old stories or showing characters and scenery that mean something to someone living with dementia. Active Minds have a series of Reminiscence Films & DVDs that show archive footage and capture what life was like when people with dementia were growing up. This can encourage people to talk about the past and their own memories.
Being outdoors and interacting with nature is a great way to gain sensory stimulation. Planting flowers or carrying out gardening tasks gives people a sense of ownership and something to care for. The sights, sounds and smells of outside are constantly changing and watching plants grow and different wildlife enter a garden can provide a meaningful connection to nature.
Flicking through a book or being read to, is a way of sparking imagination and conversation. Reminiscence Books are specially designed with pictures and large text, to cover a range of different interests that will appeal to people, including animals and sports. It is a relaxing and reassuring way to have fun.
Keeping up with physical activity is important, as dementia can cause people to withdraw from everyday life, so taking a short walk is a good way to connect with the community and exercise. Physical stimulation can maintain a person’s strength and improve their general health and wellbeing.
Jigsaws are a way of being visually stimulated by the picturesque scenes available and cognitively stimulated when trying to put the scenes together. Putting together a jigsaw can be done by more than one person and it is a way of getting people together and getting them involved in a social activity.
If you know someone living with dementia who loves a slice of cake or two then baking together can be a really fun way of making something tasty for you to share. Reading and following a recipe can be cognitively stimulating and it can foster a sense of achievement when your cake is baked and being enjoyed.
Painting or making something can be a therapeutic activity that is perfect for people who enjoy creative pursuits. It is a visually stimulating way to spend time and it involves having to focus on a certain task for a fixed period of time. Once a painting or task has been completed it can create a sense of accomplishment.
Looking through old photographs is a way of keeping connected to the past and familiarising people with family members and friends. Making a scrapbook creates an activity out of looking at photos, as you can arrange photographs and pick out meaningful pictures that prompt happy memories. Once you have made a scrapbook, it can be looked through for years to come.
Exercise does not have to take place in a gym or in a park, it can be done anywhere. Gentle physical activity is important in maintaining strength and general mobility, so seated exercises are the perfect way to get people moving from the comfort of their chair. If there is a group of people involved, it can be a social activity too.
It is important to think about activities that are suitable for specific needs and not all activities will be appropriate for everyone living with dementia. By finding something enjoyable and stimulating it can bring a sense of reward and pleasure.