Reading when living with dementia

Written by Active Minds on Friday the 17th of May 2019.


Reading is an enjoyable pastime for many, helping to reduce anxiety, improve cognitive ability and help to spark memories. For someone living with dementia, reading offers a whole host of benefits, just some of which we will explore here.

Stress Reduction

Reading can act as a distraction in times of uncertainty or stress and has shown to be an effective tool for reducing anxiety in those living with dementia. It is well known that getting lost in a good book can reduce stress in almost anyone, allowing you to escape any negativity or feelings of stress in your everyday life.

Concentrating on something specific can help distract your loved one from their worries or anxieties, but this may only be the case if it is something they enjoy. As with any activities that you partake in with your loved one; don’t force them to do anything they don’t want to do, or don’t like, as this may further the feelings of stress or anxiety.

Mental Stimulation

Actively engaging the brain helps to keep its capacity for longer; the more you use a muscle, the stronger it becomes and the same goes for the brain. By encouraging your loved one to read, it is likely that they will retain the ability for longer than if they didn’t. The same goes for most mental or physical activities. Involving activities which keep their brain active should be part of any healthy routine for those living with dementia. Remember to choose a book suitable for your loved ones reading level however, as moving along the dementia journey can mean certain activities can become more difficult to complete.


Many people find comfort in books, and it is the same for those living with dementia. Even as abilities decline, there are many ways to reap the benefits of reading. To combat declining abilities or reduced visibility; you can read to your loved one or reduce the difficulty of the book. Picture books can be good to look through, or just having well-loved books nearby to look through can provide comfort for those living with dementia.


Reading can help to encourage reminiscence, especially in those who are keen readers. Familiar books can spark memories of earlier times when the same book was read, or even familiar scenarios from the past. If the memory is a happy one it can even help to encourage conversations around the topic. Why not choose a book which will help to spark memories in your loved on of a fond time in the past.

Elderly lady reading book

Encourage Conversation

Reading can spark both imagination and conversation in those living with dementia and is particularly effective when reading is done in groups or pairs. It can act as an excellent social activity as conversations are sparked surrounding the book or the feelings it evokes. Encouraging group discussion about a book can greatly improve social skills, reduce loneliness and help your loved one make connections.


It is important to consider that as your loved one moves along their dementia journey their cognitive ability may decline, and as such so will the ability to read unaided. You may have to turn to alternatives such as easier to read books or perhaps reading with your loved one to assist them. Once you have a chosen a suitable reading activity for your loved one, why not see how this fantastic activity could benefit your loved one.