Written by Active Minds on Monday the 15th of June 2020.
For someone living with dementia in a care home, there are a variety of different activities which can help to boost wellbeing and mood. From group exercises to individual sensory exploring activities, there is plenty of suitable activities to do. Sometimes it may feel isolating to be away from friends and family, however by encouraging the person with dementia to engage in group activities within the care home, this will help to encourage socialisation and conversation along with forming new relationships, which can reduce feelings of low mood and anxiety.
For this reason, it is important to include a variety of different activities within a care home environment; from social activities, where possible and cognitive engaging activities to therapeutic and relaxing activities to reduce stress. Here we will discuss just some activities which are suitable for someone living with dementia within a care home.
Engaging Group Activities
As people get older, reading books may become harder, as visual and cognitive challenges progress. However, an interest in reading stories may remain. Start a book club, but rather than asking each person to go away and read the book to themselves, gather the group together and either read the book to them or play an audio version of the story. Then pose questions to the group to encourage them to start discussing the book. Choosing a book that focuses on an era from their past might also help trigger memories and elicit reminiscence conversations too.
Collect a variety of items that may help trigger memories. This can range from old advertising posters to baking utensils used in childhood. Each person will select an item and can then discuss a memory that it may have evoked. This may lead to further discussions by other members of the group who also have a memory to share.
Would You Rather
A light-hearted group game that can be enjoyed with a cup of tea and a biscuit. Pose ‘would you rather’ style questions to the group and allow them to discuss the answers between them. E.g. Would you rather live on a beach or in a jungle? Would you rather work in an office or work on a farm? The answers can be fun and engaging and help to encourage conversations.
My Favourite Thing to Do…
This activity can be enjoyed again and again, you just need to think of a different ‘favourite thing to do’ question. On a large piece of paper or a white board, write a question such as ‘My favourite thing to do on holiday is…’ or My favourite thing to eat for breakfast is…’ then ask the group to give their answers, writing them down as they are called out. You can discuss each one and ask other members of the group if they have any memories around the different topics.
Still Life Painting
In a quiet room, set up a still life display. This can be anything, a bowl of fruit, a vase of flowers, or perhaps an image that may trigger a memory, such as a bucket and spade reminiscent of childhood holidays spent on the beach. The group is not limited by these displays though, if they want to, they can simply paint whatever comes to mind that day. For those living with later stage dementia, art activities, such as Aquapaint, can allow them to still enjoy the calm and relaxing benefits of art.
Bingo can be enjoyed in a large group and can be particularly fun. Gathering a group together in the care home to play bingo once or twice a week will allow the residents to interact. There are specialised, dementia-friendly bingo games, such as Animal Bingo, which are suitable for those who may find traditional bingo challenging; these games encourage cognitive function and social participation.
In a group, ask each resident to bring a picture of a loved one or a memorable event in their life. In turn, each person shows the picture to the group and discusses their loved one/special event. If a person doesn’t have photographs on hand, provide a range of postcards or magazine cut outs of memorable places from a reminiscent era. This will allow each person to feel involved and engaged in the activity.
Music can be incredibly powerful for someone living with dementia. Group sing-a-longs are not only hugely fun to partake in, but they encourage people to socialise. Create a playlist of songs that will resonate with your group, songs from their childhood/teens would work best. You may also want to provide lyric sheets to help everyone sing along if they don’t know the words. For a little bit of light exercise, encourage people to get off their chairs and sway and dance along to the music too.
Meditation can be enjoyed by anybody, at any time, and will help people with dementia feel relaxed and reduce agitation. Not much is required except a comfortable, quiet area for people to sit. You can find a huge amount of guided meditations online, via Youtube or podcasts, which you can play to the group. You may also want to try your own meditation, concentrating on relaxing the mind and body.
Getting the group excited about a bit of friendly competition, whilst encouraging gentle exercise in the fresh air will help people living with dementia stay healthy and fit. Boules or Skittles are great games as they don’t require a huge amount of mobility and players can get involved whilst sitting down.
Suitable for smaller groups, 2 to 4 people is the perfect amount, jigsaw puzzles are a great activity to complete together, helping each other find the pieces, and discussing the images as they take shape. The group will feel a sense of achievement once the puzzle has been completed, helping them to feel independent.
Group activities are a great way for residents to have some fun together and engage in conversations. Dementia can be isolating, as can living in a care home, however with the right activities you can improve mood and wellbeing of residents and allow them time to socialise and have fun.