Activities for Dementia Patients

Connecting with others is at the core of being human - and it's something that doesn't change when a person has dementia. We're often asked what are good activities for dementia patients. It's important to know that there are many ways you can continue to form connections and strengthen bonds with your loved one during this time.


People with dementia often return to long-term memories of childhood. Their minds seem to only recall their younger years, and this is often where connections can be made. The next time you visit with your loved one, try one or more of the following activities to create a connection with them:

  1. Create a Memory Bag
  2. Fill the bag with items reminiscent of their late teens/early twenties. Scented products work well for this, as scents are strongly tied to memory. Try including soap, perfumes and aftershave, or holiday scents like gingerbread, pine and peppermint.
  3. Look Through Photo Albums
  4. Photo albums with pictures from their childhood or young adulthood are best for this. Old periodicals are another good option, particularly those that include many photos such as Life or Time magazines.
  5. Read Out Loud
  6. If your loved one has a favorite book, read it out loud to them and let them hold the book and feel the pages. Encourage them to enjoy the distinctive "old book smell." Reading aloud works especially well with poetry, as the cadence of the words are familiar and calming.
  7. Listen to a Playlist of Favorite Music
  8. Download songs or set up radio to stream that features music from their teenage years. Many internet radio stations include everything from classic rock to big band sounds, their favorite music should be easy to find.
  9. Sing Old Songs
  10. If they grew up going to church, sing old hymns with them. If it's around the holidays, sing holiday carols or other special songs. Class sing-a-longs and music classes were much more common in schools prior to the electronic age. You might be surprised at what songs your loved ones know and remember from elementary school.
  11. Watch Old Movies and TV Shows
  12. Did your parents grow up watching westerns like Gunsmoke or family dramas such as My Three Sons? Perhaps they were more interested in musicals like "The King and I" or "Singing in the Rain." You can find many favorite movies and shows from the 40s, 50s and 60s on Netflix or other streaming services.
  13. Go on a Nature Walk
  14. Use nature to integrate sensory experiences into conversation. Listen to birdsong, touch the wet grass, smell the roses and feel the sunshine on your shoulders. Ask what their favorite outdoor activities were during their youth and try to safely recreate similar scenarios if possible.
  15. Look Through Old Cookbooks
  16. In the past, women spent a great deal of their teenage years learning to cook and young adult years cooking for their families. Discuss origins and variations on old family recipes, or better yet, cook with those old family recipes and share the results with your loved ones.
  17. Enjoy Favorite Treats
  18. Look for candy or other indulgences that were commonplace when your loved one was young. Many companies specialize in nostalgic candy where you can buy old favorites like horehound candy and soft peppermint sticks. Even simple things, like an orange, can be a treat to someone who remembers when you only had them during holidays.
  19. Visit and Connect with Animals
  20. People who grew up on farms may enjoy an outing to a petting zoo or family farm where they can touch and talk to horses and other farm animals. Ask questions about animals, old pets, or what it was like to grow up on a farm. This is a great activity to involve grandchildren in, since many kids today are not familiar with farms.
  21. Reminisce Over Childhood Toys
  22. Nothing elicits childhood memories like familiar old toys. Erector sets, kewpie dolls, sock monkeys and marbles were some of the most popular toys during the 40s and 50s. There are many websites dedicated to antique toys. If you have any old toys available, bring them when you visit, ask questions about how they were played with, or, in the case of construction toys, build something together.
  23. Bring Back Old Skills
  24. Did your loved one quilt, crochet or knit? Put a homemade quilt or skein of yarn in their hands and let them feel the weight of the quilt and the scratchiness of the yarn. You may be surprised to find that your loved one can still crochet or knit a little bit, even though they have serious memory or cognitive deficits. Often, the muscles remember what the brain has forgotten.

Your loved one may be different than the person you have always known, but they still long for connection and companionship. You can encourage that connection by using these activities to enrich both of your lives.


Senior Living Choices

Decisions regarding senior living options can be overwhelming for seniors and their families. There are stages in everyone’s lives when living situations must be considered. The earlier you and your loved ones discuss these choices, and how needs change over time, the less stress you will have. The following article can help you plan and make informed decisions so that these choices will be less overwhelming.

Living choices depend upon the health and well-being of the individual. These choices are usually in one of three categories: Independent living, Assisted living, and Nursing Care. For healthy seniors enjoying retirement, they are living independently. Independent living does not mean that you cannot have the assistance of others. It just means you do not depend on it. Many seniors living in their own homes, or in a retirement community, choose to use home care. There are many reasons for this, from companionship to help with cooking, cleaning, and running errands. This assistance provides the extra time to enjoy retirement life. As you age, your health and well-being changes. Consider your choices.

As age related health conditions develop loved ones may be concerned for your health and safety. Often seniors will be in denial that they need help. If there is a diagnosis of a disability or condition that limits their ability to care for themselves, assisted living should be considered. Conditions such as heart problems, Alzheimer’s disease, and a host of other age related disorders warrant this level of help. For those who want to remain in their own home, assisted living can be provided through a homecare agency. Homecare can provide help with daily living activities, from household chores to personal care assistance such as bathing, dressing, medication management, and mobility assistance. Many Independent living communities have an assisted living offering. Assisted living facilities may be a good choice if the senior cannot remain at home, yet does not need skilled nursing care. There are many choices available for your health, safety, and peace of mind.

If needs become such that skilled nursing care is required, a nursing home may be the best option. Nursing homes provide intensive, long-term medical care to seniors with serious health conditions in a fully staffed and monitored environment. This may be the best option if family lives a distance away. Many seniors, even with high needs and disabilities can stay at home with a combination of homecare Aids, home healthcare nursing visits, and family support. Determining your best option is the goal.

Different stages of life will cause you to confront different needs and options. We recommend discussing your needs and desires with family, those close to you, your doctor, and a Geriatric Care Manager. Whatever your hopes and desires are for your senior years, there are many choices. Aging in place, in the comfort and safety of home is now a feasible option for most. Whatever your stage of life, it is good to know you have choices.

For here for a PDF of Senior Living Choices chart.