It is often asked what can a spouse or loved one possibly do to provide companionship and keep a person with a dementia active. Statements like: “He doesn’t want to do anything except watch TV” or “I can’t get him to do anything” are common.
There are literally hundreds of things to do with a person with dementia. From years of applying different activities we have found that many times, creating an activity that a person can or wants to do particularly during the afternoons can make the person sleep better at night.
When exploring different activities, it is important not to push one activity too much. Frequently, a set response to do something is “No” but gentle coaxing or simply doing some activity in front of the person may be an invitation to join in.
As in most activities, if the person with dementia doesn’t want to do a particular activity, try something different or simply wait a little while.
Once a particular activity is accepted, it can be turned into a daily routine. An example may be to walk around the block, yard or the house. Then the person may be responsive to “Its time for our afternoon walk”
It should be noted that not all activities are safe, desirable or interesting. For instance, taking a drive may be fearful because the person may have difficulty processing rapid visual stimulation. It would be like looking out of the car’s side window only, of a car traveling at 60 miles an hour and seeing at objects only a few yards away – probably a blur. Below are some ideas that may invite activity, interest and participation.
Sort poker chips, rake leaves, bake cookies, listen to Polka music, plant seeds, look at family photos, toss a large ball, weed a flower bed, read from a book or magazine, fold cloths, wash silverware, bake homemade bread, sing old songs, take a walk, reminisce, string Cheerios for a bird feeder, make a fruit salad, sweep the patio, roll yarn into a ball, put coins into a jar, finish Bible quotes, trace and cut out leaves, wipe off patio furniture, finish Nursery rhymes, remember famous people, vacuum or carpet sweep, look at large pictures, arrange fresh flowers, sand wood, play checkers, name past presidents, pop popcorn, sing songs or hymns, dance, write a letter, play horseshoes, rub hand lotion, color in a color book, fold towels or cloths, visit with a friendly pet, take a drive, visit with a child, do chair exercises, mold play dough, paint pictures, fill bird feeders, cut out pictures, write a letter to someone, go to a shopping center, go to a golf course or prepare food and set the table.
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