Activity Ideas for Alzheimer’s and Dementia Patients April 24 2013


We all want to feel needed. This is no different for Alzheimer’s or dementia patients. Keeping busy stimulates the brains of seniors with dementia while providing a sense of usefulness and accomplishment. Behavior problems commonly associated with dementia patients may be lessened if the person is given the opportunity to participate in an activity. In addition, research has shown that activities can slow down the progression of dementia.

In choosing activities for dementia patients, consider ones that reflect his or her lifelong interests. Try to find out what they liked or disliked; read their history, talk to their families and friends, or ask them. Tailor the activities to their current level of ability so the person doesn’t get frustrated or agitated. It is often best to keep the activities simple. The more steps it takes to complete a task, the more likely it is for a dementia patient to become confused or stressed.

There are a variety of activities in which a dementia patient can participate. Below are some suggestions:

  • Take a car ride to view the season’s flowers
  • Peel potatoes, snap beans, husk corn, or tear lettuce
  • Visit a church or synagogue
  • Share a book (consider books designed for people with dementia)
  • Visit a garden center or botanical garden
  • Bake cookies
  • Sign a “thank you” or “birthday” card
  • Rinse and dry dishes or load a dishwasher
  • Arrange fresh flowers
  • Set the dinner table
  • Organize books (alphabetically, by size, or by color)
  • Clip coupons
  • Sort coins or poker chips
  • Play a card game (consider large-print playing cards)
  • Look through scrapbooks or family photo albums
  • Assemble a jigsaw puzzle (consider puzzles designed for people with dementia)
  • Play catch with a soft ball or beanbag
  • Spend time with an animal (visit a pet store or arrange to have a dog visit)
  • Go out for an ice cream cone
  • Listen to an old radio show (check your local library)
  • Play dance music and dance
  • Match socks
  • Look through or construct a memory box (include items such as military relics, baby clothes, postcards, old photographs, costume jewelry, etc.)
  • Care for a doll (in late-stage dementia, people often find it comforting to "take care of" a baby doll)
  • Tend a garden (weed, hoe, water, etc.)
  • Rake leaves
  • Take a walk (with a care partner)
  • Feed the birds (or watch a bird feeder placed outside a window)
  • Experiment with different art mediums (watercolors, clay, pastels, water-based markers)
  • Sing along to songs from a favorite era
  • Create a collage (use leaves, magazine images, tissue paper, buttons, etc.)
  • Decorate cookies, cupcakes, or a cake
  • Sing favorite hymns
  • Arrange to have a child visit
  • Look at family photographs
  • Draw or color (there are a variety of adult-friendly themed coloring books available)
  • Make homemade lemonade
  • Identify states and capitals (or name the presidents)
  • Water house plants
  • Finish famous sayings or nursery rhymes
  • Look at photographs in National Geographic magazine

Too much idle time can make anyone feel lonely and unproductive. While a dementia patient may not have the ability to initiate an activity, if given the proper materials and step-by-step direction, they may not only be able to participate, but feel they are being productive and contributing.

Shadowbox Press products are developed to provide an easy and effective way to enhance the quality of engagement with seniors living with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia. Our collection of interactive books and conversation cards are designed to evoke memories, prompt conversations, and engage adults in an enjoyable, meaningful activity. For more information or to place your order, call us toll-free at (888) 796-6333.