Alzheimer's and Dementia Activities for Fun
Activities Designed For Your Loved Ones
Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia are on the rise. Engaging in stimulating activities is vital to a person who suffers from dementia. A variety of entertaining activities can help an individual become more involved and sociable. Exercising, solving puzzles, or going for a scenic drive can help a person reconnect with life. I used to work at Autumn Years, a memory care facility for the elderly. It is our goal to provide activities that are entertaining and stimulate the mind. Each day is a new opportunity to enjoy a peaceful atmosphere where we can socialize and learn. Many activities are simple everyday tasks that can be transformed into a creative and fun activity.
Expanding Impact of Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia
5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease.
One in eight older Americans has Alzheimer's disease.
Alzheimer's disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States and the only cause of death among the top 10 in the United States that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed.
More than 15 million Americans provide unpaid care valued at $210 billion for persons with Alzheimer's and other dementias.
Payments for care are estimated to be $200 billion in the United States in 2012.
Source: Alzheimer's Association. 2012 Alzheimer's disease facts and figures. Alzheimer's and Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association. March 2012; 8:131-168.
Create your own activities program!
To create an activities program choose activities that stimulate the senses (sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell). Keep activities short, and consider turning simple everyday events into a creative activity. Make your choices based on what is interesting to you as the caregiver as well as what appeals to the individual or group you are working with. Also, get to know social histories so that you can base activities on specific interests and abilities.
Photo by: Mandy Stradley
Demonstrate how to prepare/cook a meal or snack. You can make salad, pizza, cupcakes, cookies, quesadillas, smoothies, ice cream sundaes, or anything your taste buds desire!
My residents loved to make pizza! We would get raw dough from Trader Joe's along with pizza sauce, toppings and cheese. Everyone got the opportunity to make their own individual pizza. After lunch we cooked the pizza to eat for a snack. Yum!! Photo by: Mandy Stradley
Orange Peel Aroma Therapy
This sweet activity stimulates your sense of smell and your taste buds too! Set a table with plates and napkins. Pass out an orange to each person and instruct them to peel the orange. Walk around and help those who may need any assistance. Talk about the color, the taste, the smell, the sticky juice that drips down your hands. Reminisce about oranges. Perhaps someone has been to an orange grove or has an orange tree in their backyard. Enjoy the sweet smell of oranges that will permeate the room.
For individuals who cannot peel an orange themselves, you can still do this activity! Slice an orange and waft it in their direction so that they can smell the orange. Talk to them about oranges. Even if they cannot respond you are still stimulating their senses. Prepare orange juice or an orange smoothie for those on a blended diet.
Want more? This activity is all about stimulating your senses. Other good picks include cinnamon, coffee, apple cider, hot chocolate, peanut butter, onions, garlic, and fresh baked bread. Photo by: jr3, sxc.hu
Relaxation & Massage
You will need: Relaxing Music, Lotion, A Loving Caregiver
Create a peaceful atomosphere with soft music and massage. This activity is perfect for anyone because it increases circulation and releases tension! Hand massages are scheduled daily for the hospice care residents that I work with.
Listen to programs from the golden age of radio. These radio programs will bring back old memories and brighten anyone's day! I especially love listening to the silly commercials!
Enjoy watching old time favorites!
You will need: Small pot or a seedling tray, seeds, potting soil, water.
Add potting soil to a pot or tray. Bury 2-3 seeds of your choice to the depth indicated on your seed packet. Tiny seeds do not need to be buried very deep. Cover the seeds with potting soil. Add enough water to moisten. Place in a sunny spot and moisten as needed. Watch your plants come to life!
Photo by: Mandy Stradley
Chicken Soup Story Hour
Read Chicken Soup for the Soul or other short stories out loud together.
You will need: String, Beads, & Scissors
It is usually better if you can find thick string and beads with larger holes in them. Cut the string in strips for a long necklace. Tie a knot in one end of the string. Demonstrate how to add beads to the string and have everyone try it on their own. Assist those who need it. After everyone is finished beading the necklaces tie the two ends together. Let everyone enjoy wearing their necklace!
Caution: Supervise this activity closely. Some people may think the beads are food and try to eat them. This activity is great for higher functioning dementia patients.
Photo by: mzacha, sxc.hu
You will need: Beauty products such as curling iron, hairspray, brush, comb, blush and lipstick.
Freshen up each morning! Focus on hair and make-up to help your loved feel good about themselves.
Women's Basics: Apply make-up and brush hair. Even a little lipstick and blush can go a long way to make someone feel great about themselves. If hair is set on a weekly basis it may still need some touch-ups with a good curling iron.
Men's Basics: Comb hair and shave
Create a Collage
You will need: Magazines, Scissors, Construction Paper & Glue
Look through old magazines and cut out pictures. It may be necessary to help with cutting. Have everyone assemble the pictures on a piece of construction paper into a collage. Glue the pictures onto the construction paper. If you have them on hand you can do this with photographs as well.
Photo By: Mandy Stradley
Let's Get Musical!
Play a musical instrument! Maybe you have a dusty old guitar or a piano to try out. Or, improvise and play the drums with some old bins. Turn on some music and have everyone tap to the beat!
Talk about the good old days! Reminisce about cars, pets, sports, school, going to the fair... you name it. See what you can learn from each other!
At Autumn Years I pair this activity with trivia. I will ask trivia questions and then expand on the topic. For example, if I am asking a question about Hawaii, I might ask if anyone has ever been to Hawaii. This gives everyone an opportunity to tell me about their experience visiting Hawaii.
Photo by: Mandy Stradley
Magazines such as "Good Old Days" or "Reminisce" have neat stories and topics to discuss.
Sunday Coupon Clippers
Look through the coupons from the Sunday paper and clip any that are interesting! It is fun to see what deals there are and to discuss the products that are advertised in the coupons. Photo by: Kevin Stradley
Tossing a balloon back and forth is a great activity! I will usually put everyone in a semi-circle and stand in the middle. Sometimes I turn this activity into a name game. I will say my name and then toss the balloon to someone. Then I will remind them to say their name before tossing it back to me. Even those in the later stages of dementia can benefit from this activity. I know a lady that can no longer communicate or feed herself, but she absolutely loves tossing a balloon back and forth! It almost always brings a smile to her face! You can also do this activity with a bouncy ball.
Go through a photo album and talk about the people in the pictures. Sometimes people with dementia can no longer recognize their loved ones in person, but if you show them an old picture they might recognize them. My friend filled a binder with large baby pictures that she enlarged on a copy machine. She put the pictures in plastic sheet protectors for everyone to enjoy. Photo by: Kevin Stradley
Stay in touch with the outside world by visiting places around town. Visit the library, a museum, a lake, the beach, the zoo, a local park or stop by a friend's house. Every week I take a group to the local park that is only 1 mile away. We walk around the lake and watch the ducks. The whole trip takes about 30 minutes and everyone enjoys getting some fresh air! For those with limited mobility you can always go for a scenic drive around your community. Photo by: Kevin Stradley
Read various trivia questions and discuss the answers. Pick topics that your group finds interesting.
You will need: Fresh flowers, a vase (preferably plastic), water
Start off by discussing the color of the flowers. Let everyone smell and touch the flower petals. Have someone assist you by trimming the flowers so that they are a good size for the vase. Next, people can take turns adding flowers to the vase. Demonstrate how to add water to the vase. Everyone can either pour water in or hold the vase as you pour the water in. The sight and smell of beautiful flowers will be pleasing to everyone! Photo by: Kevin Stradley
Make a Picture Frame
You will need: Plastic frame, craft glue, buttons or other small objects for decoration.
Have your group put buttons or other small objects on individual frames any way that they would like. Help them use craft glue to glue on the decorations. After the glue has dried help everyone choose a picture to put in the frame. For a variation purchase wooden frames and have your group paint them.
Under the Sea Picture Frames
Foam frames coupled with foam stickers are a creative and easy way to make picture frames. Folks will love looking at all of the sea creatures. The turtles are especially cute!
Create opportunities for visiting with pets. Pictured is Darling who currently lives at Autumn Years. She loves to talk and sing, and our residents like to spend time with her.
We also have dogs come in on a regular basis to cuddle, do tricks, and play with our residents. Pets are especially therapeutic to those who used to have pets of their own. It is comforting to spend time with a pet and to feel the love that they can offer.
Shapes with Clay or Play-Doh
You will need: Modeling Clay or Play-Doh
Use clay or Play-Doh to form shapes and be creative. You can demonstrate how to make simple objects such as balls, flowers, snakes, bowls, or snowmen. This activity stimulates our sense of touch.
Help with the Laundry
Have everyone practice using motor skills by storing and folding clean laundry. A person with dementia may be able to match socks or fold shirts. It is beneficial to reconnect with skills and encourage work. Try doing this activity on the same day every week so that it becomes part of a routine. Photo by: Mandy Stradley
Play the piano or pop in a cd of old time favorites. People with dementia oftentimes remember the lyrics to songs that they used to know years ago. They will enjoy hearing familiar tunes and singing along to them! You can print out the lyrics to songs for them to use as well. Try to print one song per page in large font. Even those who can no longer sing will benefit from listening to music.
Activities purpose is not to kill time, but to make time live, not to keep a person occupied, but to keep them refreshed, not to offer an escape from life, but to provide a discovery of life. (adapted from a recreation quote, author unknown)
Music & Dance
Play lively music that encourages people to dance. Everyone will enjoy listening to upbeat music! Some people might be able to get up and join you in a dance. Other people can sway in their chair or tap their feet to the beat. The possibilities are endless!
Going for a walk is a great form of exercise. Head to places where you can observe trees, scenic views, or animals. You do not need to go far to get the benefits of enjoying nature. I take a group to the local park every Friday morning to enjoy walking around the lake. It has become a routine that we all enjoy. Photo by: Mandy Stradley
Bingo is a great game where people can socialize and have fun. Some folks may need assistance putting their chips in the correct spot. Others might have a bingo and you just need to tell them they have it. Encourage verbal skills by telling them to say "BINGO" and have them read out loud the winning numbers. Hand out prizes when someone wins and have everyone clap for the winner. I pass out fake money to the winner (like monopoly money but a lot bigger). Most of them love winning the "cash" and are excited that they won $100! I also let them use their money to purchase prizes or a bowl of ice cream.
You can search online and print out easy word searches for everyone to try out. You will most likely need to help people find the words. Have them highlight the words as you encourage them to keep searching. I get all of my word searches from my subscription to activityconnection.com.
Celebrate everything that you can think of including birthdays and holidays! Pick a theme and put up a few decorations. Turn on some fun music and enjoy a snack or drink!
Holiday Ideas: King & Queen Valentine's Day Party, St. Patty's Party, Mardi Gras Party (make masks!), Easter Egg Hunt, Cinco De Mayo Party, Mother's Day Tea Party, Memorial Day BBQ, Father's Day Western BBQ,Fourth of July BBQ, Halloween Party, Thanksgiving Party, Tree Trimming Party, Christmas Party
Anytime Party Ideas: Root Beer Floats, Coffee Social, Hot Chocolate & Cookies, Apple Cider Social, Margaritas & Chips
Photo by: Mandy Stradley
Are you a caregiver?
Autumn Years at Newport Mesa
Twenty-five years ago two nurses purchased a six-bed board and care home in the city of Anaheim. They had a love for Alzheimer patients and immediately converted it for the sole use of residents with Alzheimer's. They slowly learned the intricacies of dealing with these special residents. They then kept buying house after house until they owned six adjoining homes, with 50+ beds! Autumn Years thus became one of the first Alzheimer's communities in the United States. Currently Autumn Years is located in beautiful Costa Mesa, California. I absolutely love working with all of our wonderful residents. For more information visit www.autumnyearsnewport.com
Photo by: Mandy Stradley