Activities to do With Dementia Patients
Maintaining a connection with a loved one that has dementia is difficult. It usually doesn’t work to talk about your week or discuss current events.
Those with dementia often return to their past, reliving their childhood memories and maybe their first years of adulthood.
So this is where you will find a connecting point. Take a journey into the past with them, using one or more of the following activities.
- Look through old photos. Especially find photos or albums from their childhood and early adulthood. If personal photos are limited, find old magazines with lots of photos from that era. Let them help you arrange the photos into books, or make wall collages with the pictures.
- Record their stories. Ask for their memories and stories, and have a voice recorder, video camera, or at least a pen and paper handy to capture the memories. Don’t worry if some of the details are fuzzy, just appreciate what they have to share. If you’re very creative, make a small picture book together telling a story from their childhood.
- Collect a memory box of common items from their childhood years. Popular toys, common scents (such as perfumes), antique kitchen gadgets, and similar items will elicit many good memories. Look for these these types of things online, in antique shops, and at flea markets.
- Help them remember old hobbies or crafts. Did they crochet or quilt? Draw or paint? Do woodworking or carving? Even if they are not able to do their craft anymore, let them enjoy looking at beautiful quilts or running their hand over intricate carvings. However, you may be surprised at what they are still able to do if you provide the materials!
- Do an outdoor activity. Take a nature walk to enjoy the sunshine and smell the flowers. Go for a picnic in the park. In the right season, find a place to go berry picking, or walk through a pumpkin patch. Find out how they enjoyed the outdoors in their youth, and see if you can recreate those experiences.
They may not even know who you are. How can you have a meaningful relationship?
- Enjoy food together. Look through old cookbooks and family recipe collections. Talk about making bread from scratch or butchering chickens. Make a traditional family recipe. Find a source for old-fashioned candy and share it as a treat. Bake Christmas cookies together.
- Find old-fashioned activities. Go to a drive-in restaurant, or a drive-in movie theatre. Listen to a band concert in the park. Watch a little league baseball game. Find out what kinds of timeless activities your loved one remembers that you can still enjoy today.
- Celebrate the holidays together. Sing Christmas carols and make fudge at Christmas time. Bake pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving. Dye Easter eggs together (the old-fashioned way!) and go to a 4th of July parade.
- Walk through a museum together. Find a museum that is displaying old toys or clothes, or has a World War II exhibit. Those things that are history for you are often very close memories for your loved one. Let them relive parts of their past, and listen for the stories that will come out.
- Listen to music from their childhood. You can find old music from the 40s, 50s and 60s on internet radio stations. Find out their favorite genre and put together a playlist. Then sing along together! You will be surprised how much they remember.
- Watch old movies and TV shows. What movies were popular when they were a teenager/young adult? What TV shows did they like to watch? You may have to look around a little, but many of these will be available on the internet, through services like Netflix.
- Read out loud. Find classic novels or even children’s stories from your loved one’s past. Read aloud to them. Enjoy poetry together, as well – the rhythm of the words is often soothing.