If you are caring for a loved one with conditions that affect the memory and cognition, like Alzheimer’s or dementia, you know that they rely on you for activities to stimulate the mind, fill their days, and relieve stress. Planning and guiding your loved ones through activities can help slow the decline of motor skills and memory loss. Research published in the journal BMC Medicine showed that daily activities can be as beneficial to patients as treatment with routine dementia medications.
Hands-on activities like crafts help with hand-eye coordination. Outings and group activities encourage socialization, because Alzheimer’s and dementia patients often self-isolate. Activities like storytelling, listening to music, and looking at family photos can stimulate memory. Memories tend to follow the “first in, last out” rule, meaning that memories from early life and youth are the last to fade. Think of activities that remind your loved ones of things they used to do and enjoy. Here are 10 great activities to share with your loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
- Go Sightseeing
A bus ride is a good way to share the experience of travel with your loved one, even if you don’t leave your own town. If you’re doing all the driving, you can’t chat and enjoy the sights. Talking together about what you’re seeing out the window as you travel may help stimulate memories.
- Take a Trip to a Park
Everyone can benefit from time spent outside. Take a picnic and spend an hour or two outdoors. Take photos of your outing to remember it and talk about later.
- Go to a Museum
Museum displays can spur conversation and maybe a memory or two. Even if the art doesn’t bring back any memories, discussing art or artifacts is a good way to express feelings. Ask your loved one what they like and why, and share your feelings about the displays.
- Shop for Groceries
Even what we may consider mundane, like going to the grocery store or the mall, may be a break from routine for an Alzheimer’s or dementia patient. Talking about meal preparation or asking your loved one to help you find ingredients can be a restorative activity.
- Listen to Music
Music encourages socialization, brings joy, and soothes. You can bring music to your loved one’s life with CDs or records. If your loved one is affiliated with an elder care organization or lives in senior housing, invite music schools to give live, informal recitals to the seniors.
- Play Music
If your loved one is a musician, encourage them to play. Even if they can’t play like they used to, playing music and following a rhythm is good for the brain. Even non-musicians can learn from hands-on demonstrations of musical instruments or even casual lessons.
Everyone who is physically able to exercise can benefit from it. Exercise with your loved one to demonstrate the moves. Start with gentle exercises like deep breathing and stretching. Try arm circles or “swimming strokes,” head and neck rolls, and foot and ankle circles. Move on to marching in place or knee raises. Dancing is also great exercise.
- Play Games
Games stimulate the mind. Try playing familiar games like Scrabble, bingo, or rummy. Invite friends and family to play to encourage socialization.
- Make a Birdfeeder
Crafts maintain and improve hand-eye coordination and the ability to follow simple directions. They’re also an outlet for self-expression. Crafts are satisfying activities, and result in a tangible object your loved one can hold and be proud of creating. Make a birdfeeder or paint a birdhouse. This activity can even be an introduction to birdwatching and bird identification activities.
- Craft a Greeting Card Holder
Work with your loved one create a greeting card holder to display cards and letters. To stimulate memory, talk about who the cards are from. This is a great winter activity; talk about holiday cards and reminisce about favorite memories.