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It can be hard to understand what your loved one with dementia wants to do, or should do with their time. You may fear erratic behavior, anger and frustration, or confusion. But people with dementia can continue to live with purpose and joy. When you boil it down, whether or not someone is suffering from dementia (or a variation, like Alzheimer’s disease), we all need activities in our day that make us feel happy, satisfied, and improve our quality of life/wellbeing. With that universal truth in mind, here are some activities you can do with someone suffering from dementia. 

Types of activities

When looking for appropriate activities for someone suffering with dementia, it’s important to consider their prior interests. Instead of having them give up on hobbies that they enjoy, see if there’s a way to modify them. Ideally, someone with dementia should focus on activities that:

  • Help them strengthen or maintain any remaining skills.
  • Compensate for any activities they can no longer do.
  • Give them a self-esteem boost.
  • Allow them to feel independent when possible.
  • Stimulate their mind and other senses.
  • Offer joy or social benefits.
  • Are culturally or religiously appropriate.


Guidelines for Activities

Here are some basic guidelines and questions you can consider when putting together an activity list for your loved one with dementia or one of its forms, such as Alzheimer’s.

  • Consider incorporating tasks or elements of tasks that they previously enjoyed. Examples could be things from their former job, hobbies, lifestyle, travel, recreational or exercise habits, etc.
  • Encourage tasks that are genuinely useful but not difficult. For example, folding laundry, sweeping the patio, etc. These kinds of tasks can help the person feel useful without getting frustrated.
  • Offer tasks that enhance a sense of relaxation or pleasure. Habits they still remember such as knitting, or creative outlets without rules, such as painting, are great examples.
  • Move on quickly if the task seems difficult. Don’t push a task that contributes to a sense of frustration. Their energy and capabilities may fluctuate from day today, so if today is not a good day for a certain activity, quickly move on to the next.
  • Avoid overstimulation by limiting activities that require your loved one to be around a lot of people, for example shopping, going to the mall, etc. Anything that is crowded, noisy, or visually too stimulating can be overwhelming.

Examples of Activities to Try with Someone with Dementia

Now that you have the guidelines to craft an activity list that works for you and your loved one, here are some examples of activities you can include.

  • Take a walk.
  • Do some gardening.
  • Play an outdoor game, like horseshoes, croquet, or shuffleboard.
  • Head to a beach or a park near you.
  • Sit on the porch with a cup of coffee.
  • Have a picnic.
  • Listen to music from their childhood.
  • Look at something nostalgic like old photos or memorabilia.
  • Watch a sporting event together.
  • Ask them to talk about their childhood, or any memories they can recall.
  • Do a puzzle or simple board game.
  • Sweep the kitchen or patio.
  • Do some baking together.
  • Read together.
  • Play with sensory toys like Play-Doh, Lincoln logs, or tinker toys.
  • Brush their hair.
  • Ask them to tell you about something they’re passionate about.
  • Sing together.
  • Dance together.
  • Fold laundry.
  • Set the table.
  • Paint or finger paint together.
  • Watch live cams of cute zoo animals.
  • Watch a movie together.
  • Make lemonade or something else from scratch.
  • Decorate for holidays together.

Additional Tips

Anything that stimulates the body, mind, or spirit of your loved one with dementia is a great task to try. Additionally, many dementia patients benefit from a steady routine that allows them to function without as strong of a reliance on memory. 

As dementia progresses, activities will often need to be further simplified. Anything that focuses on the five senses:

  • Smell
  • Taste
  • Touch
  • Sight
  • Hearing

Such as playing music, playing with sensory objects, hand massages, beautiful garden strolls, enjoying sunsets, heading to Cinnabon to smell the aroma, etc. can help people in later stage dementia.

Closing Thoughts

If you’re providing care for a loved one in California, the California Caregiver Resource Centers are here for you. We are a network of eleven independent 501(c)3 not-for-profit organizations across California that were created to be a free resource for caregivers in the state of California. We would love to connect the family caregiver in your life with their local Center, where they can talk more about local programs for caregivers, answer questions, and explain how they can best support the caregiver in your life.

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