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7 Dementia-Friendly Activities All the Family Will Enjoy

Connecting with a family member with dementia is extremely important for their own sake, but can also be challenging, especially when memory loss is accompanied by speech difficulties and changes in mood or personality. If you have a family member or close friend suffering from dementia and you’re struggling to stay connected with them, know that you’re not alone. There are over 55 million dementia sufferers in the world, and the majority of those people have family and friends.
Remember that there are many ways you can spend quality time with a loved one with dementia, even if you can’t engage in activities you once enjoyed together today. In this post, we list a few excellent dementia-friendly family activities and provide tips that will help you decide what would work best for your family.

How to Choose the Best Activities

Family Friendly Dementia Activities two people holding hands

When it comes to choosing the best types of activities for your friend or family member, there’s no universal answer or prepared list. We’re all individuals with our own character, preferences, hobbies, and lifestyle, and the kinds of activities that bring joy and meaning to your family member should fit their personality. Here are a few tips to consider when choosing a family activity with someone suffering from dementia:

  • Take your family member’s unique skills into account. Did your spouse travel a lot or worked in a field that required specific skills before their diagnosis? Do they have hobbies, sports, or social interests they cherish? The answers to these questions can give you a clue as to what kinds of activities they would probably enjoy most.
     
  • Don’t be in a rush. Give the person time and space to complete the activity on hand at their own pace. If necessary, break down each activity into actionable and simple steps, and remind each step as they progress.
     
  • Be ready to change course. Your family member’s abilities may change from time to time. One day they may enjoy or be successful at a specific activity, but they can find it difficult or stressful to do so the next day. If that happens, switch gears and focus on a different activity.
     
  • Focus on activities that are realistic but not boring. A key to real connection and fun is balance. Both boredom and frustration can kill your family member’s interest in an activity. Ideally, they should find meaning and value in the activity while also being capable to complete the tasks it requires.
     
  • Tap into activities that activate motor memory. Actions and movements tend to stick around in the human brain for a really long time. Training and maintaining such actions, even if it’s small things like household chores, walking, or gardening, is often very beneficial for dementia sufferers, as it helps them feel capable, useful, and more connected to others.
     
  • Adapt to your family member’s daily schedule. If you can only meet with your loved one in the afternoon but you know that they’re most active during the morning hours, don’t drag them on a walk. Choose a different, more relaxing activity like puzzle-solving instead.

Now, let’s move on to the recommended family activities you can enjoy with a loved one with dementia. We list 7 of such activities in this article and explain why they’re beneficial, but you can find many other suggestions here on the Alzheimer’s Association Website.

1. Open the trusty family photo archive

Family Friendly Dementia Activities photo album
It doesn’t matter if it’s a physical photo album or a digital one, taking the time to sit down and look through cherished family memories captured on film can be a meaningful experience for the entire family. Old memories have the tendency to be retained for a longer time, so even a family member with advanced dementia can sometimes tap into these long-term memories through visual stimuli like photos or videos. Remembering the fun and memorable occasions together can help strengthen your family bonds.

2. Listen to music

Family Friendly Dementia Activities women listening to music
On a similar note, listening to music together or watching live performances of your loved one’s favorite musician can tap into old memories. Nostalgia is a powerful force. If there is a special song or artist you always listen to or dance to together, turn it on whenever your loved one needs to lift their mood. You can even compile a playlist of your loved one’s favorite songs and play them regularly.
In fact, there’s even research suggesting that music can help dementia sufferers evade depression and slow down cognitive decline. Dancing to upbeat nostalgic tunes is also extremely helpful, as many dementia sufferers tend to retain a sense of rhythm longer than many other abilities.

3. Plan a movie night

Family Friendly Dementia Activities popcorn
Do you have a family tradition of watching the same movie with your sibling at Christmastime? Or maybe, one of the first dates you went with your spouse included a trip to the cinema… Just like dancing, photos, and music, familiar films can rekindle seemingly lost memories. Rewatching cinema classics with the entire family is a terrific tradition and relaxing activity everyone will enjoy.

4. Do housework or cook together

Family Friendly Dementia Activities women doing housework
Housework may not sound particularly exciting to you, but your family member with dementia may find comfort and confidence in such regular activities. These regular activities will keep your family member moving and provide tactile experiences that feel familiar. Instead of feeling depressed, this can make your loved one feel useful.
The best suitable household tasks are simple, repetitive, and such that can be done together, for example:
-Folding laundry
- Sweeping
- Vacuuming
- Organizing the wardrobe
- Doing dishes 
- Wiping down countertops
- Cooking family recipes.

5. Take a walk

Family Friendly Dementia Activities seniors on a walk
The benefits of walks are plenty, and it’s a simple activity you can practice with your loved one year-round. When the weather is sunny, you can go on a nature walk or a walk through the park or the neighborhood, and when it’s overcast, you can walk through the local mall or enjoy a trip to the botanical garden.
Even if your loved one is in a wheelchair, getting some fresh air will be beneficial for them, and it can spark a conversation about the weather and the surroundings. Remember that spending time with your loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s outdoors is quite important, as they cannot go on walks and trips on their own.

6. Enjoy a fun board game or card game

Family Friendly Dementia Activities board game
Brain teasers and intellectual games are the perfect fit for dementia patients. According to professionals, incorporating mental stimulation together with social activities in daily life can help dementia and Alzheimer’s patients retain their cognitive abilities for a longer time.
Whenever choosing a game, it’s best to focus on familiar and simple ones like Scrabble, Chutes and Ladders, Dominoes, Bingo, or classic card games like Go Fish. New games may confuse your loved ones with dementia or make them frustrated or stressed. Similarly, don’t be hard on a family member if they make an odd mistake in the rules or forget someone’s name. It’s best to just let small errors like these slide.

7. Have family fun with puzzles

Family Friendly Dementia Activities solving puzzles
If you’ve got more than an hour or two of family time available, working on a puzzle is an activity you should definitely consider. These can be traditional picture puzzles, crosswords, or even 3D puzzle toys - there’s a huge variety of puzzles available these days both in stores and online. Like other games, puzzles are a great mental workout that will preserve your loved one’s cognition for a longer time. Plus they’re fun for both kids and adults, so the entire family will be able to enjoy an evening with puzzles.
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