08/23/2016 03:49 EDT | Updated 08/23/2016 03:59 EDT

Activities That Add Meaning To Each Day For People With Dementia

Along with the diagnosis of dementia there often comes an expectation that abilities are diminished. The focus shifts to what this person can no longer do rather than focusing on the remaining abilities and what the person is still able to do.

Keith Brofsky via Getty Images

Many people who are living with dementia are bored. Read on to find out how you can help to change this to a world where they can truly say, "I'm engaged!"

Along with the diagnosis of dementia there often comes an expectation that abilities are diminished. The focus shifts to what this person can no longer do rather than focusing on the remaining abilities and what the person is still able to do.

The unfortunate and unnecessary expense of this common misconception is not only endless days of boredom and loneliness, but also the excess disability that comes from disuse. People with dementia do not need to sacrifice quality of life or the enjoyment that comes from doing the things that once gave them pleasure. Activities merely need to be adapted to the individual's current level of ability. Don't ever hesitate to explore new ideas that may add hours of enjoyment to their endless days.

While we can't reverse the dementia, we can keep the body, mind and soul enriched and engaged throughout the course of the journey. The goal is to expose abilities. Find opportunities to: engage in the creative arts (including music, painting, sculpting and colouring); stimulate the senses (e.g. give a hand and foot massage and create activities that involve bright colours); and address the needs of the whole person (including the exercise, good nutrition and the need to be connected to others).

Activities such as the ones presented below are an excellent way to fill up the day, engage the brain, mobilize the body, enhance self-esteem and, most importantly, add pleasure to each day. These activities can be done independently or in a group, thus providing opportunities for conversation and social connection.

Some points to consider before you begin:

The DementiAbility philosophy always begins with asking who the person was in the past and who they are now.


  1. What were this person's interests in the past?
  2. What are they interested in and able to do now?
  3. How can you adapt what they enjoy doing so they can do the activity successfully now?
  4. Are there things they didn't enjoy in the past that they would enjoy now (the creative arts are a great example of this)?

Connect interests with current needs and abilities. For example, giving a card game to someone who didn't like games in the past will likely be an ineffectual way to engage someone with dementia, but don't assume. While some people didn't enjoy certain leisure pursuits in the past, it doesn't mean they won't enjoy them in the present.

Once you identify what the person would like to do, adapt the activity to the person's abilities. Ask the person with dementia, "Would you like to play this (e.g. game)?" Offering choice is an important part of supporting someone with dementia. When you ask, "Could you read a book?" you are asking if they are able. They may believe they can't. Change the words to: "Would you..."

Be realistic and celebrate every "success." In the late stages of dementia, a smile or a sentence may be a tremendous success!

We have lots of ideas, but will only share a few in this blog. Check out our website for more ideas (at If you enjoy using the computer, consider searching for additional ideas on Pinterest. For additional ideas check my pins out at

Examples of activities for dementia:

Flower Arranging:

  • Flowers in oasis: Purchase silk flowers (at the dollar store) and put into the oasis in a vase or flower pot and put on the table at every meal.
  • Plant seeds in a pot of soil and nurture. When ready for use, cut and put in vase.

Flashlight Fix-It!

  • Using one or more flashlights (use different sizes for those who are able), find enough batteries for each flashlight.
  • Ask the person if he/she would like to help get the flashlight(s) working. Always demonstrate to ensure the person understands what to do.
  • Note: This activity can be also be done with other objects such as remote controls or any other item that requires batteries or parts that can be taken apart and put back together.


  • Use mesh laundry basket and numerous soft balls.
  • Those who are more able can shoot the balls into the basket. To make this easy for later stages of dementia, someone can hold the laundry basket and when the person throws the ball the person holding the basket moves it towards the ball to ensure the ball goes in.

Cards: Highest card wins

  • You will need a deck of cards.
  • Each player turns over one card at a time and the highest card wins.

Card Sort:

  • Use two sets of cards, each with a different colour back.
  • Ask the person to sort by colour and put back into the appropriate box.

See our website for details related to the following activities:

  • Bake a cake in a cup
  • Ipad game "Best Guess" (designed for older adults with dementia -- but great for all)
  • Reading (we have special books for people with dementia -- see our website for titles)
  • Math, spelling, word search and trivia (available on our website)
  • Conversation cards
  • Memory book (We call it "Let's Talk... About Me." This is a template for creating a memory book.)
  • Yoga

Engaging in daily activities brings meaning and pleasure to each day. Activities address needs related to boredom, loneliness and disuse. While at first it may take a little extra effort to purchase and/or organize activities, your efforts will be well worth it when you note the smiles and joy experienced by those who fill their days with a variety of leisure pursuits that are "available" and connected to interests and abilities.

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