Play with Kinetic Sand

kinetic sand

Also known as motion sand or moon sand, kinetic sand is a mixture of 98% sand and 2% silly putty-ish compound. I know this may sound like a weird activity idea, but let me tell you, I was playing with this stuff at a demo station at Michael’s the other day and it was SUPER fun. I think this could be a great idea for anyone in the moderate to severe stages of dementia to stimulate fine motor skills and long-term memory (Why long-term memory? Because you can reminisce about the beach, of course!). Even better, it only sticks to itself so it’s super easy to clean.

Watch the video below for some examples of what it can do.

You buy can kinetic sand or one of it’s similarly named cousins at Michael’s, Brookstone, or online.

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Use an Indoor Putting Set

putting green for real
To purchase, click here.

Spring is coming, so it’s time for all the golfers out there to brush off their putting skills in preparation for the first game of the season. Of course, practicing your putting is fun even if you don’t intend to go out and place 9 or 18 holes. There are a lot of options for in-home putting greens. Some, like the one above, have regulation sized holes, while others have a bit larger of a target, like the option below.

To purchase, click here.

Both of these include automatic ball returns, which is nice if bending over is painful or your balance isn’t so great. Watch this video to see how it works. Of course, if you want a bit more exercise you can get the non-technologic option and walk to retrieve your ball from the hole after each shot.

Those with more moderate dementia might be less frustrated with a larger target, while those with milder memory issues (or maybe just better golfing skills!) may prefer the challenge of the regulation sized hole with hazards.

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Pick Grapes Off the Bunch


Picking grapes off the bunch is a great way for the person with memory loss to help out in the kitchen. It allows the former cook of the family to still be involved, yet out from underfoot if you need to concentrate on what’s your doing. It allows the hungry person to enjoy a snack without tons of empty calories (and the reluctant drinker to get some fluids). It’s overlearnt and repetitive nature means that people very late in the disease can still perform it (though if you’re the cautious type you’ll likely want to make sure they didn’t miss any small stems, though I doubt they’d kill anyone if they accidentally ingested them). Be sure to wash them before they start picking, so any that are eaten while the job is being done are clean. Otherwise, just putting a bowl and a bunch of grapes in front of all but the most severely impaired person should be enough to get them started on the job!

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Make Tissue Paper Flowers


I don’t know about you, but after the winter we’ve had I could really use some color in life, and spring just isn’t springing fast enough! These paper flowers are a fun, simple and cheap way to bring some color into your house. You can make a whole bouquet and put them in a vase, you can make one and put it on a gift instead of a bow, or you can even hang them from the ceiling!

This time, rather than try and write out all the steps, I found a great tutorial on youtube, so I’m going to send you there to check it out. Just click here to open the tutorial in a new window. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Simple, huh? For those of you who may be concerned about converting centimeters to inches, don’t worry about it. Make your folds as big or small as you like, the smaller the fold, the denser the flower will look, the bigger the fold, the more “open” it will be. However, if you must know, 1-1.5 cm is about 1/2 an inch, so there you go.

As usual, the more cognitively impaired the person is, the more help they’ll need. Someone in the moderate stages, for example, may be able to do the folding only after you demonstrate a few fold first, or may need help remembering all the steps. The good news, however, is that tissue paper is so cheap, it doesn’t matter if they make any mistakes, you can always try again!

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Volunteering is a great way for a person with mild memory loss to get out in the community and feel like they’re contributing, an important thing for someone who may be feeling a blow to their self-esteem and self-confidence due to changes brought on by dementia. The secret is to finding a volunteer job that’s not too easy but not too hard. You can begin the search on but don’t let that limit you. Lots of places are always desperate for volunteers, including local animal rescue leagues, hospitals, nursing homes, parks and rec departments, places of worship, local non-profit agencies, etc., so be sure to consider them, too. The volunteer job can be as simple as stuffing envelopes or as complex as becoming a foster grandparent (learn more about becoming a foster parent by clicking here), depending on the comfort and cognition of the individual. Those with more trouble with memory or who are a bit shy might prefer to have a friend or relative volunteer with them so they have a familiar face to go to if they need help, so consider making giving back an event the whole family can participate in!

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Flip Through a Bridal Magazine

bride magazine

A woman’s wedding day is generally one of those well-encoded memories that resists at least some of the ravages of time and memory loss. Therefore, it makes a perfect topic for reminiscing. Get the conversation started by flipping though a bridal magazine. Even if the person was never married, or doesn’t remember their wedding in great detail, if at all, I bet she’ll have lots to say about the dresses, flowers, and advice in the magazine. Questions to get the conversation flowing could be:

Would you wear this dress? Why or why not? What did your wedding dress look like? How much did it cost (then tell her how much the dress in the picture is!)
What do you think about brides who are getting re-married wearing white?
Which of these bouquets do you like beset? Which bouquet looks the most like the one you carried?
Which of these honeymoon locations sounds the best to you? Why?
What advice would you give a newlywed?
Where was your reception?

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Attend a Children’s Recital


Going to a child’s dance recital, music recital, play, etc. is a great activity idea for those with memory loss of any stage. Those in the early stage will love seeing their grandchild, neighbor, whomever on stage. Those in the moderate to severe stages might not recognize the little (or not so little) ones on stage, but will likely enjoy the event nonetheless. Even better for those who may be nervous that the person with dementia might unintentionally disrupt the program by making noise or getting up is the fact that these events are designed for the restless brothers and sisters in the audience! There are frequent breaks between performers, making easy for you to make a quick get away if the person gets bored. Lots of young kids means that the person with memory loss is highly unlikely to be the only potentially loud attendee (when was teh last time you went to one of these events and a baby didn’t start crying?).

So, give it a try! Who wouldn’t want to watch those cute ballerinas in the picture? Attending these events is also a fun way to ask about activities the person with memory loss used to participate in, or what types of recitals they watched their kids in. Don’t forget to ask about the embarrassing things their kids used to do in the audience, or even on stage!

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