Posts Tagged activities

9 Reasons Why Meaningful Activities Are Important in Dementia

Individuals with dementia benefit from engaging in activities for many reasons. Meaningful activities address the social and psychological needs of the individual by tapping into their sense of personhood and allowing them to feel included and needed. Activities also help to keep behavioral concerns at bay, improve quality of life, and may even make caregiving tasks go easier. It is important that the activity be a good fit for the person based on their progression of the disease, remaining strengths, and personal interests.

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Courtesy of, here are 9 additional reasons why meaningful activities are so important!

  1. Mental Stimulation: Activities that challenge and engage your brain are beneficial in maintaining cognitive functions and may even slow down the progression of the disease.
  1. Physical Activity: Activities that involve physical activity improve and maintain overall function of the body’s mobility, can increase strength, and have positive effects on the brain.
  1. Social Interaction: When individuals engage in socialization they are more likely to have better overall mental and social health.
  1. Improvement in Sleep Habits: Engagement in activities throughout the day keeps your loved one engaged and less likely to fall asleep during the day.  Reduced napping during the day will lead to better sleep habits at night time.
  1. Improvement in Self-Esteem: Individuals with memory loss may struggle to cope with their declining abilities. When they are engaged in activities in which they can be successful, it is a boost to their self-esteem.
  1. A Change in Behavior Challenges: When individuals with dementia are engaged in activities of interest, behavioral challenges tend to diminish.
  1. Decrease Depression and Anxiety: Engaging individuals with dementia in meaningful, engaging activities has been shown to decrease the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  1. Caregivers Benefit: Meaningful activities bring happiness and joy to your loved one with dementia, which by itself is a benefit to caregivers.  Caregivers have the opportunity to have more positive interactions with their loved ones.
  1. Overall Health: Overall, meaningful activities can keep your love one with dementia engaged and their minds stimulated.

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Keepsake Cookbook

Do you and your loved one love cooking? Maybe baking is what makes you feel at home. In either case, there is something to be said about the feeling you get when taking your first bite of a home cooked/baked treat.

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Creating a cookbook with your care partner can be a fun way to reminisce and leave a legacy for generations to come. It can be as simple as compiling old recipe cards or as intricate as creating a recipe book online complete with pictures. Keep in mind that this project doesn’t have to be finished overnight. It can simmer for days, weeks, or months to come!

Step 1: Choose your recipes

What are your family’s trademark recipes? Is there anything that has become a traditional birthday dinner, holiday dish, or rainy day snack?

Step 2: Choose your Methods

You might want to talk with your loved one and decide on a type of cookbook that will best combine your creative style with your skill set. You could write out individual recipes on index cards to insert in a scrapbook, create a larger more intricate scrapbook, or use online websites (e.g. to make one digitally. Feel free to exercise creative freedom, engage others in the process, and make changes based on skills and abilities.

Step 3: Write your book

Try making the dishes as you go! Talk about the smells, colors, and textures of different foods. Use this time to reminisce and identify fun memories associated with your recipes. Feel free to include these stories in your book! Additionally, if your loved one needs more assistance in the kitchen, be sure to break down each task into clear simple steps.

Step 4: Share your book with others

A cookbook made with you and your loved one is a beautiful representation of your family’s traditions, history, and relationships. You can use this book and its recipes to share your story with other family members and friends.

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Moments of Joy

Alzheimer’s and other dementias are devastating diseases. Overtime, the person with the illness gradually loses their ability to perform many complex, and even once familiar, tasks. However, when a person receives their diagnosis, there is still much life to be lived and to enjoy – the person can still offer profound contributions in love, family, and life. So much of who we are is not our ability to remember facts, but it is how we love and feel from day-to-day, moment-to-moment. These moments of joy are still accessible to the person, even very late into the disease. The person with dementia may be living with their disease for years, or even decades. Therefore, it is beneficial for us as caregivers to develop effective strategies for engaging the person and evoking moments of joy and accomplishment. We must be prepared to offer more guidance, support and supervision to the person as their disease progresses, and it is essential that we practice our ability to be sensitive, patient, and positive in our work with the person.


Offer support and supervision
You may need to show the person how to perform the activity and provide simple, step-by-step directions.

Concentrate on the process, not the result
Does it matter if the towels are folded properly? Not really. What matters is that you were able to spend time together, and the person feels as if he or she has done something useful.

Be flexible
When the person insists that he or she doesn’t want to do something, it may be because he or she can’t do it or fears doing it. Don’t force it. If the person insists on doing something a different way, let it happen and change it later if necessary.

Be realistic and relaxed
Don’t be concerned about filling every minute of the day with an activity. The person with Alzheimer’s needs a balance of activity and rest, and may need more frequent breaks and varied tasks.

Help get the activity started
Most people with dementia still have the energy and desire to do things but may lack the ability to organize, plan, initiate and successfully complete the task.

Break activities into simple, easy-to-follow steps
Focus on one task at a time. Too many directions at once often overwhelm a person with dementia.

Assist with difficult parts of the task
If you’re cooking and the person can’t measure the ingredients, finish the measuring and say, “Would you please stir this for me?”

Let the individual know he or she is needed
Ask, “Could you please help me?” Be careful, however, not to place too many demands upon the person.

Make the connection
If you ask the person to make a card, he or she may not respond. But if you say that you’re sending a special get-well card to a friend and invite him or her to join you, the person may enjoy working on the task.

Don’t criticize or correct the person
If the person enjoys a harmless activity, even if it seems insignificant or meaningless to you, encourage the person to continue.

Encourage self expression
Include activities that allow the person a chance for expression. These types of activities could include painting, drawing, music or conversation.

Involve the person through conversation
While you’re polishing shoes, washing the car or cooking dinner, talk to the person about what you’re doing. Even if the person cannot respond, he or she is likely to benefit from your communication.

Substitute an activity for a behavior
If a person with dementia rubs his or her hand on a table, put a cloth in his or her hand and encourage the person to wipe the table. Or, if the person is moving his or her feet on the floor, play some music so he or she can tap them to the beat.

Try again later
If something isn’t working, it may just be the wrong time of day or the activity may be too complicated. Try again later or adapt the activity.

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Who are you Kidding?: Children/Teens and Dementia

When one person receives a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) or a related dementia, the news reverberates throughout the entire family. All family members are affected in its wake, and each person will process the news differently. Children and teens, for instance, might experience acute grief and emotional losses that are different than an adult’s experience. Furthermore, it is estimated that as many as 250,000 children aged 8 to 18 are family caregivers for those with AD in the US (Rosenthal & Greer, 2011) . With millions of families being affected by the disease — and so many children on the front line of caregiving — it is crucial that we understand and overcome the unique challenges faced by this young group.


Keep Open Lines of Communication

Although children/teens may not be privy to everything that is happening in the household, that doesn’t mean they are spared any stress or anxiety. The young person might be aware of the tense atmosphere in the family, but not understand why. This could cause them to blame themselves, feel guilty, or retreat from family involvement. Therefore, it could be more damaging to ‘sweep the issue under the rug’ rather than to address it head-on. Even if the truth is unpleasant, it is better to be open and honest about changes as they occur.

When a family member is diagnosed, it could be helpful to schedule a family meeting or one-on-one conversation with the youngsters. This will help to facilitate on-going discussion about the disease, and it will allow family members to freely surface concerns or questions.

Answer Questions Honestly

Respond simply to questions in an age-appropriate, honest way. Children are astute observers and are often aware if someone is being inauthentic. Remember to address and validate the young person’s emotions. Listen attentively to the child/adolescent and offer reassurance.

Teach Your Child about the Disease

Education about the disease can often aid in dispelling fears and anxiety. Use concrete examples or even humor to help educate your child or adolescent. For example, you could say ‘Even if Grandpa sometimes forgets your name, he really enjoys spending time with you’ or ‘If grandma says something mean or upsetting, remember is the Alzheimer’s disease making her act this way”. Picture books have also been shown to be effective in teaching children about dementia and older adults (Holland, 2005). Encourage your child to ask questions. Be patient and use words that are easy to understand. Reassure your child that just because a person in the family has Alzheimer’s, it does not necessarily mean that he or she or other family members will get the disease too.

Create Opportunities for your Child to Express Feelings

Agitation, withdrawal, poor performance at school, lost of interest in activities, etc. are all possible indications that the young person is suffering emotionally. It is important to create an environment that is conducive to open expression of feelings. Teens may need some additional prodding in order to open up. Younger individuals may express themselves better through painting, poetry, or a journal.

Encourage your Child/Teen to get Involved in Caregiving

Allowing the young person to be involved in caregiving, can help him/her to feel included and in control of the situation. Teach your child about appropriate communication techniques, such as speaking slowly and using body language. Below are some ideas on activities children can share with a person with dementia:

  1. Bake cookies
  2. Take a walk around the neighborhood
  3. Put a puzzle together
  4. Weed a garden or plant flowers
  5. Color or draw picturesbcp036-05
  6. Make a scrapbook of family photographs
  7. Read a favorite book or story
  8. Eat a picnic lunch outside
  9. Watch your favorite TV show together
  10. Listen to or sing old songs

However, be careful to not overwhelm the teen/child with responsibility, and he/she should probably not be left alone with the person with dementia. Acknowledge and appreciate the young person’s efforts in caregiving.

Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease (EOAD)

Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease affects individuals in their 50’s, 40’s or even younger. When someone is diagnosed with EOAD, their children may still be school age and living at home. In these cases, the children in affected families often take on more caregiving responsibilities and experience greater emotional upheaval, as their parent loses mental faculties during critical developmental periods. It is important to exhibit even greater patience and understanding with these unique cases.


Holland, M. (2005). Using picture books to help children cope with a family member’s alzheimer’s disease. YC Young Children, 60(3), 105-109. Retrieved from

Rosenthal Gelman, C., & Greer, C. (2011). Young children in early-onset alzheimer’s disease families: research gaps and emerging service needs. American Journal Of Alzheimer’s Disease & Other Dementias26(1), 29-35. doi:10.1177/1533317510391241

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