When you’re a caregiver for someone with any form of dementia, you can find yourself running out of ideas to keep things enjoyable, whether fun and stimulating or calm and soothing. How do you make things interesting, yet relevant, too?
Lori came to our Facebook page with this question. She’s a student SLP clinician and in need of activities for adults who have dementia.
We do most of the popular activities already (word association, reverse charades, time lapse, code breaking, etc.) Does anyone have a new or unusual group activity for cognition they have tried, particularly ones that support social interactions?"
Here’s a collection of activities that can work for personal or professional use, from one to several adults:
  • “Getting out the old costume jewelry box was a great activity for a group of older women I worked with. Each could recall and speak to their favorite bling! We matched up pairs of earrings, tried on various kinds, and then looked through jewelry books and learned about some of the creators of jewelry during certain time periods.”
  • “Bake cookies! Someone can read a simple recipe, work on following simple commands, sequencing, problem solving. Reminiscing during the process is fun. And everyone gets to eat cookies afterward!”
  • “Making lists: ‘Name the 50 states.’ ‘Foods that start with the letter ___.’ ‘My favorite thing to do on a sunny day is ______.’ You can write it down, or if a group member is functional enough, they can write it down on a wipe board.”
  • “I love small groups of 2-3 & I will frequently find pictures to talk about. Norman Rockwell, personal pictures, etc. are great for generating conversation! Sounds simple but this has been highly effective for me.”
  • “Put a CLUB Program for them in a different level of people with dementia, club program is a therapeutic, interactive group program that focuses on boosting self-esteem, lifting the human spirit and awakening dormant abilities.”
  • “I have played ‘Would you rather’ and Penny Ante. These are usually very interactive and funny. There are no right or wrong answers. ‘Would you rather’ gives two choices, such as ‘Would you rather live at the beach or live in the mountains?’ Or even odd questions like ‘Would you rather be an astronaut or a scuba diver?’ Depending on the ability of your group, you can make a vast collection. In Penny Ante, use pennies or poker chips. Start the group with a set amount of chips and then read different scenarios: Give a ‘penny’ to anyone wearing yellow. Or, put a ‘penny’ back if you ever skipped school.”
  • “I used to do a game where you have a story that you read, and each person has a piece of paper with a word from the story. When you say that word in the story, the person holds up the word, but if they miss they do a forfeit like singing a few lines from a song or whatever you choose! I used to write and make stories up so they included the people in the room and made it funny!”
  • “I did a lot of simple cooking with my lady, made picture frames, watched old movies and songs on YouTube, and talked about them.”
  • “Reminiscing activities. Finish the phrase games. Discussing their pastimes and encouraging brainstorming, such as with a group who used to bake, discuss how to make a cherry pie: What ingredients are needed? What steps are taken?”
  • “Playing the mountain dulcimer. They don't have to read music. The tab is by numbers.”
  • “I found an app a man made for his son with autism, called Picture Select. It’s free and can be customized. My mom will sit and read photos with sayings that I get from Facebook and we mix them in with pictures of people she knows. Also music seems to be good, these days we have a lot of old hymns and songs we do in church.”

Sometimes the best people to ask for help are the very people going through what you’re going through. And no matter what stage of the journey you’re on, you’ll find that your experiences can help others, too.
What activities do you do with your loved one or client?