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12 Creative Memory Engagement Activities for People Living With Dementia

Submitted by Guest Contributor:
Ginger Abbot

Helping a loved one or patient adjust to life with dementia can feel challenging. As their condition progresses, the various stages will make it more difficult to complete routine tasks and engage with their loved ones.

When they can’t do their favorite activities anymore, there are still ways for everyone to have fun. Read about these engagement activities for people living with dementia to make life more enjoyable while keeping current abilities in mind.

Editor’s Note: there is a bonus activity at the end – don’t miss it!

1 Repeat Fun Sayings Together

There are numerous memory-jogging activities for people living with dementia, but a few don’t require any supplies. Start with a simple activity like repeating their favorite phrases.

Anyone in the early stages of dementia can try saying tongue twisters, like “double-decker chocolate cake” or “peanut butter M&M.” It’s bound to make everyone collapse into giggles as each person struggles with the clever phrasing.

2 Play Their Favorite Songs

Consider the time period when your patient or family member listened to their favorite music. Playing those songs again may trigger memories or put them in a better mood.

Even if they can’t sing along, listening to the melody can bring people living with dementia back to the present moment and give everyone a delightful bonding activity.

3 Start a Game of Boggle

Word games are another way to provide creative memory engagement. Boggle is an excellent example of something that only takes a single step to play.

Arrange letters on the table and see who can make the most words out of them. It’s one of the easiest memory care activities for people living with dementia and can happen anywhere.

4 Find a New Puzzle

Even if someone can’t recall the picture on the front of a puzzle, they can solve it based on the shape of each piece. Find one cut into large or small shapes, depending on the player’s memory retention and ability to focus.

If you’re wondering what size puzzle is appropriate for your loved one or patient, contacting a neurodiagnostic tech can help. They’ll test for electrical activity and work alongside doctors or neurologists to accurately diagnose a person’s cognitive abilities. Depending on their findings, your loved one can find activities that match their current condition.

5 Create a Team Story

Starting a fun conversation can transform into one of the easiest memory care activities for people living with dementia. Ask three or more people to sit together and have one person say a sentence. The next person starts a story by adding to the previous sentence spoken. This can continue for as long as needed so everyone can join this memory activity.

6 Complete a Crossword Puzzle

The New York Times crossword puzzle may contain up-to-date references that challenge older readers, but there are many other ways to access crossword puzzles that are great for people who struggle with memory loss.

A simple puzzle with a few questions is another one of the best engagement activities for people with dementia because it may only take a few minutes to complete. They can work through a puzzle book throughout the afternoon if they’re still in the earliest stages.

7 Get on a Computer

Many people feel surprised when they learn about dementia-friendly computer games. Older adults aren’t often computer literate, but they can access engaging virtual activities with a bit of assistance. See if your loved one or patient enjoys digital coloring pages, YouTube videos, or websites with brain-training games.

Setting a computer up for a person living with dementia can also make life easier alongside other technology. Date-specific clocks and communication aids meet their needs and protect them from an environment that could otherwise pose safety risks. If they have a computer, they will have an additional place to access similar resources and other games.

8 Test a Few Jokes

Everyone’s heard a joke that tickled them pink. Individuals with early-stage dementia may remember a few of them or pick up new jokes that they love. When you’re looking for memory-jogging activities for people with dementia, telling jokes is a great place to start.

Research different types of jokes to see which they like best. You could even set up a weekly activity where they meet with their friends or family to exchange the latest jokes. It’s another way to put more joy in the lives of people living with the earliest stages of dementia.

9 Do Aquatic Exercises

Shallow pools can become memory resources. With appropriate supervision, nearly anyone with dementia can wear “floaties” around their arms or waists and participate in aquatic workouts. They’ll follow the class leader as they demonstrate arm and leg movements, but they’ll have to recall those exercises in future classes.

While the those living with dementia are getting their weekly exercises in, they’ll practice movements that should feel similar to the week before. Practicing memory recollection doesn’t only have to happen at a game table. People can also do it by signing up for safe exercise classes, like aquatic routines.

10 Open Some Paint Bottles

Creating art doesn’t require much skill, a degree, or even years of practice. Anyone can pick up a paintbrush and start making a picture during their free time. Ask them to paint one of their favorite memories, their family’s pet, or something in their room.

Some people struggle to grasp things like paintbrushes and pencils as their disease progresses. If they can’t use those tools, fingerpainting is another way to express themselves. They could recreate a picture in front of them or an object as requested.

Budget-friendly memory care activities for people with dementia may seem limited, but the potential for memory engagement is endless. Collect art supplies and see what they enjoy using most to establish a routine way for everyone to sharpen their recall skills.

11 Plant a Few Flowers

People who live in residential care settings may not feel quite at home in their rooms. It can take time to adjust, but flowers will help. Anyone with a windowsill can set up a pot of dirt and plant a few seeds. The activity requires regular watering, which makes people practice memory recall.

It’s also one of the only memory-jogging activities for people with dementia that results in new life. They’ll get to watch their hard work pay off as their flowers sprout beautiful petals. This could be an especially beneficial activity for those who used to love gardening or working in their yards.

12 Establish a Fish Tank

Fish provide the same memory engagement as flowers, except they don’t pressure people who feel nervous about their lack of gardening experience. After adopting a few fish that are easy to care for, like goldfish or guppies, a person with dementia can set up a calendar with reminders to feed them and clean the tank.

As the dementia progresses, the patient or loved one may need help remembering what their fish need each day. Even when that happens, they’ll have happier experiences in their homes or rooms because they can watch their aquatic friends swimming around in a beautiful tank.

BONUS Online Solitaire

There are many ways to stay actively engaged to stimulate our minds. That’s true whether we are living with dementia or not. Another way to enjoy an engaging activity is through online solitaire.

Many of us have known the game of Solitaire since childhood. What’s nice about this online version is how it can help the player decide if a move exists. For example, in a physical, card-based version of the game, we need to know that a card can be moved to a new location. With this online version, the player can simply click a card and if a move is available, the system will move it for you.

Cognitively, if a player just needs a little help with the game, “exploratory clicking” can uncover a move to keep them engaged.

Try Creative Memory-Engagement Activities

There are so many engagement activities for people with dementia that family members, loved ones, and caregivers can add to their routine. Consider what each person loves to do or used to find entertaining. You’ll match them with the best way to challenge their memory recall abilities without requiring frustrating or degrading activities.

About the Author: Ginger Abbot

Ginger Abbot

Ginger Abbot is a career and lifestyle writer.

Read more of her work on the learning publication Classrooms.





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