Why is it so important to keep someone with dementia occupied?
If someone with dementia is kept entertained and occupied, this reduces the chances of them becoming bored.
We all dislike being bored, and this can lead us to feel very frustrated. In someone with dementia, this frustration can result in challenging behaviour, for example, physical and verbal aggression.
Keeping your loved one with dementia occupied with activities can also:
• Help them to maintain their independence
• Help to maintain their skills
• Allow them to express their feelings and communicate
• Improve their self-esteem
• Give you and your loved one a chance to bond
Things to bear in mind…
• Make sure activities are appropriate for the individual. For example, if your loved one never enjoyed playing games or doing puzzles, they’re unlikely to enjoy doing them now. Also consider the age of the individual, someone born in 1960 for example, is not likely to find listening to music from the 1950s very compelling.
• Activities may need to be adapted. Cognitive skills decline in people with dementia, which makes it more difficult for them to understand and carry out more difficult activities. If your loved one used to enjoy, for example, knitting, try giving them an easier pattern.
• Allow more time to complete activities. Activities may take longer than they used to do. It’s difficult, but try to be patient and allow for more time when you’re planning activities with your loved one.
Activities for home
• Housework – For example, laundry, dusting and tidying. Not everyone will find this engaging, but if it’s something they used to enjoy then they may still want to take part. They may also enjoy the idea that they’re helping you out around the house, which may help to improve their self-esteem.
• Creative activities – Such as knitting, woodwork and colouring. This may be particularly engaging for someone who used to enjoy these pastimes. Many people with dementia enjoy having something to do with their hands, and these activities may help with that.
• Puzzles and games – For example, jigsaw puzzles, card games, board games and cross words. Word games may be beneficial for those in the early stages of dementia, they may help to keep the mind active. Board games are also a good opportunity for you and your loved one to bond and share some time together.
• Listening to music – Memories for music often remain intact when others are gone. This makes listening to music a great activity for someone with dementia. Try listening to a playlist of their favourite songs together. This may help to prompt happy memories for your loved one.
• Reminiscence work – People with dementia are often able to recall distant memories better than more recent events. You could work together to make a life story book or memory box. This could include stories about your loved one’s life as a child, old photos and meaningful mementos. You could also simply look at old photo albums together and talk about happy memories.
• Baking/cooking – Try making something that your loved one enjoys eating or used to enjoy cooking. The familiar smells and flavours may also help to trigger memories and encourage conversation.
• Gardening – This is great way for your loved one to get some fresh air and exercise. The sense of achievement from growing their own herbs, plants or vegetables will also help to improve their self-esteem.
Activities for in the community
• Exercise and sport – You could go for walks or go swimming. Make sure to ask your local pool when quieter times are to avoid your loved one becoming anxious.
• Dementia cafes/groups – Dementia groups allow your loved one to socialise with other people. They also give you the opportunity to meet other carers in the community.
• Go for a drive – You could go for a drive to places your loved one used to enjoy visiting. This is another opportunity for reminiscence work, which may help to prompt memories in your loved one.
•Go to the theatre/cinema/sports events – Depending on what kind of hobbies your loved one has, trips to the cinema or a football match can be a great way for your loved one to get out into the community and occupy their time.