Advice on activities for dementia care

Talking about and sharing important events and memories can be very beneficial for people with dementia.

If you are providing dementia care for a loved one, there are many positive things you can do to evoke memories of happy times and places and help them feel safe and comfortable.  

There are plenty of exercises that can be beneficial and mentally stimulating for people with dementia and rewarding activities to help them reminisce might include looking through old photos, memorabilia, videos, records, and even arts and crafts.

How to find the right activity

Talk with your loved one and discuss some of the memories they have of when they were younger.

Ask them the following to get an idea of what activities they may be interested in:

- What did they do for entertainment?

- What is their favourite song? 

- Who used to be influential in their life?

- What did they like to wear and what was their favourite jacket or shoes?

- What did they do for work?

- What were their hobbies – did they enjoy arts and crafts or did they love dancing?

There are lots of questions along these lines that you can ask to spark some ideas on what to do as an activity to help them remember their past.

Scrapbooking old images

If you have access to old photos of family and friends, or of any occasions or holidays they enjoyed, you can organise these into scrapbooks.

Going through old photos should hopefully spark lots of lovely memories. Caption each image with details of who the photo was of and where and when it was taken.

Keep all scrapbooks in a memory box for your loved one to access as and when they want to. Keeping the scrapbook will be also be useful for other family members.

Music and memory

Listening to a selection of much-loved music is a proven and effective way to trigger memories in those with dementia. There are many examples where people with dementia still remember certain songs and people - or even how to play an instrument. Music is well known for having a positive effect on people, and is an emotional way for them to reconnect with themselves.

Arts and crafts

Your loved one might find more enjoyment in other areas, such as arts and crafts. Find out what arts and craft activities they enjoy the most and arrange an afternoon of activities. They may need a little help to work on their creation, but this can be a fun experience for them. If you have saved any of their previous creations, show them and remind them of the times when they actively pursued their hobby.

Going through older items

You can help trigger memories by sharing older items they used to use, or items that were popular from when they were younger. This can include items from car boot sales, charity or antique shops. Finding items that they remember from their youth will give you both something to discuss. Touching and feeling items is a great way to stimulate the senses, so anything physical you can show your loved one will help them to remember.

What to do going forward

Once you run one activity session, your loved one may start to remember other parts of their life and this will trigger new ideas for other activities you can do in the future.

If your loved one is receiving care in a specialist dementia care home, then you can always ask for tips and pointers from the staff, who may have picked up on what your loved one talks about during the day, and then you can find something to help with that memory.

You can also leave memorabilia with the care home to ensure that your loved one has access to their memories as and when they want it.

There are also other activities you can do if they are able, such as daily exercises or even gardening, dancing and walking to keep them active.

Working with your loved one on all different types of activities from exercise to reminiscing, will help to keep them feeling positive and help with any confusion they may experience from their short-term memory loss.

It’s a hard and long process but little moments where they remember their past are refreshing and rewarding for both you and your loved one.