Activities should form a core part of the care plans for your residents, and there is an enormous amount that you can do, from music and quizzes to arts and crafts. Here are some ideas to get you started…

Music and sound

1. Name that tune
Doing a music quiz can be a great way to trigger memories and reminiscence about a particular era. If they struggle to say the name of the song, you could play musical bingo and provide words or images that are mentioned in the songs.

2. Read aloud
Have an afternoon of story or poetry reading with residents. Studies have shown that reading can be a very enjoyable activity, even if the person with dementia can’t remember the whole story.

3. Group sing-a-long
Nothing beats getting everyone together to sing along to classic songs and tunes. Pick ones that will resonate most with your residents (so have a think about what era they would have grown up in). Ideally songs from when they were in their teens and 20s. You can usually find the words for songs online, so print out song sheets so people can follow them if they don’t know the words. Or you could invest in a song lyric book and a sing along CD.

Crafts

4. Roll out some scented dough
Have a competition to see who can create the most life-like objects or characters. The simple of action of just rolling dough is great for those with dexterity issues and can be very therapeutic.

5. Card making
Making your own cards and notelets can be a very enjoyable activity. Get plenty of tools so that a piece of A4 card can be folded in half and then decorate. This could be anything from old wildlife magazines which you can rip images out of to create a collage, to paints, coloured pencils and stickers. You could also get small items that they could stick on the front, such as buttons, ribbon and beads.

6. Scrapbooking
This can be a great activity to stimulate reminiscence as well as provide something for residents to do. Give each resident their own scrapbook and then encourage them to stick photos and images that remind them of their life. It can be a very useful tool to help care workers get to know people in the home, and is an interesting activity to do as well.

Puzzles and games

7. Jigsaws
Jigsaws can make an ideal small group activity – so between two and four people – particularly if the jigsaw is relatively large and has a reasonable amount of pieces. One of the best things about puzzles is how versatile they are. For mild or early stage dementia, a 3D puzzle could be very absorbing, whilst later on a 24 piece puzzle might be more appropriate. The simplest puzzles with 13 pieces are a good choice for those whose condition is more advanced. To see the wide variety of jigsaws currently available, take a look here.

8. Boardgames
While they might not always be follow the flow of a regular game, residents with dementia can still get plenty of enjoyment from boardgames, depending on their level of condition. If you want to get conversation flowing, you could try Call To Mind, which is a boardgame designed specifically for people with dementia to stimulate interaction. However, even things like Large Print Scrabble, card games or dominoes could be enjoyable. For more boardgame ideas, go here.

9. Garden and floor games
Whether it’s wet or dry outside, garden and floor games can be a great activity to do in a care home if you have the space. Skittles, boules, horseshoe and ring toss games are good as they can be played from a sitting position, so ideal if your residents aren’t that mobile. Here’s a few more ideas to inspire.

Exercise

10. Exercise classes
Doing exercise is key for helping to boost mood, improve strength and generally make residents happier and more content. There is a range of exercise DVDs and equipment that will help older people keep fit, but you could also look into getting a trained fitness instructor who can do classes for those who are less mobile. This Fit for Life pack is something you might be able to do together.

11. Dance
The brilliance of dance as an exercise for the elderly is its ability to bring together both movement and music into one activity. It has the power to stimulate reminiscence (someone with dementia may struggle to remember what happened last week, but can remember the steps to dances from the 50s and 60s) and is proven to improve cognitive ability (according to a study from Sweden) and balance. Don’t worry too much about what steps are done, simply pick some dance-friendly music that you think residents will enjoy and get moving!

12. Walking
If your care home has a garden, encourage residents to get out and about in the fresh air each day. Designing a dementia-friendly garden is key here, but the key areas is that it is easy to get around for those with limited mobility, has points of rest and interest and is closed off to prevent those who tend to walk off from disappearing.

Sensory

13. Have a blind tasting competition
Pick some distinctive foods that might trigger some memories – think Angel Delight, Chocolate, cream crackers – and see if they can work out what they are when blindfolded. Afterwards, get them to share their experiences of eating these foods.

14. Guess the bird sound
Use YouTube to find the calls of different birds (both native and from abroad) and see if your residents can guess which bird is making it. You could do this for a range of animals, and even play bingo with it by using the Active Minds Animal Bingo set.

15. Make your own sensory bags
Using small cloth bags, encourage your residents to pick out items that are particularly interesting to touch and place them into the bags. They can then swap them with other residents and see if they can guess what each item is. Alternatively, create one large lucky dip bag, using polystyrene beanbag balls, which can be an enjoyable sensory experience to dip your hand into, then put reminiscence items in which they can pull out and talk about.

Relaxation

16. Hand massages
Giving hand massages to residents can be extremely relaxing, and may go down well with everyone (but particularly your female service users). It can form part of a manicure service, and you could get professional nail technicians to come in and paint nails as well as provide a hand massage.

17. Seated yoga
Yoga is a fantastic activity for improving strength and flexibility and helping to relax the mind. If your residents aren’t particularly mobile, they can still get involved with adapted yoga poses that they can do from the comfort of their chairs. We’d recommend getting a professional yoga teacher in to help run these sessions.

18. Meditation
The beauty of meditation is that it is easy to do and can be done by everyone. Try searching for guided meditations on YouTube to get some inspiration or to play to your residents. It could be a great evening activity to help people wind down before bed.

Tasks

19. Folding laundry
Don’t feel guilty about providing residents with a task to do. Many will have worked their whole life and will relish the prospect of getting on with a job and feeling useful. Something like laundry folding can provide a sense of purpose that will help to improve mood.

20. Sorting post
Encourage a resident to help sort through the post and then deliver to each resident if they are able (this is best suited for those in the early stages of dementia as those in the mid to late stages may struggle with reading and organising).

21. Laying the table
Once again, this can be a useful job for someone with dementia, so long as they still have the logic to know which side of the plate knives and forks should sit (it’s common for people with dementia to get knives and forks muddled up). If not, consider getting some placemats that clearly mark where cutlery should sit. Alternatively, clearing away or helping with washing up could be an enjoyable activity for some.

 

More help for professionals

To find out more about all the activities in our Care Home, NHS and Professionals pages, go here.