How to help someone feel productive and purposeful when they have dementia

Find out how to help the person you're caring for to still feel valued by creating a range of meaningful activities they can enjoy regularly

Three signs the person with dementia feels productive and purposeful

1. They make an effort to take part in activities.
2. They are happy to help out with daily chores or activities.
3. They try to complete an activity to the best of their ability.

A dementia diagnosis can make many people to wonder, ‘what’s the point?’ After all, they know their condition is going to progress, and may therefore be inclined to give up doing all sorts of things they used to enjoy. But this only leads to leading to sadness, depression and loneliness. That’s why it’s so important to find meaningful activities they can still do and which might prevent the helplessness, boredom and loss of identity that can be such a challenge for someone living with dementia.

Obstacles to feeling productive and purposeful

- Helplessness
- Lack of identity and self-worth
- Boredom

Tips to encourage feelings of purpose

Any number of activities can help, but these are particularly useful.

Crafts
Doing an activity where there’s a beneficial outcome or purpose to it can provide real satisfaction for someone with dementia. It could be making a cushion cover, building a bird table or threading beads onto a necklace.

Chores
Many people with dementia struggle with the feeling that they’re a burden on the person that’s caring for them, and want to do anything they can to help. Finding a chore that they can manage easily will give them a sense of purpose and something for them to do. Think laundry folding, brass polishing or laying the table and add it into their daily care plan.

Sorting activities
Have you got a drawer full of items that need organising? Giving someone with dementia the job of sorting something can be a great activity that they can really get their teeth into, and one that helps them to feel useful. Yes, it may not be the most pressing job (or even the most interesting), but for someone with dementia, it can be very satisfying.

Life story work
This is an activity which involves looking back at someone’s past life events, and then developing an individual biography of that person in a scrapbook. It can be an enjoyable activity for the person affected by dementia as they’ll probably be able to remember events from 30 years ago more easily than those that happened last week. And it gives them a job to do – they’ve got to dig out old photos, programmes, ticket stubs, and compile them into a story.

It’s also useful for carers, as it helps them to develop a more rounded picture of the person they’re caring for, which can help when they’re talking to them or organising activities.