Activities are an essential part of dementia care because they provide a sense of self, normality and enjoyment, and give a structure to the day which can help someone with dementia achieve a sense of order in their world. They can also boost self-esteem and reduce challenging behaviour such as agitation, wandering, sadness and boredom.
Click on the links below for more information on products that can help.

Types of activity

Activities can often be divided up into different kinds including:
Daily routines These could be anything from general chores or preparing and cooking food to personal care such as bathing or shaving.
Creative activities These encourage a person to use their creativity or imagination, for example painting a picture, making a craft item or playing a musical instrument.
Social activities Visiting and spending time with friends and family are useful social activities for people with dementia.
Intellectual activities These could be reading a book, filling out a crossword or doing a puzzle – anything that involves a certain level of problem solving.
Physical activities Heading out for a walk, throwing a ball around or even going for a swim are good physical activities to try and include each day.
Spiritual activities This could be praying, going to church, reading scriptures or singing a hymn.

What to do and when

When planning activities, think about what challenges you’re trying to overcome, how far along they are in the dementia journey, and what solutions you hope to achieve in order to improve their quality of life. That way you can discover whether there’s a suitable product, activity or service that can help. So what products can you use?

Arts

Your dilemma
The person you’re caring for seems withdrawn, quiet and lacking in confidence.
Products to help
- Encourage the person with dementia to use paints or watercolours if they wish to create paintings. If they’re struggling with holding paintbrushes or palettes, there are specially designed ones to help people with limited dexterity.
- Try offering adult colouring books, which feature intricate drawings to colour in.
- As their dementia progresses, keep art activities simple with plain paper or card and felt-tips, crayons or coloured pencils.
Great for…
Artistic activities such as painting or drawing are ideal for people with dementia as art encourages feelings of dignity and a sense of wholeness. It can also stimulate conversation as you encourage them to talk about what they’ve painted or drawn.
Good to know
A study published in the Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences found art can help people to communicate with family and doctors, particularly those with dementia which is affecting their speech and ability to recall common words or phrases.

Crafts

Your dilemma
The person you’re caring for has found their dementia leaves them feeling useless and lacking purpose. They often get bored and restless.
Products to help
- Encourage the person with dementia to take up a crafting activity that they may have enjoyed in the past, such as knitting, crochet or building model planes.
- Try making bead necklaces or decorating a bird feeder – producing items that give the person with dementia a sense of satisfaction and the chance to see it ‘in use’, gives the activity purpose.
Great for…
Encouraging creativity, which stimulates the brain, and preventing boredom. This can give a huge amount of pleasure and satisfaction. Helps prevent feelings of isolation and sadness.
Top tip
Pick crafting activities that are simple and easily achievable in one session. It could be making a greetings card or creating shapes with modelling clay.

Games

Your dilemma
The person with dementia is struggling to maintain a close relationship with their carer, friends or family members and is becoming withdrawn and isolated. At times they can be restless.
Products to help
- Games such as dominoes, whist or bridge are probably the trickiest ones, so are more likely to be popular if the person with dementia is still only mildly affected. However, they're very useful for preventing boredom and lifting mood.
- A game of bingo is good if you have a few people available – if the family are visiting for example – as people of all ages can get involved, which is great for making the person with dementia feel connected and engaged. You don’t just have to do ‘number’ bingo, you can also do songs, pictures and even sensory bingo.
- Simple games such as Connect-4 or rolling dice games can be great fun. Ones that are more physical (such as trying to get a mini bean bag through a hoop), may work better than the more cerebral games, if their dementia is slightly more advanced.
Great for…
Providing mutual enjoyment and companionship, which can support the relationship between the person with dementia and their carer. They also encourage closeness between a person with dementia and people around them and improve feelings of comfort and security. The end result is the person with dementia feels connected, engaged and happier.
Good to know
Go for more traditional games, such as bingo, dominoes, board games or card games, as they’re more likely to remember how to play them from when they were younger, rather than trying to teach rules for a brand new game.

Puzzles

Your dilemma
You need an activity that keeps someone busy while indoors, perhaps when you’re not able to supervise them all the time.
Products to help
- Pick puzzles that have an interesting picture and are made from strong durable materials (plastic rather than cardboard). You could even get a personalised puzzle that has a picture that the person you're caring for recognises, such as a favourite pet, family member or view.
- You could try solving a tougher 3D puzzle, Rubik’s Cube or maze puzzle, or pick puzzles with less pieces if the person with dementia struggles with these.
- Don’t forget about word puzzles such as crosswords and wordsearch grids, although these are better suited for people who are still able to recall and read words.
Great for…
Improving manual dexterity and preventing boredom. Whether it’s fitting pieces together or picking up a pen to fill in a crossword, they all help. What’s more, jigsaw puzzles activate both halves of the brain – the left analytic side is used to fit the pieces together, while the right creative side visualises the bigger picture of the puzzle. Exercising both sides enhances the connections between them.
Good to know
A review of dementia studies in the Cochrane Review (a scientific journal) in 2012 found doing puzzles provides a beneficial effect on the memory and thinking test scores of people with dementia and the benefit was at least as good as medications, if not more so.

Conversation and reminiscence

Your dilemma
The person with dementia may be struggling to remember what they got up to yesterday, last week or last month, which is getting them down, but they’re able to remember events from their childhood or youth.
Products to help
- You could set up a short quiz on events that happened during a particular era, using a quiz book, CD of old music or game.
- Look at old photographs and encourage the person with dementia to try and describe who they see. If they’re unable, use generic pictures of old cars, food brands or even holiday destinations to see if it can trigger conversation.
- You might want to try a 3D or holographic book. They can be a wonderful way of putting a smile on the face of someone with Alzheimer’s.
Great for…
Any activity or therapy which encourages people affected by dementia to talk about their memories and experiences from their younger days is beneficial. It can improve mood and wellbeing, but it’s also beneficial for the carer, as it helps them focus on the person as an individual, rather than them being defined by their dementia.
Top tip
Make a memory or life story book and stick pictures, old ticket stubs or anything that they might have kept over the years as mementoes into a scrapbook.

Sensory stimulation

Your dilemma
The person you’re caring for is feeling particularly agitated or restless. They may struggle with communication at this stage and prefer to communicate through touch or by looking at things.
Products to help
- Some of our strongest memories are triggered by scent, so see if you can find old perfumes or items that can elicit memories in the person with dementia. You can also get special scented cards that are enhanced with specific smells to encourage conversation.
- Project pictures or coloured lights onto the wall to provide some visual stimulation, or offer fibre-optic lights to touch and look at.
- Find items that feel tactile and interesting. Soft toys or materials can be calming and interesting for people in the later stages of dementia to touch and stroke.
- Play some relaxing music, perhaps before bed, to encourage feelings of calmness and restfulness.
Great for…
Triggering feelings of calmness and contentedness, improving mood and reducing sadness and depression, as well as encouraging conversation.
Top tip
If you’re offering aromatherapy scents, picks ones that will be particularly relaxing, such as lavender or jasmine and get them to talk about how it makes them feel.

Exercise

Your dilemma
The person you’re caring for has become lethargic and lacking in energy, but they also have less mobility than they used to because of other health issues. Some conditions that cause dementia can also affect areas of the brain that deal with balance, which can make exercise trickier, but you want to encourage some kind of physical activity each day.
Products to help
- Sporting hobbies which you can play indoors or from a seat, such as golf putting, skittles, tabletop pool or darts will encourage movement.
- Look into items that will help encourage seated movement if standing up is too difficult. There are plenty of seated aerobics DVDs and armchair exercise books which will demonstrate different exercises you can do.
- Squeezy balls are great for building hand strength, which can help with general manual dexterity.
Great for…
Building strength in muscles and bones, which can help prevent falls in older people. Even if the exercise they do is done from a seated position, the action of it can still help. Plus, any form of movement or exercise will help to release endorphins, chemicals released by the body which act as natural mood boosters. They’re vital if the person you’ve been caring for has been feeling low or depressed.
Good to know
A £300,000 research study by the University of Stirling into how personalised physical activity could improve the lives of people with dementia living in care homes has recently been launched. It’s hoped it will help identify any barriers or facilitators to providing a personalised approach to exercise.
Top tip
Silk scarves, mini bean bags and inflatable beach balls can be used for throwing and catching as they’re easier to throw and catch.

Entertainment

Your dilemma
The person with dementia doesn’t enjoy regular TV shows, or finds them hard to follow
Products to help
- Watch a favourite film, TV show or quiz show and encourage the person you’re caring for to join in, or read one chapter from one of their favourite books.
- Video games consoles that have interactive controllers which let you take part in particular activities – such as bowling or tennis – through the game can be fun for people with dementia.
- The television can be turned into a projection screen where you can play DVDs featuring images of wildlife, oceans or the countryside on a loop.
Good for…
Anything that keeps someone with dementia interested and engaged is useful for stimulating conversation and memories. Entertainment is also a relaxing activity for someone who can’t get out of the house that much and good for boosting contenment.

Organisation

Your dilemma
You struggle to come up with ideas and a proper plan to keep the person you’re caring for stimulated and happy. Days generally lack structure, which can leave them feeling bored and unsure of what to expect.
Products to help
- Set up a wall chart or planner with clear plans of what activities happen and on what day. You may need to include visual images as well as words to help the person with dementia understand. For example, a picture of a paintbrush next to a scheduled painting activity.
- Keep activity items in clearly marked storage boxes or areas so that they’re easy to access or organise.
Good for…
Ensuring that activities you’ve created for someone with dementia run smoothly. It allows you to have a routine, which will provide a sense of security for someone with dementia.
Top tip
Explain to the person you’re caring for what will be happening each day, even talking them through the day planner or care plan so they’re fully prepared. But remember, sometimes things don't go to plan so it pays to be a bit flexible.

Hobbies and interests

Your dilemma
The person with dementia feels disengaged and bored and longs for their ‘old life’, although they may struggle to carry out activities from that time.
Products to help
- Gardening gloves and hand trowels are good for people with green fingers so if gardening is a favourite hobby and mobility allows, it’s worth encouraging. Likewise, if carpentry was a popular pasttime, they may still enjoy it and take satisfaction from accomplishing a wood-working project.
- Binoculars are useful if the person you’re caring for is a fan of birdwatching. It’s a good hobby to encourage throughout the year – in the winter you can birdwatch from a bedroom or living room window, in summer you can sit outside to do it.
- Collecting items, be it stamps, coins or comic books, is a fun hobby that can appeal to anyone who enjoys reminiscence therapy as it encourages them to think back to when they first acquired the item.
- While dementia can affect your ability to follow recipe books, cooking can still be an enjoyable hobby if there’s someone there to help and supervise.
Good for…
Helping them to feel more ‘normal’ by doing an activity that reminds them of pre-diagnosis times.
Good to know
Research by the charity Thrive found a structured gardening programme could have a positive impact on the well-being, cognition and mood of people with young-onset dementia.

Special days and events

Your dilemma
Being stuck indoors has given you and the person you’re caring for a bad case of cabin fever. You want to get them out of the house, but don’t know where to start.
What can you do?
- Pick an activity that gets you out and about but can also work to trigger memories. A classic car show or traditional village fete may remind them of times in their past and stimulate conversation.
- Heading out into the countryside to a nearby country home, arboretum or even just a garden centre can be a great way to get outside and provide a change of scenery.
- Find out what’s going on in your area in terms of social activities for older people. There may be a dementia or memory café nearby, where you can meet other people or carers affected by dementia, take part in group activities and get information or support.
- If the person you’re caring for has mobility problems, the idea of getting outside may seem difficult. The trick is to pick venues that will be easily accessible and engage the person with dementia without it being too taxing, such as an art gallery.
- Remember that seasonal days such as Christmas and Easter can be useful times to create interesting activities.
Good for…
Using up excess energy (which is ideal if they have a tendency to get restless and agitated). It also boosts social circles and can provide a useful support network for you as a carer.

Travel

Your dilemma
You’re desperate for a holiday, but are worried about going anywhere different or having to take someone with dementia too far from home comforts.
What can you do?
- It may be worth letting the hotel or B&B where you’re staying know about the situation so they can provide help and support if needed.
- While time away is vital for both carer and the person with dementia, getting away may be a little trickier. It might be worth signing up for a specifically dementia-friendly holiday.
Good for…
Helping someone to enjoy their life and live ‘in the moment’. Encourage someone to put together a ‘bucket list’ of locations they’d like to see or visit before their dementia progresses too much.
Top tip
As the dementia develops, you may want to stay closer to home, and day trips could prove easier than overnight travel away from home.