How does boredom effect dementia?

Recognise when someone is bored, why this might be happening and what you can do to prevent it

People with dementia don't always sit staring into space when they're bored so it might not be obvious that the person you're caring for is suffering from boredom, although there are some common behaviour traits that can suggest boredom is a problem. These include:

Wandering
Restlessness
Agitation
• Daytime sleeping
Loneliness

Why are they bored?

Elderly people often become bored because they're not able to do as much as they used to. This could be because of ill health, or because they're no longer working and miss the daily structure and buzz that work brings, or maybe their memory loss means they simply can't do activities they used to love.

However, there is still a wide range of activities that the person you’re caring for can do and, generally speaking, being busy helps them to feel calm and contented. It also contributes to their self-esteem and self-worth, general wellbeing and independence. Best of all, staying active can bring you and your loved one closer together.

Did you know? Activity can boost the memory of people with dementia. A study published in the journal Nature found that an enriched environment (with plenty activities and company) may help to improve the cognitive skills of those living with dementia.

What can you do?

The key to preventing boredom is to identify suitable activities and include them into a daily plan. Make sure you think about the following when organising the activities:

- Their personal interests
What did they enjoy doing when they were younger? Were they a keen painter, musician or dancer? Perhaps they loved films, books or poetry.

- Their ability to do things
Focus on what they CAN do rather than what they CAN’T do, and concentrate on enjoyment rather doing something well, or completing it full.

- Their mobility and energy
If they lack the same strength or flexibility to do the activities they used to love, that doesn’t mean they should be ruled out. You simply need to approach them from a different direction. For example, if they loved tea dances, but aren’t able to stand for that long now, they’ll probably still enjoy going to watch other people dance. Think about how quickly they will tire during the activity.

- Good and bad days
While dementia is a progressive condition, you will find that the person you’re caring for has both good and bad days. Some days they will have bags of energy and will be able to get out and about and do lots of activities. Other days they will struggle to understand certain activities and prefer to do something less taxing. The important thing is that you’re flexible and take each day as it comes.

- Consider the activity
What will the environment be like while doing the activity – will it be noisy, busy or will there be bad lighting? What time of day are you starting the activity? If they get tired at certain times of the day, you may want to pick things that are sedentary and more peaceful.
Click for more ideas on activities to prevent boredom.