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Activities and Dementia

Dementia refers to the impairment of cognitive and memory functioning.  This impairment weakens the capacity to perform tasks.  Dementia is not a sign of aging but instead is an effect of underlying conditions.  Some forms of dementia can be reversed and some cannot; others will progress with time.

Exercising the body and mind through activity engagement is extremely important when addressing dementia.  Activities help keep the individual functioning at his or her optimal ability.  The list below outlines some common activities that you can participate in with dementia patients.  Naturally, the complexity level should be determined by the degree of dementia.  And, of course, it is always important to let safety be the guiding force.

  • Crafts or Games.  Paint-by-number art or straightforward 3 or 4 colors painting.  Simple greeting card design with a “birthday” or “thinking of you” message.  Putty molding into easy shapes.  Creating holiday items such as turkey cut-outs or colored wreaths.  Photo arrangement of sports themes, family gatherings, landscape scenery, etc., pasted on poster board.
  • Outdoor or physical activities.  Brisk or leisurely walks around the neighborhood (be sure to point out the beauty along the way–e.g., flowers, cloud formation, tree types, birds, sky).  Throw a lightweight ball to and fro.  Dance to upbeat music with easy rhythmic moves such as swaying hands back and forth and/or tapping feet.  Exercise gently with uncomplicated motions such as light stretching or simple leg lifts.
  • Miscellaneous. Visit with non-aggressive animals.  Dress in unusual (but safe) clothing as part of creative time (maybe unique hats or fur-like gloves).  Plant tomatoes or other vegetables and watch them grow!  Nurture a house plant with food, water, and sunlight.  Sort plastic kitchen items by size or function.  Dress or role play with stuffed animals.

Physical and mental activities provide stimulation and might help prevent further degeneration from occurring too rapidly.  Activities enhance self-gratification, promote better sleep patterns, and result in a more optimistic outlook.  Activities are vital to a fit body and positive mind, and the individual with dementia benefits greatly by working both.

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