Guardian Carers Feature on BBC News London

Planning activities for dementia patients

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Although dementia brings many challenges, those with dementia can still find pleasure and purpose in things. With assistance, they can be helped to enjoy mental, physical, creative and social activities. If you are a carer, shared activity can be enjoyable and bring you closer.

Make it personal

Knowing about the preferences of the person cared for - their work history, former lifestyle, recreational and social interests - will enable you to plan suitable activity.

Utilise familiar responsibilities

When planning activities for dementia patients, work with skills that are remembered, such as watering the garden, putting out the rubbish or washing up. The person with dementia will feel useful, even if the task is mundane.


Pleasurable activities

Someone with dementia can still enjoy outings, although they may not be recalled. Experiencing joy in the moment is what is important.

Allow the person time and space and avoid too much movement, noise and crowds. Don’t let your loved one become stressed. If you fail, try the activity again at another time of day or adapt it to the person’s needs.

Suggested activities

When planning activities for dementia patients, here are some simple tasks around the house to try:

  • Bake straightforward recipes together.
  • Clean around the house for a feeling of accomplishment.
  • Knit, paint or try other arts and crafts.
  • Enjoy books the person likes.
  • Arrange office or household items.
  • Read the newspaper.
  • Watch videos featuring the family.

Try doing puzzles.


Exercise can improve memory, sleep and mood. Always talk to a doctor before an individual starts a new exercise plan. A physiotherapist can create an exercise programme which takes the person’s physical status into account.

Suggestions include walking, cycling, gym work and aerobics. Exercise that doesn’t feel like exercise but will raise the heart rate include gardening, dancing and housework such as vacuuming.

Soothing activities

Contact with children and animals can be pleasurable, as can looking at old photos and remembering past events. Sensory experiences include a foot or neck massage, smelling flowers, using essential oils, stroking a pet or brushing the person’s hair.

Social activities

Try your local dementia cafe to meet others and share support and advice in an informal setting. Try also dementia-friendly screenings in cinemas.

Digital devices

Online puzzles and games and dementia apps can be useful. Activities such as Skype and YouTube are a great way to stay in touch and engage with stimulating activities.

Sensory gardens and woodland walks

These are designed to provide different experiences for the senses. They may include sculptures, plants with an aroma, water features and textured areas for touching.


Managing challenging behaviours

It’s important to know what activities can calm a person when they are distressed or restless.

The later stages

As the disease progresses, activities may need to be simplified and worked around the senses. Objects to feel and music to listen to can be helpful.

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