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Going out or Staying in – activity ideas when caring for someone living with dementia

Below are a few activity ideas to help keep someone living with dementia active and engaged with the world. These are just simple everyday activities, but sometimes seeing a list and planning in advance can turn the ordinary into something a bit special. These ideas could be spread out across the week with some outings and then some related home activities on other days.

Activities have been divided under the following headings with options for people staying in or getting out and about.

Go out and… Getting out of the house can become more difficult for someone living with dementia. But it is great for boosting confidence and keeping people stimulated. Sometimes a short trip out may be more beneficial and actually less work than trying to find activities that produce the same results at home. Of course it is going to depend on each individuals needs but when possible this is something to consider. There may be a tendency to think staying at home ‘safe and secure’ is the best way, but the positive impact of getting out and about may prove to outweigh this.

Or stay at home and… If a person can’t physically leave the home environment, getting outside into the natural light and fresh air is still something that can be stimulating and stress relieving. Either sitting outdoors or doing something active. Any tasks around the home that can be safely done by someone living with dementia should be encouraged. They may need assistance and supervision, but they may surprise you with how much they can still do.

In the house… If the weather is not conducive or you have someone just not able to go outside, look for opportunities to let the outside in. Placing something from the natural world into a persons hands can be a simple way to connect them to the world again. Alternatively objects from their past life, outside of the place they live now, will also open the world up a little.

Talk about… One important activity for people is engaging in conversation, when they can. Asking for their opinions, advice and recollections, helps to stimulate their mind and improves their feeling of self-worth.

Go out and…
• Visit a public garden, a local florist or a garden center 

Or stay at home and…
• Take a walk around your own garden
• Do a little weeding and watering
• Help repot a plant

In the house…
• Arrange fresh or artificial flowers in a vase

Talk about types of flowers and plants, favourite flowers, colours, smells and gardens. Don’t forget fruit trees and vege gardens.

Go out and...
• Visit a hardware store.

Or stay at home and..
• Paint the fence
• Sweep the path
• Sand a piece of wood

In the house…
• Sort through a tool box, or socket set

Talk about…DIY and building projects from the past. What are the best tools to use for different jobs. Favourite tools and hardware stores.

Go out and…
• Visit the local park or beach for a picnic

Or stay at home and…
• Have a picnic at home, inside or out

In the house… 
• Make together or just eat together something you would eat on a picnic. i.e. ham sandwiches and lemonade or tea from a thermos

Talk about what you would take on a picnic, the best place to have a picnic. Memories of picnics in the past etc.

Go out and…
• Watch a local sports team play

Or stay at home and…
• Throw or kick a ball around
• Roll a ball back and forth across a table

In the house…
• Bat a balloon around
• Watch a sports game on TV

Talk about sports played in the past. Favourite sports and teams. Worst or best game they ever watched or played.

Go out and…
• Visit a petting zoo, pet store, animal shelter, aviary, aquarium, or just go for a drive and see some farm animals or birds.

Or stay at home and…
• Do some bird watching, a birdbath or feeder is useful for this

In the house…
• Watch a nature show
• Watch funny animal videos on You Tube
• Look at photos or books with favourite animals

Talk about favourite animals and pets. List animals you find in a zoo, in the ocean, in the jungle etc.

Go out and…
• Visit a car museum or car yard

Or stay at home and…
• Wash and polish the car

In the house…
• Watch a car show on TV
• Look at a car magazine or book
• Look at a socket set

Talk about favourite cars, makes of cars, cars owned in the past, fastest cars, first car every owned, everything cars.

Go out and…
• Visit a beach, look for interesting shells to collect

Or stay at home and…
• Sort through shells someone has collected in the past. It’s nice if you can sit outside and do this.

Talk about the beach, holidays, favourite beaches, things on the beach, games you played at the beach, the ocean, animals that live in the ocean.

Go out and…
• Listen to a local music group. Keep an eye out for school or community concerts. Also buskers or small groups that play in communal areas.

Or stay at home and…
• Listen to some favourite music
• Shake a tambourine, beat a drum, clap hands or tap sticks along to the music

Talk about favourite music, singers, bands, and orchestras. Musical events attended in the past. Music loved and music not enjoyed.

When thinking of suitable activities it’s helpful to think about a persons background and what they enjoyed doing on the past. We’d love to hear any other activity ideas you have found that work well with people living with dementia. Contact us or leave a comment below.


Have a look at Mindjig’s listing here on Eldernet

About Julie Bourla

Julie Bourla
Julie Bourla is a co-owner of the online store, Mindjig.co.nz. Mindjig offers gifts and activities for people living with dementia or brain injury. Her husband, Jonathan, is an activities coordinator in a secure dementia unit. Together they have been developing engaging solutions geared particuarly towards New Zealanders, to help people living with cognitive challenges and also their carers/families. With Julie’s background in graphic design & illustration and Jonathan’s in photography, they use their skills to make meaningful products with many of the activities on the site being designed and produced themselves.

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