Activities should form a core part of the care plans for your residents, and there is an enormous amount that you can do, from music and quizzes to arts and crafts. Here are some ideas to get you started…
Music and sound
1. Name that tune
Doing a music quiz can be a great way to trigger memories and reminiscence about a particular era. If residents struggle to say or recall the name of the song, you could play musical bingo and provide words or images that are mentioned in the songs.
2. Read aloud
Have an afternoon of story or poetry reading with residents. Studies have shown that reading can be a very enjoyable activity, even if the person with dementia can’t remember the whole story.
3. Group sing-a-long
Nothing beats getting everyone together to sing along to classic songs and tunes. Pick ones that will resonate most with your residents (start by having a think about what era they would have grown up in). Ideally, choose songs from when they were in their teens and 20s. You can usually find the words for songs online, so print out song sheets that people can follow if they don’t know the words. Or you could invest in a song lyric book and a sing along CD.
4. Roll out some scented dough
Have a competition to see who can create the most life-like objects or characters. The simple of action of rolling dough is great for those with dexterity issues and can be very therapeutic.
5. Card making
Making your own cards can be a very enjoyable activity: Fold a piece of A4 card in half then make sure you have lots of materials ready to decorate it with. For example, use old wildlife magazines, gift paper or wallpaper to create a collage, get out the paints, coloured pencils, tissue paper and stickers. You could also use smaller items to stick on the front, such as buttons and ribbons.
This can be a great activity to stimulate reminiscence as well as provide something for residents to do. Give each resident their own scrapbook and then encourage them to stick photos and images that remind them of their life. It can also be a very useful tool to help care workers get to know people in the home.
Puzzles and games
Jigsaws can make an ideal small group activity, they’re perfect for between two and four people, particularly if the jigsaw is relatively large and has a reasonable amount of pieces. One of the best things about puzzles is how versatile they are. For mild or early stage dementia, a 3D puzzle could be very absorbing, whilst later on a 24 piece puzzle might be more appropriate. The simplest puzzles with 13 pieces are a good choice for those whose condition is more advanced. To see the wide variety of jigsaws currently available, take a look here.
Residents can still get enjoyment from certain boardgames, depending on their level of condition. For example, if you want to get conversation flowing, you could try Call To Mind, which is a boardgame designed specifically for people with dementia. However, other traditional games such as Large Print Scrabble, card games (image snap), or dominoes could be enjoyable too. For more boardgame ideas, go here.
9. Garden and floor games
Whether it’s wet or dry outside, garden and floor games can be a great activity to do in a care home if you have the space. Skittles, boules, horseshoe and ring toss games are good as they can be played from a sitting position – perfect if your residents aren’t that mobile. Here’s a few more ideas to inspire.
10. Exercise classes
Exercise is key for helping to boost mood, improve strength and generally make residents happier and more content. There are plenty exercise DVDs and equipment to help older people keep fit, but you could also look into getting a trained fitness instructor who can do classes for those who are less mobile.
The brilliance of dance as an exercise for the elderly is its ability to bring together both movement and music into one activity. It has the power to stimulate reminiscence and is proven to improve balance and cognitive ability (according to a study from Sweden). Don’t worry too much about knowing the correct steps, simply pick some dance-friendly music that you think residents will enjoy and get moving!
If your care home has a garden, encourage residents to get out and about in the fresh air each day. It’s important to ensure you have a dementia-friendly garden, one that’s easy to get around for those with limited mobility, has points of rest and interest and is closed off so that residents who like to walk and explore remain safe.
13. Have a blind tasting competition
Pick some distinctive foods that might trigger memories – think Angel Delight, Chocolate, cream crackers – and see if residents can work out what they are when blindfolded. Afterwards, get them to share their experiences of eating these foods.
14. Guess the bird sound
Use YouTube to find the calls of different birds (both native and from abroad) and see if your residents can guess which bird is making it. You could do this for a range of animals, and even play bingo with it by using the Active Minds Animal Bingo set.
15. Make a lucky dip
Create one large lucky dip bag, fill it with sensory and reminiscence items, then encourage residents to dip their hands in and pull out an object that they can touch and feel safely, and which might also trigger some happy memories.
16. Hand massages
Receiving a hand massage can be extremely relaxing and often goes down particularly well with female residents (although men may enjoy it too). If time allows, it could form part of a manicure service, or you could consider asking a professional nail technician to come in and offer their services.
17. Seated yoga
Yoga is a fantastic activity for improving strength and flexibility and helping to relax the mind. If your residents aren’t particularly mobile, there are adapted yoga poses that can be done from the comfort of a chair. We’d recommend hiring a professional yoga teacher to help run these sessions.
The beauty of meditation is that it is easy to do and accessible for everyone. Try searching for guided meditations on YouTube to get some inspiration or to play to your residents. Meditation could be particularly useful as an evening activity to help people wind down before bed.
19. Folding laundry
Don’t feel guilty about providing residents with a task to do. Many will have worked their whole life and will relish the prospect of getting on with a job and feeling useful. Something like laundry folding can provide a sense of purpose that could help to boost their mood and self-confidence.
20. Laying the table
Once again, this can be an enjoyable task for someone with dementia. If they get knives and forks muddled up and need a bit of help, consider getting some placemats that clearly mark where cutlery should sit. Alternatively, they may want to help with clearing away or washing up.
21. Activity Kits
Entertaining lots of residents with different interests and needs is no easy task. If you’re struggling to find activities everyone will enjoy, take a look at our new Complete Activities Kit. Designed with professionals in mind, this massive kit contains eight jigsaw puzzles, five Aquapaint sets, and enough crafts and reminiscence games to keep everyone you care for busy and stimulated. Go here for more information.
Good to know
If you’re looking for a smaller selection of theme-based activities, we have several for you to choose from. Take a look at our Summertime Activities Bundle (to bring back happy holiday memories) the Tool Shed Activities Bundle (popular with anyone who enjoyed DIY) and our bestselling Boredom Buster kit. Go here to find out more.