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13 great everyday activities for people with dementia

When looking to engage older people and people with dementia, we often take a cruise ship approach, assuming they need constant entertainment.
But this approach fails to recognise our lives are full of a variety of activities, and leisure activities are just one of them. Other activities we need in life are rest activities, productive activities and self-care activities. And it’s no different when we get older.


An ‘activity’ can be as simple as brushing your hair. We can too easily dismiss everyday tasks as not engaging an older person, when in fact those activities can hold great meaning and provide physical, cognitive, sensory and interpersonal benefits.

Below is a list of 13 activities for people with dementia and their amazing benefits.

1. Hanging out washing and taking washing off the line

Physical

  • standing balance
  • absorbing sunshine and fresh air
  • maintaining/improving range of motion in joints
  • strengthening (hand, arms, legs, back)
  • improving fine and gross motor movements
  • encourages lung expansion                
  • increasing activity endurance & encourages mobility

 

Cognitive

  • sequencing & remembering                                
  • attention/concentration                
  • judgement & problem solving
  • recognition of objects

 

Sensory Motor

  • tactile stimulation                        
  • eye hand coordination              
  • responding to environment

 

Interpersonal

  • helping out the cottage community
  • defining their role/importance to others

 

Intrapersonal

  • a sense of usefulness                  
  • sense of achievement & purpose

2. Bed making

Physical

  • strengthening (hand, arms, legs, back)
  • maintaining/improving range of motion in joints
  • balance
  • uses gross and fine motor skills

 

Cognitive

  • sequencing                                  
  • remembering                              
  • orientation to own environment
  • attention/concentration
  • recognition of objects

 

Sensory Motor

  • tactile stimulation
  • eye hand coordination
  • stimulation from movement

 

Interpersonal

  • helping out the cottage community

 

If being done with another person helping:          

  • creating relationships with others (if someone else helping)
  • cooperation

 

Intrapersonal

  • a sense of usefulness                        
  • sense of achievement              
  • a sense of purpose
  • sense of control over environment

3. Dusting

Physical

  • strengthening (hand, arms, legs)
  • standing balance
  • endurance/physical activity

 

Cognitive

  • sequencing                                
  • remembering                            
  • recognition of objects              
  • orientation to/familiarisation with the environment
  • attention to detail
  • attention/concentration
  • problem solving

 

Sensory Motor

  • tactile stimulation
  • eye hand co-ordination          
  • visual spatial differentiation
  • stimulation from movement
  • co-ordination of arms

 

Interpersonal

  • helping out the cottage community

 

Intrapersonal

  • a sense of purpose & usefulness                
  • sense of achievement & ownership
  • sense of control over environment

4. Vacuuming

Physical

  • strengthening (hand, arms, legs, back)
  • balance – sitting and/or standing
  • maintaining/improving range of motion in joints
  • prompting physical activity & cardiovascular fitness
  • stimulates appetite

 

Cognitive

  • sequencing & problem solving
  • improves memory, attention span & concentration
  • recognition of objects

 

Sensory Motor

  • stimulation from movement
  • eye hand coordination    
  • visual spatial differentiation

 

Interpersonal

  • helping out the cottage community

If being done with another person helping:          

  • creating relationships with others
  • fostering interaction & co-operation

 

Intrapersonal

  • a sense of usefulness, ownership & purpose
  • sense of achievement & control over environment

5. Collecting the mail

Physical

  • standing balance                    
  • cardiovascular fitness              
  • strengthening lower limbs      
  • exposure to sunlight
  • gross and fine motor skills
  • improves mobility

 

Cognitive

  • remembering                            
  • recognising objects                  
  • motor planning
  • attention/concentration

 

Sensory Motor

  • tactile stimulation
  • visual stimulation                        
  • stimulation from movement
  • eye hand co-ordination
  • auditory stimulation

 

Interpersonal

  • maintaining/supporting relationships with others
  • helping out cottage community

 

Intrapersonal

  • improves mood/affect            

          

6. Folding clothes

Physical

  • strengthening (hand, arms, legs, back)
  • balance – sitting and/or standing
  • maintaining/improving range of motion in joints
  • uses fine and gross motor skills

 

Cognitive

  • sequencing                                  
  • remembering
  • recognition of objects

 

Sensory Motor

  • eye hand co-ordination
  • stimulation from movement

 

Interpersonal

  • helping out the cottage community

 

If being done with another person helping:          

  • creating relationships with others
  • fostering interaction

 

Intrapersonal

  • a sense of usefulness & purpose
  • sense of achievement                
  • sense of control over environment

7. Doing the dishes

Physical

  • strengthening (hand, arms, legs, back)
  • balance – sitting and/or standing
  • maintaining/improving range of motion in joints
  • prompting physical activity
  • pain management

 

Cognitive

  • sequencing, planning & problem solving
  • improves memory, attention span & concentration                      
  • recognition of objects              
  • attention to detail

 

Sensory Motor

  • tactile stimulation
  • hand & eye co-ordination

 

Interpersonal

  • helping out the cottage community

If being done with another person helping:          

  • creating relationships with others
  • fostering interaction
  • fostering co-operation

 

Intrapersonal

  • a sense of usefulness & purpose
  • sense of achievement & ownership                
  • sense of control over environment

8. Setting the table

Physical

  • strengthening (hand, arms, legs, back)
  • balance – sitting and/or standing
  • maintaining/improving range of motion in joints
  • prompting physical activity

 

Cognitive

  • sequencing & problem solving
  • remembering & attention/concentration
  • recognition of objects & attention to detail
  • orientation to living environment & time of day

 

Sensory Motor

  • eye hand co-ordination          
  • stimulation from movement

 

Interpersonal

  • helping out the cottage community
  • encourage table manners/etiquette

If being done with another person helping:          

  • creating relationships with others
  • fostering interaction & encouraging co-operation

 

Intrapersonal

  • a sense of ownership, usefulness & purpose
  • sense of achievement & control over environment
  • enjoyment in eating meal

9. Food preparation

Physical

  • strengthening (hand, arms, legs, back)
  • balance – sitting and/or standing
  • gross and fine motor skills
  • cardio-vascular fitness
  • stimulating appetite

 

Cognitive

  • sequencing & problem solving
  • improved memory, attention span & concentration
  • recognition of objects & attention to detail

 

Sensory Motor

  • tactile stimulation                      
  • eye hand co-ordination & stimulation of smell

 

Interpersonal

  • helping out the cottage community
  • fostering sense of being part of ‘team’

If being done with another person helping:          

  • creating relationships with others
  • fostering interaction & encouraging co-operation
  • opportunity to reminisce and share experiences

 

Intrapersonal

  • a sense of usefulness, ownership & purpose
  • sense of achievement & control over environment

10. Going to the shops

Physical

  • dynamic standing balance          
  • physical endurance
  • cardio vascular fitness                            
  • improves mobility
  • gross and fine motor skills                      
  • strengthening

 

Cognitive

  • remembering & planning                              
  • attention/concentration
  • recognising objects                  

 

Sensory Motor

  • tactile stimulation                    
  • auditory stimulation

 

Interpersonal

  • relating with other people        
  • improving listening skills
  • co-operating with others

 

Intrapersonal

  • improves mood/affect            
  • relating to community value
  • improves self
  • improves confidence

11. Having a bath

Physical

  • relaxes muscles                            
  • recharges energy                        
  • maintains/increases muscle strength
  • maintains/increases range of movement in joints
  • pain management
  • cleansing/promotion of hygiene

 

Cognitive

  • recalls pleasant events            
  • de-clutters mind/thoughts

 

Sensory Motor

  • tactile stimulation
  • hand-eye co-ordination
  • stimulating sense of smell
  • visual stimulation

 

Interpersonal

  • interacting with staff member (if required)

 

Intrapersonal

  • improves mood/affect                
  • settling or invigorating                
  • time alone
  • expressing choice

 

12. Applying makeup

Physical

  • sitting balance
  • improves range of movement (shoulder/arm)
  • improves fine motor skills

 

Cognitive

  • remembering                            
  • recognising colours                  
  • recognising objects
  • motor planning
  • attention/concentration

 

Sensory Motor

  • tactile stimulation
  • visual stimulation
  • co-ordination of arms
  • improving listening skills

 

Interpersonal

  • relating with other people

 

Intrapersonal

  • improves mood/affect            
  • improves self esteem                
  • improves confidence
  • expressing femininity

13. Hairdressing

Physical

  • sitting balance                          
  • relaxes muscles

 

Cognitive

  • remembering                            
  • recognising objects                  
  • communication skills
  • motor planning
  • attention/concentration

 

Sensory Motor

  • tactile stimulation
  • stimulation from smell
  • visual stimulation

 

Interpersonal

  • relating with other people        
  • improving listening skills

 

Intrapersonal

  • improves mood/affect            
  • improves self esteem
  • expressing femininity
  • improves confidence

At HammondCare, we focus on “life engagement” not “activities” and figuring out what activities are meaningful for each individual resident.

We do this by getting to know them and discovering why a particular activity might have meaning for that person. For example, Bill might have loved watching cricket his whole life, but the key thing about it for him, the thing which made it meaningful was watching it with his mates with a beer in his hand.

If we try to sit him down in front of a TV, he would likely not be engaged because what gave the activity meaning (his mates, having a drink) is no longer present. It’s important for us as carers to work out ways to engage our residents in ways that are meaningful for them.

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