Caring for seniors with memory loss requires creativity and patience in activities to pass the time. Activities for the elderly should be engaging and enjoyable, but also need to be practical. Memory loss will often lead older adults to disengage from people and their regular activities, which adds complication to the task of introducing activities for them. But, mental and social engagement is crucial to longevity. To maintain strong mental health in later life, seniors need to maintain social participation – engaging in activities to suit the senior’s level of cognitive ability will help to fulfill their need for social stimulation as they age.
The importance of activity planning for caregivers
Activities for seniors with memory loss is crucial not only for the senior themselves but also for their caregiver. Caregiving can often feel mundane, and caregiver boredom is a problem that leads to burnout, among other issues. So, engaging in specific tasks and activities will bring a sense of productivity to the day. Doing so may also improve the mood of the memory-impaired senior, making day-to-day interactions more pleasant.
As a caregiver, planning activities in advance is key. With a full list of potential activities to carry out with the older adult when you have spare moments, you won’t feel trapped by long stretches of time with nothing to do. Planning also helps to ensure that you as the caregiver have the required materials, if there are any, for the chosen activity.
Degrees of memory loss
A key factor to consider before engaging in activities with seniors who are memory impaired is their degree of disability. Memory loss can be measured in stages that correlate to the severity of the impairment. With dementia, the brain changes and the ability to retain memories is negatively impacted, but there is a progression to the process.
The Global Deterioration Scale (CGS), which can also be referred to as the Reisberg Scale, shows seven distinct stages of dementia. As older adults move through the stages, cognitive ability decreases and the need for assistance increases. Activities for a senior with memory loss should be appropriate for their current stage and, therefore, their physical and cognitive abilities. Matching activities to a senior’s level of ability will foster positivity and the feeling of accomplishment.
The accepted descriptors for the stages of dementia according to the Global Deterioration Scale are listed below.
- In the early stages of dementia, a senior with exhibit clear signs of dementia but will still largely be able to go through their daily routine with minimal assistance. At this stage, seniors can often enjoy reasonably involved activities with physical engagement.
- In the mid-stages of dementia, a senior will likely need at least some assistance on a daily basis. Social engagement becomes a challenge at these stages, which is a major consideration for activity planning. Additionally, basic information like their address and phone number, as well as an awareness of who and where they are, will likely start to fade.
- In the late stages of dementia, a senior has minimal to no capacity to communicate or speak to others. Extensive assistance is needed to move through the daily routine. At this stage, the activities that a senior may complete are limited. But, there are still several options, including reading aloud, looking through pictures, and completing simple chores.
It’s crucial to plan activities that are well within the capabilities of a senior with memory loss. Successfully completing the activity will give senior confidence and a sense of purpose. Attempting to complete activities that are out of reach for a senior’s cognitive abilities may lead to confusion and frustration.
Benefits of activities for memory loss
Seniors with memory loss may instinctively retract from engaging in activities. But, when caregivers and family members engage in basic, manageable tasks with those with memory loss, it can have a considerable positive impact on the individual with memory loss. Beyond fulfilling the need to constructively pass the time, achievable activities enhance seniors’ overall well-being.
The specific advantages of activities for those with memory loss include:
- Provide social stimulation
- Provide a sense of purpose
- Build supportive connections with others
- Ease negative moods, anxiety, and irritability
- Encourage reminiscing to bring memories to the surface
Activities ideas for the elderly with memory loss
Brainstorming appropriate activities for seniors with memory loss can be surprisingly difficult. So, we’ve listed a wide selection of tried-and-true ideas to get you started:
- Bake cookies or other treats.
- Cook straightforward recipes.
- Dance to their favorite music.
- Sing simple, well-known songs.
- Maintain a garden by planting new seeds, weeding, or watering the plants.
- Have a conversation about early childhood memories, such as their first day of school or their first pet.
- Organize cards, beads, or other small objects by color.
- Read the newspaper, a magazine, or online articles aloud.
- Do simple puzzles and games.
- Complete a simple craft, like painting, embroidering, or knitting.
- Watch home videos.
- Complete simple domestic tasks, like folding laundry (ideally simple articles, like towels), dusting, sweeping, etc.
- Organize a drawer of office items.
- Play a simple card game (ideally with a deck that has large print).
- Cut pictures from magazines and newspapers that the senior is interested in.
- Leaf through books that the senior used to love to read.
For seniors with memory loss, their instinct may be to withdraw from social engagement and limit daily activities. As a loved one or caregiver, it’s important to encourage regular activities that are both enjoyable and stimulating. By participating in pleasant activities that are well-suited to their level of cognitive ability, seniors with memory loss will gain social connections, confidence, and a sense of purpose. Maintaining active mental engagement in various activities throughout later life is essential to aging health and longevity. Plus, having a set of activities to turn to as a caregiver can prevent boredom, enriching the day-to-day routine of both the senior and the caregiver.
More from Seasons.com:
“101 Activities to Do With People with Memory Loss, Alzheimer’s Disease, or Other Dementias: HealthCare Interactive.” HealthCare Interactive, HealthCare Interactive, www.hcinteractive.com/101-things-to-do-with-a-person-who-has-memory-loss.
DailyCaring. “10 Fun, No-Fail Activities for People with Dementia.” DailyCaring, DailyCaring, 2 July 2019, dailycaring.com/10-fun-failure-free-activities-for-people-with-dementia/.
DementiaCareCentral.com. “Stages of Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Durations & Scales Used to Measure Progression: GDS, FAST & CDR.” Dementia Care Central, National Institute on Aging, 1 Sept. 2018, www.dementiacarecentral.com/aboutdementia/facts/stages/#scales.
Wagner, Jennifer. “10 Stimulating Activities for Alzheimer’s Patients.” Alzheimers.net, Alzheimers.net, 26 June 2019, www.alzheimers.net/2014-03-06/stimulating-activities-for-alzheimers-patients/.
Yang, Yang Claire et al. “Social relationships and physiological determinants of longevity across the human life span.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America vol. 113,3 (2016): 578-83. doi:10.1073/pnas.1511085112