When a senior loved one has Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, it can be tough to keep them busy in meaningful ways. But it’s important to be persistent and keep trying. That’s because engaging in productive activities boosts self-esteem.

Adults with Alzheimer’s often feel diminished and discouraged about their inability to complete tasks they used to do independently. As their need for assistance increases, the senior may experience depression and a loss of interest in the world around them. You can help prevent or overcome that by structuring their days with productive activity.

For people with most forms of dementia, the positive feelings created by meaningful experiences linger long after memories of the activity itself are lost. If you aren’t sure how to get started planning more structured days, we have some ideas you will find useful.

Productive Activities for a Senior with Dementia

First, avoid childlike activities that may leave a senior feeling degraded. Children’s games and puzzles with bright colors and large pieces, for example, might seem like a good idea. In reality, they can actually be demeaning. Instead, offer activities and tasks that are genuinely productive.

It’s also important to focus on the process, not the outcome. By taking that approach, you can both find joy in the moment.

Here are some productive activities to help you plan a structured, weekly schedule for a senior with dementia:

  • Music: The therapeutic value of music is well-documented. Singing along to music from happy times can evoke memories long forgotten for someone with dementia. They might be from childhood, young adult days, or married life. Try to track down songs and artists your senior loved one reacts positively to and create a playlist.
  • Household chores: Contributing to the household can also help a senior feel more productive. Your family member can assist with chores that don’t require abstract thought, such as folding laundry, dusting, vacuuming, unpacking groceries, or sweeping the kitchen floor.
  • Arts and crafts: Like music, art is another form of therapy for people of all ages. Completing simple art projects together, like painting a wooden picture frame or making a garden stepping stone, is great bonding time.
  • Physical fitness: Engaging in physical activities, like chair yoga, walking, or stretching, can also leave the senior feeling accomplished. Exercise can help a senior with Alzheimer’s sleep better and be less inclined to wander.
  • Reminiscence: Going back in time can allow an adult with memory loss to revisit happier days. Pull out old family photos and reminisce as you sort through them together. You could make copies of favorites and put together a scrapbook or organize them into albums.
  • Pet care: Having an animal to love and care for can also make a senior with dementia feel needed. A dog, which needs to be fed, walked, and brushed, might be especially beneficial.
  • Gardening: Caring for a raised bed vegetable garden or container flower garden is also peaceful and productive. Just make sure the flowers aren’t toxic if consumed. It’s not uncommon for an adult with dementia to put things in their mouth to taste. Check this list of poisonous flowers before purchasing.
  • Nature: One of the most beneficial activities for people of all ages is spending time in nature. It can be as simple as bird-watching in your backyard or taking a nature hike at a local park. Most parks have accessible walking paths for those with mobility challenges. One note of caution is to invest in a GPS tracking device for the senior to wear in case you become separated.

As one of the Great Lakes region’s leading providers of specialized dementia care, Heritage Senior Communities are dedicated to helping seniors with a memory impairment enjoy productive days. We invite you to call the community nearest you to learn more about The Terrace, our dedicated dementia care units.