Seven Fun Fall Activities for Seniors with Dementia

Coping with the effects of cognitive decline can be challenging for family members caring for a senior loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. There is no question that this can be a difficult time, one that comes with feelings of loss and distress. Not only is dementia and Alzheimer’s disease difficult to cope with, but family caregivers can also be apprehensive about assisting with daily living activities and supporting their loved one as their brain changes. While searching for the right care options can undoubtedly be daunting, the advantages of moving a loved one to a memory care community in Metairie are many.
One main advantage of residential memory care homes is trained professional caregivers who provide activities for seniors experiencing cognitive decline. Let’s explore fun activities memory care facilities in Metairie use to support cognition with their senior residents that family caregivers can also do at home!

Why Brain Activities Are Important

We all know that physical exercise is necessary to strengthen and train our bodies, but did you also know that similarly, cognitive training and activities work to stimulate the brain? Cognitive activities are a great way to grow and develop new connections within the brain as a person ages. When caring for loved ones with cognitive impairments, it’s not only crucial to care for their daily wellbeing, but their brain health as well.

Activities That Support Cognition

Activities that stimulate the brain are essential to supporting cognition in seniors. These activities and therapies can’t stop cognitive decline, but they can help slow its progression. The key is to find activities that your senior loved one enjoys and use the right combination of calming and stimulating activities. Doing so will positively contribute to your loved one’s overall wellbeing and can help reduce stress and behaviors associated with their condition.

Here are seven fun activities that family caregivers can do to support cognition in senior loved ones living with dementia.

1. Games & Puzzles

Games and puzzles are fantastic activities for seniors living with cognitive decline. However, it’s important to choose games and puzzles that your loved one can manage. Avoid choosing ones that are too complicated or advanced. These may cause frustration, leading your loved one to give up on these activities. You may want to consider games and puzzles made for children, as these are not overly difficult yet still provide a challenge for your loved one.
When it comes to following the rules exactly, don’t be too fixated on this. The goal isn’t for your loved one to perfectly follow the rules. Instead, the aim is to keep your loved one engaged, active, and enjoying the activity their participating in. You may find your loved one is being somewhat creative with the activity, and that’s ok! Just allow your loved one to have fun and enjoy your time together!

2. Reading

Reading is a wonderful way to inspire the imagination! When we read, our brain creates images that match the words in the text. This is an excellent method that exercises the mind and entertains us at the same time.

The good news is that many seniors living with dementia may still love reading! Although they may not be able to read independently as they once did, they can still enjoy reading when provided with appropriate magazines and books that can engage their attention and interest.

Reading a book with your loved one is an excellent way to keep their brain active and enjoy quality time together.
It’s important to speak with your loved one’s physician about their abilities and ask for suggestions on reading material that will help with cognition and be fun and engaging. Depending on the disease progression, some seniors living with dementia may do better reading materials appropriate for young readers such as children’s books.

3. Word Games

Did your loved one enjoy playing word games such as Scrabble in the past? If so, you may want to consider reintroducing them to these fun games again! Word games are an effective way to improve memory, word recall, and other brain functions as we age.

For example, you can use letter tiles from Scrabble to create words without following the game’s rules! It’s even possible to place tiles on top of one another to create new words. Playing the game this way still engages your loved one’s mind and may help them recall words. It’s a way to make the game easier and more fun! If Scrabble is too challenging, family members can participate in word search puzzles together!
The goal is to find word games your senior loved one enjoys. They may need a little encouragement if the game feels too challenging. Be patient, take time and play these games for fun. No one has to keep track of points! Like reading, ask your loved one’s physician for suggested word games that would be most beneficial based on their cognitive abilities.

4. Card Games

Another fun activity for families to do with their loved one living with dementia is card games. Fun card games to play with your loved one can include Go Fish, Memory, or Solitaire.

It’s important to select card games based on your loved one’s cognitive ability so that the game can be both engaging and fun and not cause your loved one to become frustrated or upset. The best part about these activities is the one-on-one quality time family members can spend together.

5. Arts & Crafts

Arts and crafts are also beneficial for people who have cognitive conditions. For these activities, it’s necessary for the mind and hands to work together. These projects don’t have to be elaborate or expensive. The goal is to get your loved one’s mind and hands engaged in an activity he or she enjoys.
Arts and crafts activities engage the mind and are a fun way for seniors to create something handmade. They can keep the items or give them to loved ones, too. Some projects may take months to complete, such as making a quilt or blanket. It’s important to provide your loved one with an activity they can participate in and look forward to each day.

When planning an arts and crafts activity, consider hobbies or interests your loved one had in the past and have some fun! Whether they loved to knit or crochet, paint or woodwork, the key is to engage your loved one in activities they used to enjoy and can still do. No matter what arts and crafts they like, these projects are a great way to engage the mind and hands. And your senior loved one will have fun in the process!

6. Music Therapy

Music is another beneficial activity to calm and soothe loved ones with cognitive impairments. Studies have shown that music releases a chemical called dopamine, the “feel good” chemical that helps the brain to feel calmer and happier. Other studies have shown that music is highly beneficial for dementia patients in reducing aggression and anxiety over a six-week period.

So, if your loved one has enjoyed music throughout their lives, consider playing songs from their youth, holiday, or spiritual music, and more! Not only can these songs improve a loved one’s day, but they can also cause the mind to recall words from the song and may improve immediate communication.

7. Make a Memory Box

Another activity that can help seniors with cognitive conditions is creating a memory box. This is an activity that usually requires help from friends and family members and can be a wonderful way to support your loved one and honor their life. 

A memory box is a box that contains items that can remind your loved one of their families, careers, hobbies, and more. Here are some ideas on what to include in a memory box: 

      • Photos
      • Fabric (from a work uniform, wedding dress, baby’s baptismal gown, and more)
      • Items from fun activities (baking, painting, woodworking, crocheting, etc.) 
      • Favorite scents (perfumes, from candles, baking, etc.)
      • Souvenirs and postcards from favorite vacations (or if your loved one lived overseas)

Concluding Thoughts

Caring for an aging family member with dementia can be challenging. It’s important for family caregivers to find activities that are enjoyable and engaging to senior loved ones. It may take some time to find appropriate activities based on cognitive abilities and interests, but once you do, your senior loved one will have fun, and you can enjoy valuable quality time together! 

If you have questions about how to care for your loved one living with dementia, contact us today. We’re always happy to answer your questions and speak with you about our customized care plans and activity programs that create a high quality of life for our senior residents!