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Activities for Dementia Patients Can Provide Mind-Stimulating Benefits

Recommendations given in the 2011 World Alzheimer’s Report suggest that routinely providing individualized cognitive stimulation to those with mild to moderate stages of dementia can produce short-term improvements and/or reduce decline in cognitive function.
Recommendations given in the 2011 World Alzheimer’s Report suggest that routinely providing individualized cognitive stimulation to those with mild to moderate stages of dementia can produce short-term improvements and/or reduce decline in cognitive function.

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May 14, 2012

A common question many senior care professionals hear from individuals just diagnosed with dementia is:

"Is there anything I can do, besides taking medicine, that might help my memory?"

The general belief is that yes, cognitive stimulation can help slow the decline of dementia in its early stages. Here are recent study results that strongly support that general belief, along with mind-stimulating activities that you can suggest to your dementia patients and their families.

Proven Benefits of Cognitive Stimulation in People with Dementia

A systematic review published in the Cochrane Library titled Cognitive Stimulation to Improve Cognitive Functioning in People With Dementia evaluated the "effectiveness and impact of cognitive stimulation interventions aimed at improving cognition for people with dementia."

The review included 15 trials with a total of 718 participants in the mild to moderate stages of dementia. Cognitive stimulation activities included:

  • Discussion of past and present events and topics of interest,
  • Word games,
  • Puzzles,
  • Music, and
  • Practical activities such as baking or indoor gardening.

These activities were typically carried out for about 45 minutes at least twice a week.

The findings revealed "a clear, consistent benefit on cognitive function was associated with cognitive stimulation (standardized mean difference (SMD) 0.41, 95% CI 0.25 to 0.57)." The benefit remained evident one to three months after the end of the treatment.

Overall, participants who received cognitive stimulation also reported improved quality of life and they were able to communicate and interact better than previously.

These findings support the recommendations given in the 2011 World Alzheimer's Report, which suggests that routinely providing individualized cognitive stimulation to those with mild to moderate stages of dementia can produce short-term improvements and/or reduce decline in cognitive function. In addition to improving cognitive function in individuals with dementia, trial results from non-pharmacological interventions revealed improved functional status, quality of life, psychological wellbeing and social participation.

Mind-Stimulating Activities for Dementia Patients

Activities that provide cognitive stimulation ideally target both mental and social functioning. Cognitive stimulation can be administered either in a group setting, such as that of a nursing home or residential care setting, or it can be provided individually by a professional or family caregiver and tailored to the affected individual's specific interests and abilities.

Consider suggesting a variety of activities in the following categories:

  • Thinking – puzzles, games, reading
  • Physical – take a walk, arm and leg exercises, dancing
  • Social – visiting with family and friends, senior center activities
  • Chores – folding the laundry, setting the table, feeding the pets
  • Creative – arts and crafts projects, painting, playing music or singing
  • Daily living – taking a shower, brushing teeth, eating, getting dressed

Reminiscence therapy is another type of cognitive stimulation that can help improve the quality of life for an individual with dementia. Reminiscence activities may include:

  • Looking through photo albums
  • Creating a scrapbook
  • Telling "I remember when" stories
  • Re-reading saved letters and greeting cards
  • Listening to music
  • Baking and eating a special family recipe together

HelpForAlzheimersFamilies.com offers a wealth of additional ideas and best practices for ways individuals with dementia can benefit from memory-related activities. Visit the Capturing and Leveraging Memories page for tips to stimulate meaningful conversation, activity ideas that use the senses to evoke memories, and more.

If an individual with dementia does not currently have a family member or other means of coordinating activities that promote cognitive functioning, companionship services from a non-medical in-home care provider can help ensure that individual can take advantage of the benefits of cognitive stimulation.

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. July 21, 2014 at 3:39 am | Posted by jane George

    Adult protective services maybe helpful

    Reply

    • July 27, 2014 at 10:01 am | Posted by KD

      Adult protective services has been involved with my grandmother and I will be honest they are not helpful. Yes they "diffused" the disagreements of care between family members, however they gave complete control to Jewish Family Services and they do not have my grandmother's best interests at heart. They are not taking care of her. I am actually researching now to find activities for the caretakers to do with her so I can make an "activity chest" for her. Do not go with adult protective services unless you ABSOLUTELY have no other recourse!

      Reply

      • July 29, 2014 at 11:36 am | Posted by wendi

        A lot of times when adult protective services gets involved they take the decision making from the family and it ends up with people that don't care about the person. I've seen it too many times.

        Reply

  2. February 15, 2014 at 8:59 pm | Posted by louis

    94 year old mom.....recently had a fall and broken her pelvis. Now post hospital she is in long term care and it has been a real journey! It's sad that this is how our seniors end up ............long term care where 'care' is a minimal term. :(

    Reply

  3. August 14, 2013 at 7:46 pm | Posted by Lori

    My friend who is 91 years old. She was moved out of her home of 30 years by a friend to an independent living place. She kept asking me who had the authority to move me here, she also thought stuff she had that had value had been lost during her move and could not remember I had took her to the bank so she could get money out and a couple of days later had no money. So I reported it to elderly abuse. Then I guess she got upset and violent and was moved to a group home. I finally found her she has no family and they could not give me info where she was at because I was not family. It has been only 2 months that it took me to find her and she is totally different. They say she has full blown dementia. I mean she would forget things unimportant things but she took care of herself, her house, her yard, and her dog. Now she has nothing not even her hearing aid and remembers nothing unless I bring up stories she has told me in the past then she remembers. Can this dementia happen like this or could it be caused from stress. like moving, and then hand cuffed and moved again to a group home and has none of her stuff not even her dog. Thank you for any help you can give me.

    Reply

  4. July 10, 2013 at 1:43 pm | Posted by JamesSmith2013

    I concur puzzle can be the best option...It helps to improve brain's thinking capability.. how to improve memory

    Reply

  5. June 26, 2013 at 3:23 pm | Posted by warren jensen

    I need further information on your services and the costs involved. Thank you.

    Reply

    • July 1, 2013 at 11:00 am | Posted by Cat Koehler

      Warren, Please contact your local Home Instead Senior Care for service and rate information. You can find their contact information at www.HomeInstead.com. Simply enter your zip-code so we can locate the nearest office. Cat Koehler Social Media Advocate Home Instead Senior care

      Reply

  6. March 16, 2013 at 6:20 pm | Posted by Angela DiFranco

    My Mother is 91 and she cant talk ,walk or care for herself anymore due to severe dementia. I play music that she used to love and give her foods she loves to eat. She loves chocolate and cheese cakes. I give her hand, shoulder massages, and talk to her about the old days.I say her prayers for her and she nodds. This is just some ideas for severe dementia suffers to have some enjoyment.

    Reply

  7. September 25, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Posted by Karen

    My mom was diagnosed with dementia and its really starting to hit home hard. She is the woman that has always been so strong for our family and now she's like a child. Love her so much and want to help out everyway that I can.

    Reply

  8. September 15, 2012 at 10:42 pm | Posted by Esther Brana

    Your mom could listen to her favorite music.It will bring back good memories,she can also look at picture albums and remember her favorite moments.If your mother cannot walk,you can enjoy some stretching and range of motion.It can be fun when she can do this with a loved one.You can read to her as well,and watch a movie or her favorite show,sharing positive thoughts and emotions can be beneficial to your mom.You will see a great improvement!!!!!!

    Reply

  9. July 20, 2012 at 1:36 am | Posted by Georgianna Asbury

    What is something my 97 year old Mother would enjoy doing since she can no longer talk or walk ...she sleeps most of the time. She used to do crossword puzzles but no longer..she needs something to do....tried puzzles..to hard now. Thank you

    Reply

    • August 23, 2012 at 10:47 am | Posted by Carol

      We took my 82 year old Dad to the doctor yesterday. He has advanced cancer and has trouble walking. We were told to go get a wheet chair and ask HIM what he 'wants' to do / where he wants to go and then take him to go do it! I guess it's a simple thing but we forget to do it. We're going fishing!

      Reply

    • May 6, 2013 at 2:17 pm | Posted by claret

      Try this book . Doodling for Seniors at $4.99 . It is meant for seniors who have difficulty in talking, walking and doing puzzles. If she can still hold a pen and draw then this should be possible for her to do. The dots are large and have pictures of everyday objects. Doing it everyday will help in gentle brain stimulation and will also occupy her meaningfully.

      Reply

      • July 10, 2013 at 8:46 pm | Posted by Di Mitchell

        We are interested in getting some doodling books, can you tell us where to get them from

        Reply

    • March 8, 2014 at 7:36 pm | Posted by karen

      hi Georgianna... I mother who was younger than yours, had the same limitations. Loved puzzles but all were too difficult. Memory Jogging Puzzles has easy puzzles with few pieces that your mother could do. 6 piece & 12 piece, they have large, chunky pieces for easy handling. Age appropriate for adults to enjoy.

      Reply

    • July 21, 2014 at 3:37 am | Posted by jane George

      If she can hear play music and listen to radio by the bed side. Show her pictures of her childhood and of her family. Travel channels have beautiful scenery like water falls with sounds and visual beauty. geographic channel is a favorite of many older people. Which ever senses are working find to stimulate them. Touch is a therapeutic mechanism. Children around her may make her cheerful and happy. Have a care giving person who is resourceful to make her brain active. Read stories to her. Make her repeat it. Make her talk. Older people may be tired but they like people around and talk. Make her sing along. Make her remember child hood events.

      Reply

  10. May 18, 2012 at 11:33 am | Posted by Betz Tepley

    After 23 years of living with my companion, he is in the early stages of Alzheimer's Disease, at the age of 92. I do not have any legal status in his life/family, but they do not know of his mental issues. He is starting to forget to pay bills, & is having problems with his bank statements... he is very "private" with his finances. I appreciate your info. Thank you.

    Reply

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