When conditions drive our senior loved ones indoors for an extended period, things can get dull quickly. Here at Weatherly Inn, we're experts at helping seniors with Alzheimer's disease or dementia get through required periods of confinement, like when they are not feeling well after surgery or during a crisis. To mix things up from the traditional card game, board games, and crossword puzzles, we want to provide some creative activity ideas that encourage social interaction and individual well-being for older adults dealing with memory loss.
From solo games to gardening, we're going to cover the ten best activities and games for folks in memory care.
The Ten Best Games and Activities for Memory Care
We'll begin with some solo games and activities. We chose these because they're inexpensive, easy to get your hands on, and thoroughly entertaining. They're simple and require very little interaction from a caregiver once your family member gets the gist of the game. If you need twenty minutes to take a shower or do dishes, these are ideal games and activities for memory care.
1. Puzzles - Jigsaw Puzzles and "Match 3" Games on Tablets and Devices
Traditional jigsaw puzzles are a reliable way to entertain our senior family members. Seniors can gain a solid sense of accomplishment once a puzzle is complete.
Keep in mind, big table-top puzzles can take up a lot of room, and lost pieces may cause frustration, so it may be best to start with smaller jigsaw puzzles. Or consider modern puzzles and "apps" too.
"Match 3" games or tile-matching games on tablets, phones and devices are engaging, simple and free. Set your loved
one up with a new Candy Crush game, explain the rules to match three, and leave them to it.
A few things to remember when setting up your loved one on an app:
- Remember to get in your parental controls and disable in-game purchases.
- Be sure to set up a brand new game for your family member.
- Match 3 games should always begin with basic, introductory levels.
- Your family member will enjoy the confidence boost of easy wins while they learn the rules of the game.
If your loved one enjoys these games, feel free to download more. Make them easy to access by keeping icons on the front display of your device.
2. Brain Training Games for Memory Care
Alzheimers.net tells us, "Brain-training games capitalize on the ease with which we game by offering a wealth of puzzles and problems that can be played for hours or merely minutes at a time. " Depending on your family member's familiarity with technology, these can be entertaining ways to (hopefully) improve memory, maintain brain health, and possibly slow the progression of Alzheimer's or dementia.
Genuine proof that these games will improve cognitive function is difficult to qualify, so we aren't making any promises about that. But they sure are entertaining and stimulating activities! Check out Dakim.com for hundreds of competitive brain exercises.
Now that we've provided some solo memory care games and activities let's look at group options for the family setting.
3. Create a Family Photo Album
Creating a photo album with your loved one is one of the most meaningful activities you can do. Small group interactions around the table are a great way to keep your loved one engaged!
Remember to keep it lighthearted and stress-free. If your family member doesn't recognize important individuals (even yourself), don't take it personally. It's a natural progression of their condition, and they aren't at fault. Try not to scold them, or act surprised if they cannot remember someone.
- Try reminiscing about the day or event where a photo was taken. Say something like, "Oh, this picture was at Sally's wedding. We had a wonderful cake. You wore your favorite suit and shoes."
- This may jog their memory. If not, at least it was a positive, meaningful bonding time for the family.
Take as long as you like creating the photo album. This process can be drawn out over days for plenty of positive entertainment for everyone in the home.
Moving forward, sometimes the best activities for memory care patients are outdoorsy. As a caregiver, you'll need to be present. Leave the cell phone at home and try these outdoor dementia activities.
4. Exercise & Outdoor Activity for Memory Care
Take a little walk (or wheel) around your neighborhood. Recent studies suggest that aerobic activity slows the progression of dementia or Alzheimer's disease most, but any kind of exercise is beneficial, even if your family member can't walk.
Enjoy a meandering walk close to home. Keep the conversation lighthearted and pay close attention to your loved one. You don't want to overwork them. Look for signs they might be feeling confused or agitated. If they start getting upset, it's time to go home.
5. Go for a Scenic Drive
Everyone enjoys a little sightseeing now and then! A scenic drive can be a pleasant way to get out of the house and get some fresh air. Here at Weatherly Inn, we like to take our memory care residents out for several drives every week and out to breakfast too.
6. Get Into Gardening
Indoors, outdoors, in a greenhouse or a bright living room window — gardening can be fantastic for folks with memory care needs. Your investment is entirely up to you. Whether you're starting a few seeds on a windowsill or creating an outdoor oasis, gardening can be an incredibly rewarding activity that keeps your loved one engaged.
7. Day Trips and Special Outings
A special day out of the house is just as exciting to your senior family member as it is to the rest of us! Special events and gatherings can be great activities for folks in memory care, so don't avoid them during the regular course of things.
If social distancing is advised, it should go without saying that we wouldn't try to group our seniors at a gathering. In those situations, focus more on the solo and in-home activities and games for memory care, like those we've mentioned above.
If a special outing is allowed, remember to plan:
- Give yourself extra time to dress and pack.
- Bring a few simple drinks and snacks.
- Provide your loved one with several forms of ID and contact information.
- Remember to pack their medications and set timers. Be sure to take prescriptions on time!
- Avoid crowds or large groups of strangers. These are known to make Alzheimer's and dementia patients upset and can lead to agitation and wandering.
The best advice we could give about special outings for individuals in memory care is to know when to end the day. Leaving early is better than tiring them and courting an episode. With that said, let's look at some more relaxing activities we can do with family members when it's time to quiet down.
9. Music Activities Are Awesome for Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia
Music has wonderful effects that can help improve memory and cognitive abilities of folks who need memory care services. According to the Mayo Clinic, "Research suggests that listening to or singing songs can provide emotional and behavioral benefits for people with Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia. Musical memories are often preserved in Alzheimer's disease because key brain areas linked to musical memory are relatively undamaged by the disease."
Studies by the Mayo Clinic have shown that musical activities and games for memory care patients can:
- reduce stress
- relieve agitation
- and even reduce depression!
Technology has made it so easy to access the music your family member once enjoyed, but you can take advantage of "oldies" radio stations and AM radio too. Or, plan a special day outing to a free classical concert at your local park.
If your loved one plays a musical instrument, invite them to play for you! Not only will watching them play music give you joy, but it can also help them maintain their motor skills.
10. Arts & Crafts
Last but not least on our list of dementia care activities and games ideal for memory care needs is arts and crafts. Save these ideas for rainy days, or times when a loved one needs to be entertained under light supervision. Here are some ideas, just remember to keep the tools simple and NOT SHARP.
- Beading is fun. Engage your senior family member by having them sort beads by color and count them for stringing.
- Grab some acrylic paints and a spool of twine from a department store and let your family member paint uncooked pasta to use for "beads." You can take a seasonal or holiday approach to crafting decorations, like strands of tinsel. Valentine's Day pasta beads can be pink and red. Springtime beads can be yellow and green, and so on.
- Hang beads around the home or at a specific place outdoors with your senior family member.
Ultimately, it takes a little planning and thought to create engaging arts and crafts ideas for loved ones with dementia or Alzheimer's. But the results will pay off, and you'll know you're providing the best possible home care for your family member.
Whether in the early stages or later stages, sometimes caregivers can feel overwhelmed trying to provide memory care for a loved one. Even with the memory games we listed, providing the quality of life your loved one needs is challenging on your own. We understand! There is no shame in it! If you'd like to learn more about our memory care facilities at Weatherly Inn, or perhaps just scheduled some well-deserved day & respite care, contact us today.