Significance of actions for individuals with dementia

When someone has dementia, their cognitive function may decline, but they still have skills and a desire for engagement. In fact, doing as much as possible at their current skill level keeps them active and can even help them maintain their skills longer.

There are four main reasons why activities are so important.

1. Slowing down the decline: As the saying goes, “use it or lose it”. If you continue to do as many activities and daily tasks on your own as possible, it will benefit people with dementia. Instead of automatically helping someone with a task, we should adjust activities as needed so they can do as much as possible for as long as possible. This can help them maintain their skills and stay active longer.

2. Create a daily structure: People with dementia cope best with a consistent daily routine. Having structure in the day gives the necessary predictability and stability when your mind makes you feel disoriented or confused.

3. Conveys a sense of productivity: As dementia progresses, people with dementia may become less capable and often feel a burden. Helping them participate in everyday tasks and activities can lift their spirits and improve the quality of life.

4. Reduce challenging behaviors: Activities can also reduce common expressions of behavior such as excitement, repetitive questions, and anger. This can help keep them occupied and allow them to use their energy in positive ways.

People with different stages of dementia may need different levels of support with activities. Overall, the goal of the activity is the process, not the result.

1. Preparation: Prepare the activity for your loved one. For example, you can help them brush their teeth on their own by putting toothpaste on their toothbrush and placing it next to the sink.

2. Supervision: If your loved one needs a little more help, set up the activity and then stay close but encourage them to do it themselves.

3. Prompt: You may need to help with the prompt so that your loved one does not become frustrated. If they get stuck, point out the next step, give them an item they need, or ask what the next action is.

4. Direct verbal cues: If prompting is not enough, you may need to guide them with brief instructions so that you have enough time to go through each step. For example: “Pick up the washcloth … turn on the tap … put the cloth in the water … turn off the tap … squeeze water out of the towel … wipe your face.”

5. Physical support: If your loved one can still manage the task physically but needs physical help, you can gently guide their actions. For example, when they are washing dishes, you could put your hand over theirs and instruct them to rub the dishes gently with the sponge.

When planning an activity for people with dementia, do you consider what they love to do today, what they used to love to do, what they can do, what they did for a living, what makes them meaningful, and what are you in the mood for?

Below are a few activities that you can try.

Take a walk, plant flowers, water plants, feed the birds, sweep the porch, listen to music, check out photo albums, play dominoes, solve a puzzle, give a hand massage, give one Manicure, bake biscuits, set the table, wash and dry the dishes, put away cutlery, cut out coupons, thread pearls, make greeting cards, fold towels, knock balloons, stretching exercises, arranging flowers, playing cards and much more.

You can find more ideas at

When you start to notice changes in memory, finding early detection is key. Senior Services offers a variety of memory assistance programs, including confidential memory screenings to help maintain a cognitive baseline, early memory loss programs, and educational courses along with support from Seasons Adult Day Health Services. If you or someone you know is experiencing progressive changes in their memory and could benefit from additional services, call Amy Sheridan, Family Support and Activity Manager, at 989-633-3764.

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