Caregivers and family members alike always do the best they can to connect with a senior loved one experiencing the effects of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Memory loss and cognitive decline resulting from these progressive conditions make it hard for that senior to communicate or understand their surroundings at times. Seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia find joy in the little things, and there are a number of brain-stimulating activities that can be done right at home!
Brain stimulation helps relieve some of the symptoms associated with these conditions. This can be done through many fun activities that also serve as therapies that put the mind to work.
We’ve listed ten different ideas that will help keep the mind sharp, focused, build confidence, and boost the mood of a senior. Take a look and see which activities you think your loved one will have the most enjoyment with!
Ten Fun Brain Stimulating Activities
1. Host a singalong or play some of their favorite music
Music has been proven to provide mental stimulation and ease the minds of seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia. It can soothe and calm behavior by reducing agitation and irritability. Even in the later stages of memory loss, music can help jog memory in the form of lyrics and certain tunes.
If you know what your loved one likes to listen to, start there. Make sure the volume isn’t too loud and that there aren’t too many outside distractions such as the television. You can play softer music to promote tranquility, or a more upbeat song that can evoke memories. Clapping and a bit of dancing to the beat allows for slight physical activity that they can further benefit from.
2. Complete a puzzle
Jigsaw puzzles are great brain stimulants as they exercise their problem solving skills and forming of shapes. A peaceful indoor activity, puzzles are something that promote concentration, focus, and attention to detail.
It almost allows a senior to go into a meditative state, with a lowered blood pressure and steady heart rate for some. The sense of accomplishment as it’s being completed brings happiness and fulfillment to the senior as well. Dopamine, the feel-good hormone, is also released as they piece it together.
3. Read the newspaper together
Regardless of the stage, your senior loved one may enjoy hearing current events and simply listening to what’s going on. Reading is also a great stimulant for the brain, triggering emotion, other memories of the past, and deeper thinking.
4. Bake or cook
An easy recipe that they really love is a great way to keep them busy and make them happy. Making chocolate chip cookies, freshly squeezed lemonade, or putting together a scrumptious homemade soup will warm the heart – and please the taste buds!
A family recipe may help bring back memories of the past and bring a smile to their face as well. By giving them the task of mixing ingredients together or rolling the dough, they are kept engaged with a productive and easy-going task.
5. An art or craft
Art is a form of expression, especially for seniors with memory loss. In the later stages, communication can falter. But with paints in vibrant colors and textures, moods and emotions can be displayed in a visual way.
Planting seeds or potting flowers can be a very relaxing way to pass the time if you’re not afraid to get your hands dirty! Flowers are known to naturally destress and promote creativity.
7. Scrapbook and organize old photos
Similar to puzzle solving, taking old photos and sorting them into an easy-to-view scrapbook keeps the mind busy and allows for a time to reminisce any old memories that may surface.
It’ll spark conversation, which may allow for stories you’ve not heard before! Reminisce therapy is an actual form that uses sight, smell, and sound, to help seniors break through memory loss and get in touch with the past. Photographs are a great visual to use to connect with your loved one and have that quality time together.
8. Have a movie marathon
A perfect option, especially on a rainy day when a walk just isn’t possible, would be hosting a movie marathon. Gather some of their favorite classics to queue up, make popcorn or a favorite snack, and sit back for an easy way to spend time together.
9. Play a couple rounds of Bingo
Don’t have supplies to play? There are bingo calling websites to help generate the numbers, so all you have to do is print out some cards. Simply cross off with a pen if you don’t have markers or if the senior isn’t able to place chips. This game is not only good fun, but stimulates hearing (listening for the number and letter), sight (looking for the number and letter), and touch (marking off matching boxes).
10. Chair exercises, yoga, or tai chi
For the more active individual, walks are likely a part of the daily routine. When the weather or physical ability doesn’t permit, chair exercises are a safe alternative. Turn on music they enjoy and move to the rhythm. Use maracas, streamers, tambourines, and other fun and engaging props!
Yoga is a relaxing and slow moving exercise that will engage the brain as they meditate and utilize different parts of their brain to move and follow breathing techniques. Tai chi is similar to yoga in the way of being slower moving and more of a calming exercise, but engages more muscle and strength building as they must work leg muscles to maintain a sense of balance.
Choosing the Right Activity
As behavior changes and moods become more sporadic, choosing the right time of day to do these activities can be of importance. Some seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia can find themselves more agitated or distraught towards the evening, which is associated with sundowning.
Early morning may not be ideal if they need some time to wake up and get ready for the day, so late morning to afternoon may be best for these activities when they are awake and in the best spirits. Mobility may limit some of these choices, but there is something that can be enjoyed for all levels of cognitive or physical ability.
At The Kensington, we enjoy individual and group activities for all. We cater to their strengths and aim to build upon them. Our expert staff works compassionately, with an expertise in memory care. We even offer on-site rehabilitation and therapies that leverage some of these activities into a consistent routine. If you have questions on how our memory care community provides the most exceptional care, give us a call today to find out more.