On this page we’ve put together a guide on what activities you can do at home with someone living with dementia, and what resources you can access for free. The guide is grouped into different interest areas to help you find something that the person you care for would enjoy.
We’ve aimed to include activities for both “early” and “advanced” stages of dementia, but in reality everyone with dementia has different capabilities, and it’s worth having a go at anything you think the person you care for might enjoy.
Arts & Crafts
A lot of people with dementia can benefit from art therapy of some kind. Arts-based activities can be cognitively simulating, provide a means of relaxation or simply allow the person with dementia to express themselves, particularly if it’s hard to do so verbally. Get stuck in with an art project and the time will fly by! Here are some arts-based activities you can try together:
Card-making has grown into a huge hobby in recent years, and these days you can buy a range of pre-made materials to produce professional-looking designs. You can buy stamps, paper shape cutters and stick-on words from hobby shops online to make the process easier – while still leaving room to be creative.
This is an activity you can do together using odd materials from around the house and some glue. Sometimes it can be good to make use of old newspapers or photos to turn this into a reminiscence-based activity – for more reminiscence activity ideas see below.
Whether it’s a standard colouring book or “paint-by-number”, all you need is a set of coloured pencils. If you don’t have a colouring book, here is a webpage where you can print out some designs to colour in. If you don’t have any coloured pencils, but you do have a tablet, you could try this website for colouring in on a tablet, or download the Colour by Numbers – Vehicles or Colour by Numbers – Flowers apps.
Puzzles can take up the whole afternoon or they can be done in stages over a week, so they can be flexible to whatever routine you have. For puzzles with fewer pieces designed for people with dementia, take a look at the Active Minds range of jigsaws. You might even want to make your own puzzle from a family holiday or event using a site such as Photobox. Finally, a great app for your tablet is the Magic Jigsaw Puzzles app. Like most apps, the free version does contain ads, but the main strength of the app is that you can decide how many pieces you want to be in the puzzle, to set the difficulty level.
It’s well known that music is a brilliant way to communicate with someone with dementia and tap into distant memories. We’ve got more information on the benefits of music for dementia on our dedicated music page. Here is a list of activities you can try together to help you make music:
Find music to listen to
BBC Music Memories is a free service designed for people with dementia to find music that they remember. Simply browse the site and choose from categories such classical music, popular music, theme tunes and international music. In the popular music section you can filter further by decade. You can also use the 100 Years Book to browse more popular tunes through the decades. Finally, you can search for a song by its lyrics using this site.
Sing with others
There are a number of virtual choirs running online – see this page by Music For Dementia for more information on the groups you can join. For dementia-specialist singing groups, the Alzheimer’s Society is running a number of its Singing For The Brain groups online.
Watch live music
There are lots of bands, soloists, and orchestras taking their performances online, or livestreaming pre-recorded performances for people to watch simultaneously. For more information on what’s available, see this page by Guideposts.
Looking for games to play on the tablet that would be suitable for dementia? In the past it was a matter of downloading something and seeing what works, but now the organisation AcToDementia has produced a guide to recommended apps, based on evidence-based reviews. Here is a selection of games recommended:
- Board games – Draughts, Othello, Backgammon, Dominoes, Connect 4, Tic Tac Toe, Battleships
- Card games – Rummy (ipad), Rummy (Android tablet), Solitaire
- Puzzles & word games – Wordsearch, Hangman, Sudoku, Scrabble
- A Better Visit – an app featuring a range of two-player games that are suitable for someone with dementia
- My Reef 3D – a game where you can interact with several types of fish in a virtual aquarium.
- Flower Garden – a relaxing game that lets you grow a virtual garden and share it with family and friends
Newspapers, TV, Radio
It’s easier than ever to access news, TV and Radio online, and the range of publications is wider than ever. Many of these work well as reminiscence activities. Here we’ve included some publications designed for older adults and people with dementia.
BBC Memory Radio
Combining entertainment, music and reminiscence, BBC Memory Radio is a series of three 90-minute programmes – one from the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, which bring you the best of BBC radio from each decade.
The Daily Sparkle
The Daily Sparkle is a reminiscence newspaper designed for older people and those living with dementia. You can sign up for an 8-week free trial which gives you access to eight editions of the paper, music and singalongs, activity packs, and a library of 1-2-1 activities specifically created for people living with late-stage dementia. More information about the Daily Sparkle in general can be found here.
The British Film Institute (BFI) has an extensive archive of film footage taken over the last century, offering an insight into how life in the UK used to be. It also features some older films you can watch together. Everything on the site is free!
BBC Reminiscence Archive
This is a free resource designed to take you back in time through images, audio and video. You can select by decade or select by theme – such as “Events”, “Sport” or “Childhood”.
My House of Memories App
My House of Memories is an app designed by and for people with dementia that you can download to an iPad or Android tablet. The app has pictures of objects from across the decades, which are brought to life with sound, music and descriptions, and provide an easy-to-use way to help people living with dementia explore things that resonate with them. You can also add your own pictures to the house. Download the app here.
A weekly digital newspaper produced by the Sporting Memories Foundation, this focuses on sport reminiscence and contains articles, quizzes, a sports diary and more. Click here to sign up for a free digital subscription.
Here are some resources that don’t easily fit into the other categories but which you might useful:
- Tracing your family tree – This is a much more involved activity but it can be highly rewarding. The challenge is knowing where to start – so here is a guide from Age UK that can help.
- The StoryBox Project – this organisation is offering is programme of activities for free to families during the COVID-19 quarantine. The programme contains hundreds of creative activity plans laid out clearly in a “recipe” format. You can sign up to receive the resources here.
- The Best Seat in the House – a twice-weekly variety show that is available for free on Youtube, by The Not Forgotten. See all episodes here.
- ReMe – a software package designed to provide activites, with new activites added all the time and often centered around different world days. The software is usually paid-for but is being offered for free for six months at the moment. Sign up to get access here.
- Stay Connected – this is a comprehensive resource by the charity Guideposts which lists all of the different ways you can connect virtually with others online. Not everything will be suitable for people with dementia, but you may be interested in their guides on gardening, gentle exercises, nature webcams, or free drawing and painting challenges.