Nearly 40% of Americans over age 65 will deal with some memory loss as they age. And around 8% of people will have some type of dementia. People dealing with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease end up receiving critical memory care as they age— and a part of that care is therapy that includes:

  • Music therapy 🎶
  • Physical therapy 🚶
  • Art therapy 🎨
  • And more ➕

Memory care therapy might include a wide array of everyday activities that keep their mind sharp and can slow the progression of dementia in some patients. So here are some fun activities for memory care patients to help boost their quality of life, all while helping treat their brain and memory issues.

The Benefits of Memory Care in Dementia Patients

While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia, memory care can help slow the progression of the disease and enhance the quality of life in most patients. Socialization and brain activities help combat the negative effects of isolation and mental health struggles that can come with nursing homes or at-home care.

These places just can’t facilitate the proper care for people with dementia. Ultimately, the benefits of memory care for these patients include:

  • Better quality of life
  • Specialized and individualized therapy
  • More 1-on-1 care than nursing homes
  • Socializing opportunities
  • Creating a safe space
  • Added independence for older adults

Popular Memory Care Activities

 activities for memory care patients music therapy

There are a variety of activities to help memory care patients work through therapy with fun and engaging activites. Music therapy, for example, is especially popular since it uses rhythm and lyrics to stimulate memories. Movement-based activities like dancing or yoga create healthy socialization opportunities that help a person focus on their body’s movements in the present instead of dwelling on the past.

You can also encourage art activities, word games, puzzles, and even cooking classes. It’s important to find a few activities that the person enjoys doing in order to keep them engaged and motivated. Below are some more popular memory care activities.

1) Music Therapy

Music therapy can be incredibly effective in people with dementia. According to Practical Neurology, activities like singing, dancing, and riding a bike are all part of our Procedural Memory, which stays relatively intact even in people with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

There have been many marvelous stories of people with dementia saying they don’t know a song on the piano yet go on to play it flawlessly. Or the sweet story of the former ballerina who still remembers her dance moves when she listens to Swan Lake, despite having Alzheimer’s well into her 90s.

Examples of music therapy that can be very easy and cost-effective, for patients include:

  • Playing nostalgic music or their favorite songs
  • Holding a group sing along
  • Hiring local performers to come put on small concerts
  • Playing the radio in their rooms during relaxation times
  • Playing music while doing other therapies or during meals
  • Having instruments around to play during downtime

2) Building a Memory Box

A memory box is a beautiful way to help dementia patients remember their past lives and create meaningful conversations. The boxes can be filled with items like photos, books, letters, or other meaningful things that evoke emotions in them.

The boxes are often used as part of reminiscing therapy, which helps them recall memories from different points in their lives. They’re also a really fun activity to do together. You could also decorate a bulletin board in their room with pictures of family, friends, pets, or other things they like that bring them joy.

3) Puzzles

Puzzles are good for anyone to stimulate the brain, but especially in folks in the early stages to mid stages of dementia. You could utilize anything from a simple toddler-friendly puzzle that helps with both memory and dexterity to more advanced 500-1,000 piece puzzles depending on the level of dementia one has.

There are also brain puzzle games like Rubix cube, building block puzzles, Kanoodle, Tetris, and more. These can really help those with dementia symptoms such as anxiety or depression focus their mind on something stimulating and engaging.

4) Hands-On Crafts

 activities for memory care patients arts and crafts

While some crafts can be tough for seniors to do, there are simple ones, like elementary school-level crafts, that can be as fun as they are challenging— working great for a form of memory therapy. Some good examples of hands-on crafts for your senior living community include:

  • Creating collages
  • Coloring books
  • Popsicle stick figures
  • Knitting or crochet (a bit more advanced)
  • Tying knots or making macrame
  • Making beaded jewelry

5) Painting and Art Therapy

Art therapy not only stimulates the brain and enhances creativity, it helps with self-expression, which can be a major factor in getting emotions out they may not otherwise be able to say. When talking isn’t enough, or even possible, painting is a great outlet for that. While painting is one of the more popular forms of art therapy, other activities like clay sculpting or pottery are also great options.

In addition to creating art, it also provides socialization opportunities to those feeling isolated in their rooms or being away from family. When they finish their paintings or other art pieces, it can be a cool way to decorate their room or the facility— they can feel proud they accomplished something that’s now on display.

6) Large-Print Playing Cards

Many older adults, depending on the level of dementia they have, still know more about card games than anyone. Card games are a perfect way to socialize, stimulate the brain, and reminisce about their past lives. However, in addition to their memory, their vision may not be what it once was.

So, purchasing some large-print playing cards can be a great way to allow them to continue playing card games with each other as a form of therapy without worrying about struggling to read the tiny print.

7) Sensory Therapy

Sensory stimulation is very important, and this type of therapy centers around using the five senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. It can help slow down dementia progression by helping to strengthen those senses with sensory activities that stimulate the brain like:

  • Exploring different smells with essential oils or scented candles
  • Playing games or listening to music in a dark room
  • Textile boxes with different textured fabrics and items to feel

Stimulating activities don’t even need to be that organized. It could be as simple as having individuals tie knots or fold laundry— familiar everyday tasks that can stimulate their touch sense and reduce anxiety or stress.

8) Watching Nostalgic Videos

While embarrassing, nothing beats watching old videos from our childhood or young adulthood. Or when you stumble across some of your favorite music videos or movies that give you a big dose of nostalgia that just feels good. The same goes for folks with forms of dementia.

Many senior living communities have television rooms, or at least televisions in the individual resident rooms— a perfect place to put on an old movie or TV show that people can watch and reminisce.

Thanks to streaming channels like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, there is no shortage of old (and new) movies to watch. When in doubt, you can always put on Turner Classic Movies and wow your residents with a blast from the past, like a John Wayne western or a classic like Gone With the Wind.

9) Community Garden

 activities for memory care patients community garden

If you’re looking for more group activities for active members of your facility, building a community garden on the property can be very beneficial in more ways than one. The benefits of planting a garden as a group for memory building are:

  • Working together towards a big final goal
  • Learning about and eating more nutritious foods
  • Getting some light physical activity
  • Having to learn and remember the steps of gardening
  • Remembering to water plants

10) Exercise Classes

As we age, our physical bodies can deteriorate as much as our minds, but it doesn’t mean exercise isn’t as vital as ever. Many studies have been done to connect exercise or cardiovascular health with brain health. And according to Harvard University, “Exercise boosts your memory and thinking skills both directly and indirectly.” The same chemicals that help with insulin resistance, inflammation, cell growth, and more also help grow and maintain new and existing brain cells. All are vital to ensuring longer-lasting memory and overall brain health.

Some low-impact exercises great for raising heart rate in the elderly without being at risk for injury might include:

  • Yoga
  • Lifting small 1-3 pound weights
  • Water aerobics
  • Bodyweight exercises
  • Walking (indoors or outdoors)

Ultimately just moving their bodies at least once a day can be a major difference between worsening and maintaining symptoms of dementia. Exercise helps maintain a healthy heart, mind, and body— no matter how low or high-impact it may be.

Choosing the Best Memory Care Facility

When you have a family member with dementia, working with a reputable senior living community that offers memory care as a service is the best move you can make for their care. Sunflower Communities offers an innovative memory care program called the Seeds of Success.

The Seeds of Success are guided by the philosophy that our specialized caregivers can sow seeds of possibility and hope in our dementia residents with hands-on care, education, expertise, and understanding. 

Whether it’s you or a loved one seeking the best memory care options, choosing Sunflower Communities means ensuring the transition into a memory care community is as seamless and comfortable as possible. If you’re interested, talk to one of our staff today to get started!