Summer Activities for Dementia Patients
People living with dementia still need to keep their minds active, albeit differently than everybody else. Here are some summer activities to pursue with your loved ones to bring about pleasant memories and feelings.
Food for Thought
Reminiscence activities are a great way to engage people living with dementia, encouraging them to spend time revisiting memories from the past, whether that be via smells, taste, sound, visual stimuli, or touch. Food in particular is a powerful reminiscence tool as it is can very quickly illicit memories and encourage conversation. Our food reminiscence activities can be enjoyed in a group, helping people to socialize, or as an individual, spending time re-living recollections of meals they have enjoyed in the past, perhaps during a special event, such as their wedding day.
What You Will Need
- 20 postcard sized cards
- Collection of cookery utensils. If possible, find older versions of the items, rather than modern ones, by scouring charity shops
- Suggested utensils can be a hand whisk, wooden spoons, brown mixing bowl, cupcake baking tin, funnel, lemon juicer, flour shaker, jello mould, measuring spoons, measuring jug, vegetable presser
On each postcard write or glue pictures of a variety of different food dishes or brands, e.g. Kellogg’s Cereal logos, Milkshakes, Meatloaf, Betty Crocker, Thanksgiving Roast, Apple Pie, Sundaes, Wimpy Logos, Biscuits and Gravy, Popcorn, Bagels and Key lime Pie.
On a table, place a selection of 5 of the kitchen utensils, then lay out the cards, face down. People take it in turns to choose a card, sharing a memory of that food with you or the group. You can encourage this by asking questions such as, when they remember eating this food? Or if they have ever cooked it?
Ask people to look at the utensils on the table and choose which one they may have used to cook that food, e.g. bowl and whisk to make a Betty Crocker recipe. Encourage people to handle the utensils. Touching the materials and feeling the various shapes may help trigger further memories.
Stupendous Sandwich Sampling
Using a selection of different types of bread; wholemeal, white, sourdough etc, you can either create the sandwiches and offer them for everyone to try, or encourage them to make their own, perhaps getting a bit creative with their fillings and trying some ingredients they’ve never tasted before. As the sandwiches are being eaten, incorporate a sensory aspect to the activity by asking people to talk about the different tastes and textures they can feel in their mouth and which fillings they enjoyed and which they did not. Pose questions as well, to help encourage conversations – what was the strangest fillings they have ever tried? What was their favourite sandwich as a child?
A fantastic activity to be enjoyed in a group or as an individual. This sensory game covers smell, touch and taste, which all help to trigger memories, as people spend time trying to guess what each food item is. It is important to remember that some people with dementia struggle with swallowing or have lost their sense of smell. If this is the case, the activity can still be enjoyed but adjustments may have to be made. For example, for people who find swallowing hard foods difficult, then ensure that soft foods are used. And for people who have lost their ability to smell, then concentrate on another sense, such as touch.
What You Will Need
A variety of food, suitable for guessing by smell, feel and taste:
Ideas for Smell:
Ideas for Feel:
Ideas for taste
With eyes closed, allow each participant to either smell, feel or taste one of the items. Encourage them to discuss what they are smelling, feeling, or tasting – do they like it or not? Is it familiar? Can they remember smelling/feeling/tasting something like this before? Ask them to guess what the item could be. If this activity is taking place in a group, perhaps put everyone into pairs, getting them to work together to find the answer.
Still Life Session
The benefits of art for people with dementia is well documented, so encouraging creativity when possible is a good idea, helping a person’s mental and emotional well-being. Painting can be undertaken by an individual as part of a relaxing and calming activity, away from other people, or in a group, so people can socialise and encourage each other as they paint. If the weather is nice, then set up this activity in the garden.
What You Will Need
- Variety of fruit
- A table
- A basket
- Coloured pencils
- Cartridge paper
Rather than setting up the still life yourself, encourage people to create it. Ask each of those in the group to take a piece of fruit and place it where they would like in the basket. Time can be spent feeling and smelling the fruit before they do so. Once the arrangement is in place, then give each person a sheet of paper on their easel (or place it on the table in front of them – whichever is most accessible for them) and give a variety of pencils or paints to begin painting.
Remind the group that art is completely personal, and no painting can be wrong – art is always open to interpretation. Encourage them to enjoy the process of drawing or painting a still life.
Written by Ben Atkinson-Willes of Active Minds
About Active Minds
Ben Atkinson-Willes was inspired to create Active Minds, a successful business supplying activity kits for dementia patients, after his own experiences. Ben’s drive was born out of the experience of caring for his Grandfather who lived with dementia for 16 years. Ben and his family noticed as time progressed, the challenge was finding things to keep his Grandfather occupied. To meet his Grandfather’s needs, the family were forced to use children’s toys which Ben and his family found extremely patronising. With Ben’s wealth of experience and passion, he understands the positive impact that tailored resources can make to the day-to-day wellbeing of somebody with dementia.