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What activities can I do with someone who is living with dementia?

Tuesday, 14 November 2023News
Heather Cooper in the garden

Whether you live with dementia or have someone in your life with a dementia diagnosis, finding meaningful and enjoyable activities is important for so many reasons.

Heather, who lives with dementia, is an avid gardener and has entered the Best Garden in the Shire competition in her local area since 2008.

“This year marks the 25th anniversary of constructing our garden,” she said. “No way was my dementia going to prevent me from entering again. 

Gardening contributes to my self-worth

“My husband and I are proud of our work, and we have received prizes and much praise for it over those years,” Heather said. “As we sit under the gracefully hanging branches of the mulberry tree, our garden contributes the warm and laudable feelings of self-worth.”

She said the positive feelings she gets from gardening can counteract some of the shock realisations of living with dementia.

“One such shock for example, is becoming disorientated when I stand up after intense weeding,” she said. 

“Either I cannot quite work out where I am or, upon standing, I find I am in a different place to that which I expected to be.”

Heather now puts measures in place to help overcome disorientation including stowing all her plants and equipment in her barrow and placing it in the section of the garden in which she is working.

“By narrowing my activities and workplace, I do not get overwhelmed or forgetful about the tasks I have set myself for any period of time.”

Our puppy brought joy and laughter into our home

For Jill, whose husband John was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia in 2021, getting a puppy was one of the best things they did.

“John was always happy when Suzie (our puppy) was jumping on him, playing around or zooming around the house,” Jill said.

“When John was in full-time care, taking Suzie to visit always put a smile on his face.”

John recently passed away but Jill has found solace in having Suzie around.

“My friends all thought I was nuts taking on a puppy on top of the caring role but it's the best thing ever, especially now that I am having to adapt to living alone for the first time in my life.”

Other activities to consider

National Dementia Helpline Advisor Nick said activities involving decision-making and problem solving were often really helpful as well as being enjoyable.

“Anything that makes someone who is living with dementia use a part of their brain that facilitates both problem solving and making decisions is actually really good for their brain,” Nick said.

“But it's actually also good for engagement and to create a bit of fun too.”

“Any time that you can create an activity that involves those things, it's going to make it better for everybody involved.”

You can access the Dementia Australia Library Service for some more inspiration including the Activities and Engagement eCollection as well as the guide “Montessori approach to activities”.

You can also download Dementia Australia’s A Better Visit app that has a range of two-player games designed to enhance communication and facilitate positive social interactions between people with dementia and their visitors. 

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Last updated
27 November 2023