For the friends and family of the over 35 million people living with Alzheimer’s disease and other causes of dementia, there is one question that many find themselves asking: what can we do together now? It is true that the mental decline, memory loss, confusion, and disorientation which are characteristic of dementia can make some activities previously enjoyed together impossible. Unfortunately, experiences which require traveling significant distances, involve particularly advanced cognitive challenges, or are very physically demanding are likely now off the table.

This is not to say that there are no longer any fun activities friends and family can engage in with their loved ones who are living with dementia in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. There are still plenty of games and projects which involve mild to moderate cognitive challenges and accessible levels of physical involvement. Next time you visit your loved one try some of these activities, which fulfill the dual purpose of providing valuable bonding time and helping preserve their cognitive function.

  1. Play board games: If it is still within their abilities, playing a board game can be a perfect way to spend the hours during a visit. The intellectual challenge games such as checkers, connect four, and more provide may help reduce the cognitive impairment they are experiencing. Plus, the cozy atmosphere board games create will be a comfort for all involved.
  2. Listen to music: Listening to music is a universally appreciated activity which is especially enjoyable together. Not only is listening to music one of the most accessible activities for individuals living with dementia — it is actually a promising rehabilitative treatment used in clinical therapeutic settings. Experts say the practice has the potential to facilitate memory recall, happier emotional states, a greater feeling of control, and even improved pain management.
  3. Do puzzles: Puzzles can provide the cognitive stimulation of board games while being collaborative rather than competitive. From jigsaw puzzles to sudoku, there is no shortage of fun, challenging puzzles you and your loved one can work on together.
  4. Make art: Simple arts and crafts activities make for a much-needed creative outlet for people living with dementia. Next visit, bring some paints and canvases or knitting needles and thread for a relaxing, engaging activity.

At your next visit to the assisted living facility, try one of these four activities for a wonderful time with your loved one.