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5 Cognitive Activities for Dementia Patients: Enhancing Mental Agility

5 Cognitive Activities for Dementia Patients: Enhancing Mental Agility

There are many ways to keep the mind sharp, like crossword puzzles, card games, and memory exercises. The same also holds true for people living with dementia. There are plenty of cognitive activities to enhance your loved one’s mental agility, and the bonus is that many of them are really fun.

BridgeWater Assisted Living understands exactly what goes into memory care. We believe in building relationships with our residents, learning what they appreciate, and designing a personalized approach to their care plan that maximizes health outcomes. 

Here are our top picks for cognitive activities to bring out the best in your loved one’s care:

1. Strike Up the Band

Music is a powerful tool, allowing us to connect with others while also allowing us to get in tune with our inner selves, and it can assist in the treatment of both verbal and nonverbal dementia patients. A song on the radio can transport us to another time or place, helping to bring back fond memories.

Sometimes, memories that have been dormant for many years until the right note, chord, or song lyrics take us back to that particular moment in our lives. So, when spending time with your loved one, play a little music. Sway to the music or sing along.

Research suggests music can foster an emotional connection between patients and their caregivers. It can also have a sort of soothing effect, reducing agitation, anxiety, and depression. It’s apparent that playing your loved one’s favorite type of music can strike a chord with them, stimulating their mind and lifting their spirits.

2. Make a Family Recipe

Nothing is more special and memorable than a family recipe passed down through the generations. Bring an old family recipe back to life by making it with your loved one in the kitchen.

If they’re physically able to take part in the process, give them an active task to perform. Start with a simple recipe and encourage them to measure and weigh the ingredients, watch the timer, or read along from the recipe book. Cooking up a favorite family meal is a chef’s kiss in more ways than one.

It may remind your loved one of fond times spent with family around the dinner table. It may also awaken their senses through sensory perception, such as touch, taste, and smell. In fact, smell and memory seem to be closely linked, and memories conjured up by the olfactory senses have been shown to be more emotional than those triggered by any other cue.

On top of all that, nothing quite warms the heart like enjoying savory homemade dishes alongside those we love the most.

3. Crochet a Custom Piece

There’s perhaps nothing more rewarding than creating something with your own hands. Though many people today are beginning to learn crocheting and knitting skills, they’re second nature for many of the older generations.

Crocheting is also a great exercise in problem-solving. You often follow a pattern when crocheting, and if there are any errors in that pattern (or if you make an error!), you must learn to adapt and correct course. Plus, there’s evidence to suggest that both knitting and crocheting can slow the onset of dementia, as well as help alleviate depression, anxiety, and chronic pain.

Other arts and crafts activities, such as painting, drawing, and sculpting, can also boost your loved one’s mental, physical, and emotional well-being.

4. Play with a Four-Legged Friend

Socialization stimulates the mind. So, if your loved one is an animal lover, encourage them to spend time with a furry friend now and then. It may be soothing for them to pet a dog or have a cat curl up in their lap.

One study about animal-assisted therapy (AAT), specifically dog therapy, found that patients appeared more relaxed, calm, and content when in the company of a dog. Time spent with a dog can help alleviate feelings of depression, anxiety, agitation, and aggression. Animal interaction can also reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness in someone living with dementia.

If introducing a pet to your loved one isn’t feasible, consider a robotic pet as a companion. A second study showed that a PARO robotic pet was effective at reducing stress and anxiety in those living with dementia.

People can form strong bonds with pets just as they do with people. If you can, give your loved one the opportunity to spend some time with a furry friend.

5. Tend to the Garden

There’s nothing quite like spending time in nature on a sunny, warm, beautiful day. Soaking up the sunshine can be beneficial for our mental, physical, and emotional health.

Encourage your loved one to take a daily walk outdoors or tend to a garden. Research suggests that interacting with plants can boost self-esteem, improve mood, and reduce stress. Other research suggests that planting a vegetable garden can improve functioning in areas of the brain linked to memory.

So whenever possible, encourage your loved one to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. It’s easy to do so at BridgeWater. We have beautifully well-maintained grounds with shaded outdoor spaces to enjoy when the sun gets a bit too warm, as it sometimes does in our Arizona communities.

When your loved one makes their stay at BridgeWater, they can enjoy all these cognitive activities and many more. For instance, your loved one can rock out in drum circles or engage in music therapy sessions. We also host fun events like Paint & Sip and Clay Creations, so our residents have the opportunity to create something beautiful with their own two hands.

As we like to say, we have everything you need to live well here. You’ll never be bored at BridgeWater. In fact, one problem you may have is finding time to fit everything into your busy schedule! Arrange a tour of our community today and see how we can support you and your loved ones.