Dementia Care Ideas for these Challenging Times


Many of us are familiar with the film “Alive Inside,” please at least watch the trailer.

It is  amazing how music can both calm and energize people who have dementia. Headphones bring another  level of connection. Just yesterday I watched one of our clients listening to Bruce Springsteen with  headphones on. He sang aloud with an enthusiasm he would have never done otherwise! He was unaware of how he sounded, uninhibited  and joyful.

Download a playlist. If they  can’t come up with names of their favorites you can help with a bit of hit and miss. Start with songs that were popular during the years your loved one was in high school. During those years  we generally make the strongest  connections to particular songs. Experiment. Play a song, see how they react – connection? no connection? Build the playlist based on their reactions. The results can be magical.

Please don’t assume that if the person in your care is “older”  they will automatically prefer classical music or 50s jukebox.  I had a client once, a man in his 80s whose career included conducting an orchestra in New York. One day I asked him to bring a favorite CD for us to listen to. He did. It was Janis Joplin.

Name that Tune is entertaining too, particularly with theme songs from those old shows. My Three Sons, can you hum that one? Give this a try:

Watch what happens when your loved one is listening to this  (especially with headphones on):




We treat our adult clients with the dignity and respect they deserve. But I vote that right now we bend one rule. If your loved one enjoys a particular cartoon or a Disney princess movie, now is the time to watch it.  Though it may seem childish, it might also be comforting.

Normally we know it’s best that people who have dementia are socializing, moving, seeing, doing, being engaged  in community as much as possible. But now it is important that they stay safe. Equally important is that the caregivers are at peace. Let’s not get overwhelmed as we care for others during these challenging  days. Let’s relax and go with the flow a bit more. Use discretion. We don’t want people who have dementia to be isolated, nor filling their days with passive and solitary activities. But if visual media bring moments of joy and a calm to our day, and respite to the caregiver, it makes sense.

Ideas: Might want to avoid heavy films about war or other tragedies.  Turn off the news. How about those Planet Earth DVDs you have in a box somewhere? Some beautiful nature scenes might be just right. Try Youtube  short clips from movie favorites or T.V. shows that were popular years ago. We have had a ball watching clips from Gilligans Island, Get Smart, and Mork and Mindy!

This might help get you started:



Terrific suggestions here, might want to order one right away.

Written by Meghan Morrisey



If you don’t have a dog, does a neighbor need help with theirs?  Animal  therapy might be super important these days, when we are discouraged from human touch. Folks who have dementia can benefit from being with dogs, horses, cats. If possible, pay a visit to a ranch and connect with animals, or at the very least, let your loved one spend time petting every dog you’ll pass on walk in the park.



Many food pantries are in need of donations right now. Contact one, get a list of their needs and then, with your loved one, organize the donations into a box. Organizing and sorting can be  satisfying work  for someone who has dementia. Particularly if their dementia is mild or moderate, and they understand their work is going to a good cause. Decorate the box together, put the box in the car and deliver it. Very gratifying. If you loved one can’t get out of the car, or needs to keep socially  distant  from others, they can watch from the car as you bring their colorful box of food to the donation site. And don’t feel like you need to pick the one closest to home. Taking a longer drive might be part of your adventure today. Many restaurants are offering meals to go,  probably a good time for us to support them. A few days ago I took a client for a hike and then we ate sandwiches and salads in the car with the windows down for that fresh air. If it’s not quite warm and dry enough for a picnic, we need to be creative!



Great time to visit the state parks here in Colorado, they are conveniently located and easily accessible. Buy a pass for your vehicle, so you can zip in and out any day you want and for any amount of time. If you only have a 1/2 hour, it’s worth it!

You can take a scenic drive, pull over and do some bird watching right  from the car, bring a picnic lunch or coffee and morning goodies, take a walk, watch the clouds go by, notice all the children, look for deer, throw a ball around. Look for signs of spring.


Lakewood Cultural Arts                                                 Wash Park Denver             .



We have had great success with these two games which can easily be played in your own backyard.

Many families have a set stashed away in their garage, ask your friends and neighbors if you can borrow one.



It depends on the degree of dementia someone has, but folding and sorting can be comforting activities for many people. It’s familiar and feels productive. Take one or two decks of cards and spread them out on a table. Ask your loved one to help you put them back together in an organized fashion – sort by number or color or whatever works. I’ve seen this keep people engaged for an extended period of time.  Maybe now we should  take the blankets and towels out of the cupboard and refold them too.



Spring is coming (thankfully). Are there leaves left in the yard from last fall? Here is an activity, like the folding and sorting mentioned above, that needs very little instruction. Let your loved one go for it. Hand him a rake and a set out a trash can and see what happens. Maybe neighbors need help too? Would they understand that you are looking for some activity and outdoor time? Would they let you come in their backyard and do some cleanup work?  Or how about buying flowers  to make flower arrangements, then placing them all throughout the house? Or deliver to friends and family?


Get all those photos downloaded off the computer and developed. Photo albums are hard to find these days, but if you can buy  one or two or three –  bring them home! Filling them with pictures could be a great activity right now.



Many people who have dementia are not able to write, but they can dictate to you! If you have cards or stationary or art supplies to make them, this might be the time to pull that all together.  It might be brief, their words might be limited, but it’s a meaningful project and worth trying.



This will depend on your loved one’s ability and interest, but check out this website for puzzles appropriate for those who have dementia:



The family of one of our clients recently had great success with this. Her son prepared a list of questions, then interviewed his mother and recorded their conversations. She was in the early stages of dementia. He gave her one question at a time, and a few days to come up with her answer. Then the next time they would meet, her would record her answer to his  question. He compiled these sessions into a lovely audio he shared with the rest of the family. “when did you meet Dad”, “what was important to you when you were raising us kids?” “how did you feel when you left home for college?” The recorded conversations were emotional of course, but interspersed with lots of personality and humor.



For a few dollars you can use  a self-service car wash, which is definitely a productive project.  Your loved one might be capable of doing quite a bit of the work, or at least help get the mats out and vacuumed, or put the quarters in the box, or dry the car with towels. (Then wash and dry and fold the towels when you get back home?)


They are closed now, but have a tremendous amount of material available online. Music, movies, books, games.

                                                   Well Wishes to Everyone.    We hope the  ideas listed above are of some help.


wrapups from our group outings over the years:

Lunch at Zest, walks in Wash Park and Morrison, signs of spring

Lakewood Cultural Arts         Wash Park Denver           Morrison Colorado

Signs of spring! We looked up in the trees to see what type of birds were singing, and P said, “I don’t think we should do this!” Probably right about that. We have been able to take many walks this week, plus we  played croquet with the wonderful crew at Jiminy Wicket. J and I even jogged a bit yesterday  – a tiny bit! when we were out exploring the trails near the Lakewood Cultural Center. We ran ahead of the group so we could get cups of water ready for everyone, we were actually quite warm out there! We have walked in Wash Park, and Morrison, at the 17 Mile House Cherry Creek trail and at James Bible Park. Felt great. Yesterday was J’s birthday, I think we sang to her a half dozen times, she soaked it all in. Thank you to the staff at Zest restaurant in Lakewood, we just love that “back room”, it’s quiet and convenient and you handle our  special meal requests with grace.