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Topics of Conversation with People with Dementia

  • Talk about pictures in a magazine
  • Talk about a pet you had when you were a child
  • Talk about a favorite sports figure
  • Did you play a sport in school?
  • Reminisce about a favorite summer
  • Play “Have you ever?”
  • Look at family photos
  • Remember great inventions
  • Reminisce about the first day of school
  • Say “Tell me more” when they talk about a memory
  • Remember famous people
  • Finish nursery rhymes
  • Finish Bible quotes
  • Ask simple trivia questions
  • Reminisce about your first kiss
  • Finish famous sayings
  • Read the daily paper out aloud
  • Name the presidents
  • Play “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”
  • Your favorite food
  • Your favorite recipe
  • Your favorite color (now name things that are “red”)
  • Name the United States (point to them on a map or drawing)
  • Did you go Trick or Treating on Halloween? (Favorite costume or trick)
  • Tell us about a trip you once took, where, with whom?
  • Did you ever meet a celebrity?
  • How many colors can we name?
  • How many women’s (men’s) names can we name?
  • Pick an animal, talk about it
  • What’s your favorite cookie?
  • How many words can you think of that begin with “A,” … ?
  • Did you ever make a snowman?
  • Name Famous Movie Stars
  • Sit, hold their hand and lend a good listening ear
  • Bring postcards of places you have visited and talk about them
  • Ask for help in planning your garden and look through a seed catalogue together
  • Watch television together and talk about the programs you’ve seen
  • Watch a soap opera and talk about the characters
  • Have grandchildren bring or send along artwork or school papers
  • Read a short story or several poems each time you visit
  • Tell jokes to one another – bring along a joke book if either of you need help
  • Learn a new word each time you visit together
  • Share memories of how the community has changed
  • Decide what you both would do if you had $1 million
  • Travel Hour
Activities for People with Dementia
Things to Do with People with Dementia

  • Clip coupons from the newspaper or magazine
  • Make potpourri bags, which can be put in the person’s lingerie drawer and/or given as gifts.**
  • Gather together an assortment of hats and ask each person to select one. The group can then be encouraged to make up stories to go along with the hats. The funnier and more dramatic the hats, the more fun this activity can be.**
  • My Mother loves to sort coins by denomination. I often pour the coins back into the container and present them later and the process starts over. It is one of the few things I have found that she enjoys and can do on her own without assistance. ***
  • Sort colored poker chips
  • Rent or buy a videotape of an old favorite movie or musical to bring along. A great source is Critics Choice Videos.
  • Count tickets
  • Rake leaves
  • Use the carpet sweeper
  • Read reminiscent articles aloud
  • Bake cookies
  • Look up names in the phone book
  • Ask a friend who has a baby or young child to visit
  • Listen to Polka music
  • Plant seeds (indoors or outdoors)
  • Toss a ball
  • Color pictures
  • Make homemade lemonade
  • Wipe of the table
  • Weed the flower bed
  • Make a simple recipe together
  • Have a spelling bee
  • Read from Reader’s Digest
  • Fold clothes/towels
  • Have a neighbor or friend bring a calm pet to visit
  • Cut pictures out of greeting cards
  • Wash silverware
  • Bake homemade bread
  • Sort beads by shape or color
  • Sing Christmas carols
  • Put silverware away
  • Make a Valentine collage
  • Play favorite songs and sing together
  • Go for a ride
  • Make a cherry pie
  • Dye Easter eggs
  • Take a walk
  • String Cheerios to hang outside for the birds
  • Make a fresh fruit salad
  • Sweep the patio
  • Color paper shamrocks green
  • Have afternoon tea
  • Play Pictionary
  • Paint a sheet
  • Cut out paper dolls
  • Identify states and capitols
  • Make a family tree
  • Color a picture of our flag
  • Cook hot dogs outside
  • Grow magic rocks
  • Water house plants
  • Play horseshoes
  • Dance
  • Sing favorite hymns
  • Make homemade ice cream
  • Force bulbs for winter blooming
  • Make Christmas cards
  • Sort playing cards by their color (or suit)
  • Write a letter to a family member
  • Dress in team colors on a football Saturday or Sunday
  • Pop popcorn
  • Give a manicure
  • Make paper butterflies
  • Plant a tree
  • Make a May basket
  • Make homemade applesauce
  • Mold with PlayDoh
  • Look at pictures in National Geographic magazine
  • Put a simple puzzle together
  • Sand a piece of wood
  • Put on hand lotion with a pleasant scent
  • Decorate paper place mats
  • Arrange fresh flowers
  • Straighten the underwear drawer
  • Make peanut butter sandwiches
  • Wipe off patio furniture
  • Cut up used paper for scratch paper or note pads
  • Take care of the fish tank
  • Trace and cut out leaves
  • Paint with string
  • Cut out pictures from magazines
  • Put coins in a jar
  • Sew sewing cards
  • Put bird feed out for the birds
  • Clean out a pumpkin
  • Roll yarn into a ball
  • Make a birthday cake
  • Paint pine cones
  • Plant a plant in a pot
  • Xerox a drawing of a “Smiley” face and color them
  • Plant potato “eyes” in pots
  • Identify cartoon characters from the funny pages (ie., Sad Sack, Popeye or Little Lulu)
  • Hang clothes on a clothes line
  • Put playing cards in the order of their value
  • Have a local school choir come in and sing for the group
  • Call a local dance studio and ask them to put on a demonstration for you
  • Call your local manicure shop and barber and ask them if they would volunteer some time to do nails and give haircuts
  • Go on a tour (zoo, museum, etc.
  • Call the local nursery school and ask to have the kids come for a visit
  • Assemble an easy puzzle
  • Assemble pieces of plastic PVC pipe connections
  • Play balloon volley ball (sitting in a circle)
  • Shake “maracas” (pill bottles filled with popcorn or beans)
  • Wave scarves to music*
  • Pom poms to “cheer” *
  • Chair dance/exercise classes *
  • Help walk the dog
  • Go thru junk mail
  • Make a card to send to a friend (perhaps one in the daycare center, another attendee)
  • Shell some peas or beans
  • Wash vegetables
  • Cut out pictures of celebrities a magazine
  • Sort photos for an album? Identify people in old photos while you label the back.
  • Polish shoes or boots
  • Give her a manicure
  • Bring some fresh flowers and ask for help cutting the stems and arranging them (then leave them in her room)
  • Bring styrofoam balls to paint for Xmas ornaments–then while still wet, roll in glitter
  • Glue ribbons, lace, or appliques to fabric place mats
  • Listen to messages from family or friends recorded on a cassette tape
  • Bring things related to the season or upcoming holiday to talk about
  • Have an indoor picnic
  • Enjoy a cup of a favorite beverage that you’ve brought in a thermos
  • Bring a musical instrument to play
  • Sing, hum, or whistle together
  • Play charades
  • Wind yarn for a knitting project
  • Make simple gifts for the grandchildren
  • Bring along your sewing basket, button box, or tool kit to organize together
  • Build a bird feeder or house to hang outside a window
  • Bring along a bird book and look up birds you see outside
  • Pamper your friend or relative with makeup, perfume or aftershave
  • Create a terrarium
  • Play cards or board games together – lifelong favorites and new ones
  • Do crossword puzzles together
  • Go “window shopping” in fancy catalogues filled with things you’d never buy
  • Bring a favorite recipe book to explore or plan a meal together
  • Bring along a treat made from a recipe your friend or relative adult said sounded good
  • Give your friend or relative a gentle massage with lotion to keep skin soft
  • Bring things that smell good – spices, perfumes, or roses
  • Bring different textured fabrics to touch – silk, wool, denim, corduroy, or velvet
  • Do exercises together to keep in shape
  • Write poetry or a short story together
  • Make a “joy box” by filling a decorated shoebox with fun and favorite items
  • Keep a journal of interesting discussions you have during your visits
  • Start a newsletter to send to family and friends
  • Bring along an old friend for a special reunion
  • Take photos of your friend of family member to send to family or friends – ask for theirs, too
  • Take a walk together outside as weather permits – sit on the porch or patio
  • Make a friendly wager on a sports event
  • Dance, or tap your shoes, to a favorite dance music
  • Use some small rhythm instruments or a kazoo to make your own music
  • Play tic-tac-toe or hangman
  • Share memories of how the community has changed
  • Toss cards into a hat, pitch pennies, shoot marbles, play jacks
  • Design and make your own Christmas or other holiday cards to send
  • Give a hug as you arrive and each time you say “good-bye”
  • Do a crossword puzzle together
  • Go thru a children’s magazine like Highlights
  • Play the cardgame “SKIP-BO” with two or more players.
  • PUZZLES with extra large pieces (My Dad (from Charleen Miller) will do them for hours on end. We get them for him at thrift shops. That’s the ONLY thing we’ve run across that he enjoys and does for hours a day. He just completed a 300-extra large piece puzzle. He always feels accomplished which. helps self-worth.)*

    We would like to thank Dawn Malek for these ideas. Dawn is co-owner of C.C. Plus, “dance for fun and fitness.” Dawn can be reached at mdmalek@home.com.

    **Suggestions from Katherine Beck-Ei, BSSW, MSW, Older Adult/Memory Care Specialist, Glacier Hills Retirement Community, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA

    ***Jeff Rieck