Sifting and Sorting Bins for Dementia Care

Sifting and Sorting Bins for Dementia Care

User Profile By Haley Burress   United States

Found In: Activities Alzheimer's & Dementia Articles

Sorting and sifting bins are a wonderful staple to include in easy-to-grab areas for caregivers, family members, and residents to enjoy together. Here are inspiration and instruction to get you started.
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Finding easy interventions and activities for residents living with dementia doesn’t always need lots of extra prep work and planning. Ideal for anyone living with dementia, sifting and sorting bins provides cognitive stimulation and improves fine motor skills. 

Even better, these bins are easy to keep around the nursing station or in an easily accessible closet for evening caregivers and family members to grab for an activity intervention when staff members are gone for the day.

Benefits of Sifting and Sorting Bins

Sifting and sorting bins are boxes, bags, or other containers full of items to sort or sift through. People who interact with sifting and sorting can benefit from:

  • Fine motor practice
  • Cognitive work, including logic, categorizing, and decision-making
  • Reminiscing and conversation opportunities
  • Decreased anxiety (sorting and sifting gives them a tangible task to complete and take their mind off of troubling thoughts or worries)
  • Ease of use
  • It’s a failure-free activity

Inspiration for Sifting and Sorting Bins

Use your resident assessments and histories to choose sorting and sifting opportunities they might enjoy. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • A sewing box full of different thread spools
  • A jar full of buttons
  • A recipe box full of recipes
  • A box of nuts and bolts
  • A bin of a few decks of cards (not in individual boxes)
  • A bag of poker chips
  • A jewelry box full of costume jewelry
  • An envelope full of coupons clipped from the newspaper
  • A drawer full of silverware
  • A diaper bag full of baby socks and onesies
  • A clothesline bag full of colorful clothespins
  • A jar full of different sized screws
  • A bin of colorful pompons
  • A decorative box full of seashells
  • A bag of keychains
  • A jar of colorful milk carton tops
  • Themed bins for the season: bags of colorful leaves, acorns, or pinecones, holiday ornaments, Valentine greeting cards, etc.

Your bins should offer enough supplies to allow for a good sorting or sifting experience, but not enough to overwhelm the person. For example, a small jar of various buttons is a great idea, but a giant gallon-sized bag may be too much.

Making It Happen

If you are ready to start a sorting and sifting bin program at your community, remember to keep a few bins readily available. You can swap them out every month so that the bins don’t get boring for the resident, or for the caregivers.

For supplies, try emptying out your craft closet or hitting your local thrift store. Fortunately, you don’t have to spend a lot of money from your budget to make a stash of these easy to use activities.

Any bin will do for storing your objects, but it can be fun to find a container that fits the theme of the objects inside. A fancy white purse from the thrift store can hold costume jewelry, a change purse can hold coins, and a tool box can hold blocks of wood.

Work with your Director of Nursing to let other nursing staff and assistants know about the monthly bins. You can show them where the bins are, why using them is beneficial to residents, and how to get the residents started with the bins.

Tips for Optimising Sorting Bin Activities

  • Not everyone will know what to do with the objects inside of your containers. Add small laminated note cards with instructions and tie it to the container. Instructions can be easy like, “Sort these buttons by size, color, or shape.” or “Match the nuts with the bolts and then take apart again before putting in the jar.”
  • Feature a Sorting Bin of the Month in your monthly newsletter that goes out to family members. Include why you chose it, what is in it, and ideas on how to use it during their next visit. Post the same information on your community’s social media page.
  • Use sifting and sorting bins as an intervention on care plans of residents who could benefit from them.
  • If residents are at risk for putting small objects in their mouths, choose bins with objects that are large enough to be safe.
  • Don’t use food in your bins.
  • Get in the habit of swapping out your bins. Try making it a part of your monthly schedule so you remember when you pass out the new calendar for the month, you also swap in new bins.

Don’t think sorting and sifting is only appropriate for people living with dementia. Other residents can benefit from this activity as well!

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Haley Burress

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Comments   Post a Comment

Brenda 21st Oct 2019 Volunteer
What a great idea! I'm definitely going to try this at our Memory Support Unit.
Talita 28th Oct 2019
This is great to hear Brenda - we'd love to hear how it goes!
Kerri 8th Oct 2019 Activities officer
We have Montessori themed boxes for our residents to use when diversion required. This is such a wonderful idea to run along side. Even a basket of washing to fold. Thank you
Talita 14th Oct 2019
Thanks so much for your feedback Kerri!
simonne 7th Feb 2020 Services Coordinator
What are the themed boxes please?
Susan 8th Oct 2019 Activity Director
Thanks for this idea Haley
Haley 7th Oct 2019 Recreation Therapist And Writer
Haley has submitted a new article: Sifting And Sorting Bins For Dementia Care
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