During your working hours, you will see many clients outside of programmed activities; seize the opportunity and engage with them. It will only take a minute or two and can transform someone's state of mind and lift their spirits more than you can imagine.
This is one of many free activities.
Golden Carers has 1000s of activities and resources for senior care.

We often underestimate what a kind word, a touch, a smile, a sympathetic listening ear, or a compliment can do for mental health.

According to research, gentle physical touch is capable of regulating blood pressure and releasing endorphins (the pleasure hormones).

Words can also be life-sustaining and provide immense comfort in dementia care, but we often miss the opportunity to say them.

Engaging with Residents Outside Programmed Activities

During your working hours, you will see many clients outside of programmed activities; seize the opportunity and engage with them. It will only take a minute or two of your time and can transform someone's state of mind and lift their spirits more than you can imagine.

Be disciplined and don't stay longer than necessary; it's showing that you care that counts.

25 Two Minute Activities for Dementia Care

Here are a few ideas for short activities 'in-between' programmed activities.

  1. Greet the client by name and make eye contact
  2. Try on a couple of hats in front of a mirror with a client
  3. Tell a client she/he looks 'Beautiful!' today
  4. Show a client vivid colours in a garment/magazine and talk about it
  5. Hold hands and step outdoors for some fresh air
  6. Pick flowers in the garden together
  7. Help a client to try on a new shade of lipstick
  8. Give a client an impromptu shoulder massage
  9. Play a quick game of ball catch
  10. Evoke memories: e.g. "Tell more about your grandmother's farm!"
  11. Tease: "I saw your boyfriend/girlfriend today!"
  12. Tell a client you love her/him
  13. Give spontaneous bear hugs
  14. Try a new scented hand lotion on a client
  15. If the background music is good, take a client for a dance
  16. Blow bubbles together
  17. Look at a landscape or animal calendar together
  18. Ask for help: sorting books on a shelf, hanging clothes out to dry
  19. Water plants together
  20. Listen to the sound of a large shell
  21. Wrap herbs/spices individually in fabric and ask a client to identify the smell
  22. Comb, french braid or curl a client's hair
  23. Read a few funny limericks
  24. Remind a client about fruit and vegetables in season
  25. Sing a Nursery Rhyme together

As Randi G. Fine said:
“No other form of communication is as universally understood as touch. The compassionate touch of a hand or a reassuring hug can take away our fears, soothe our anxieties, and fill the emptiness of being lonely”.

We'd love to hear your feedback!
How do you engage with residents in-between programmed activities?

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Comments   Post a Comment

Charlene 24th Oct 2023

Do you have any ideas for people who are non verbal?

Susan 29th Oct 2023 Activity Director
Hi Charlene

I guess you have to tell us why they are non-verbal
If it is because they have aphasia and let want to try these
Simple activities that have a choice of two answers are good
You can also use cue cards
Sharry Obermyer 7th Oct 2023
Residents love back rubs and touches. Thank you for all of your suggestions and support.
Susan 25th Aug 2022 Activity Director
Hi Julie
Another great idea
Thanks for sharing
Julie 24th Aug 2022
Hi there Iike the sound of the bag filled with fun stuff to take round the dementia home to get a few second of interaction with less able residents that don't want to join in with the main activities. Ideas please for what I could carry in my bag.
Chris Mang 24th Nov 2021
Thanks you for your beautiful hints.
Love them.
Lorraine Courts 12th Sep 2021
Hi I love all your ideas but does anyone have activities for men with dementia who may have difficulty putting a sentence together? There seems a great deal of ideas for women so any help is appreciated. Thanks
Susan 27th Oct 2020 Activity Director
Hi Carol
What a great idea
Thanks for your input
Carol 26th Oct 2020
A few years ago I managed to engage a couple of clients, one in unravelling a ball of wool while the other wound it round in a ball, while also engaging both in simple chatter. Successful 15 minutes of productive and fun activity!
Another time I passed round a couple of Rubik's cubes, demonstrating what needed to be done and even got the guys interested as men love 'fixing' things :)
Michelle 27th Jul 2020
I just started in hospice, coming from developmentally delayed toddlers. I love these ideas as well as the activities for later stage dementia post.
I was wondering if you have tried water colors? That was my plan for one patient tomorrow, but now I'm excited to try these other ideas. (BTW, with the kiddos, I would skip the glass of water and just heavily mist the paper and the pallet with water, then give them a 1.5 inch paint brush. I learned that actual water color paper had way more dramatic effects than construction paper. But, then I would y'all about the colors they chose, and try to get them to look at their art) I would love some feedback if you think part of this plan might be too difficult or u stimulating for the end stage Alzheimer's patents.
Solange 28th Jul 2020 Diversional Therapist
Hi Michelle, I believe your idea is plausible. The watercolour paper will get better results for sure even for adults. Thank you for sharing and let us know how you go.
Rochelle Allen 6th Apr 2019
Hello ,im new to this but ive got 2 week trial at my work ,so far ive made playdo with residents and this week im going to try finger painting im trying to work on hands. Im normally a carer but im enjoying my challenge . thanks for the ideas .
Talita 8th Apr 2019
All the best Rochelle! Thanks for your feedback.
B. Saponaro 25th Nov 2018
My 92 yr old friend that I companion for 3 days a week enjoy making cookies for his family, talking about his life on the farm doing, some chair exercises using soup cans and just sometimes sitting on the porch listening to music. Listening to his stories ( maybe more then once) of growing up and how his mom loved to bake never gets old with me.
Talita 8th Apr 2019
What a lovely friendship you have!
Mallory 15th Oct 2018
This sounds exactly like it came from the Best Friends approach from David Troxel and Virginia Bell. We’re instituting that program this year. Very cool.
Talita 15th Oct 2018
Thanks Mallory!
Carmel 23rd Jul 2018
We do a lot of these activities as well, residents love to receive hugs, hand or foot massages etc. Human touch is so important to us all.
We also have visits from a couple of babies/toddlers, all the residents love to touch and hold those little hands.
Thank you for all your help
Talita 15th Oct 2018
Thanks Carmel!
Robyn 13th Mar 2018 Activities Officer
Here in Alice Springs I started doing exactly this idea for our less active residents . They are called "Activity Bags" and they hold varying items of interest to the resident. The bags were ordered online and decorated with brightly coloured felt letters with the resident's name.
A Journal, Bible or spiritual tracts, snippets of interest like cut out jokes or articles, dementia specific aids, and yes, pencils and colouring books, items that have reflected their life for example, laminated copies of the art works of one of our ladies who was a noted artist, - the contents are as varied and unique as the individual resident is.

Activity bags can be easily carried from room to room by the care staff or relatives and conveniently hold items that reflect thier passions and interests. Good luck with this idea. It has proven worthwhile here.
Rosemarie 7th Mar 2018 Diversional Therapist
hi I'm a DT from across the ditch, South West coast of New Zealand. i have 70 residents to care for with two part time helpers, one DT and the other a DT in training.
i have read through this activity as we do have dementia residents here as well as residents on what i call the periphery of our social structure.
Anyway, reading this has prompted me to start putting together a shoulder bag type or resource containg a sketch pad and pencils, colouring sheets and pencil crayons, a picture book, a talkabout object, socks that need folding ect. it's not up and running yet but i believe it will be a handy resourse as i walk around the facility. any suggestions to enhance this will be welcome.
Talita 15th Oct 2018
I think this is a wonderful idea Rosemarie. I'm sure it was well received.
Carol 15th Feb 2018
My Grandmother died in the local nursing home of dementia, now my Mother has it and I am trying to keep her here in her home so she will hopefully do better in familiar surroundings. I read and try anything that I can find to help keep her mind as active as possible. I talk to people that give me ideas that are sometimes useful and other times not so much. I welcome any material I can get. I love finding ideas like I did here today for her to try.
If anyone has material and knowledge to share with me that would be helpful for my Mother I would very much appreciate it. Thank you!
Jean 12th Nov 2017
Love your ideas, because I actually do many of them and the response is amazing, majority love to be hug and the more I take time out just say hello or greet them you actually get to know them a little more. Thank you!
Talita 13th Nov 2017
Thanks so much for your feedback Jean, that's lovely to hear. Sometimes it's just the little things that make a big difference.
Talita 26th Jun 2017
Thanks everyone for your wonderful feedback, it is much appreciated.
Denise 24th Jun 2017 Activity Coordinator
I've been an activity coordinator for a long time and it is always good to reaffirm best practices and not stick to the same routine. Spontaneity and 100% positivity is the key to unlocking happy memories.
Geraldine M 12th Jan 2017 Lifestyle therapist
Wonderful practicle low cost heart warming activities. Thanks for reminding me. Very valuable Geraldine Melican
Talita 14th Jan 2017
Thanks so much for your feedback Geraldine.
Karen 30th Nov 2016 Lifestyle Therapist
Nothing better than to see the look in their face when you give them a hug or hold their hand. To make them feel we care is so important.
Tranquillity 29th Nov 2016 Activity Co-Ordinator
that is so sad not being able to give hugs.
We work in a very homely and careing rest home and always give hugs freely and sit down and talk to them, listening is very important
Christine 20th Oct 2016 Supervisor
In my job we are not allowed to hug client's it is against the policy of the organisation that I work in. The client has to initiate the touch or hug. This system has become very sad because many clients like a hug from their carers from time to time.
Peter 1st Nov 2016 Activities Coordinator
For Christine from the facility that has the policy of "no touching". I'm sad to hear that there is still a facility that does not allow it's carers and particularly Lifestyle staff to physically engage with it's clients that have a Dementia. Perhaps the policy writer has had a bad experience where there has been an escalation of sexual behaviours but with appropriate management and an efficient communications policy alongside appropriate education particularly to newer or younger staff members these issues can be reduced and clients of yours can experience the joy of human touch. It is very important that education, documentation and managing the process is carefully assessed .... Good luck !!
Heather 18th Oct 2016
Thank you for this, like Jo I do many of the above as I work in high care with many advance dementia clients and I feel its such a special time being able to share a little sparkle in ones life. Activities are not always about the large active group session but fitting in these simple little pleasures that we take so much for granted. Thank you once again.
Liz 18th Oct 2016 Carer
Allowing someone with dementia to hold your hand, or reciprocate a hand massage is also powerful. Tell them how lovely it is to have someone pay you attention. Most people like to feel needed allowing them to give back even in small ways can lift the spirit. Both yours and theirs. Win/win.
Jo 18th Oct 2016 Leiasure & Lifestyle Officer
Thank you. I do many of the above & find that the ladies in general really respond to gentle hugs & the residents (both male & female) love to be encouraged in all their endeavours.
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