Keeping people with dementia active and occupied

Supporting a person who has dementia to remain active and still feel involved in life can be the key to maintaining quality of life even into the later stages of the illness. This is not just the job of an activity organiser or an entertainer, it is also part of every person’s role, whether you are a friend or relative, a home or day care worker, a nurse, a care assistant, a manager or a domestic worker.

Why activity matters?

Why activity matters

An activity can be anything we do from the moment we get up in the morning to when we go to bed at night. Helping a person remain active is the job of every person in the care team. Activity is essential to human wellbeing, and will help maintain a person's sense of self-worth and give purpose and enjoyment to the day. Sometimes, when a person says 'no' to being involved in an activity, we have to think of different ways of engaging their interest.

Activity as part of the whole day

Activity as part of the whole day

If we know a person with dementia well and are prepared to be creative, we can change a routine care task into a positive experience for that person. Have objects at hand that can be picked up and touched and used to stimulate conversation. Develop a range of activities that stimulates all five senses: sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. Record involvement in an activity in individual care plans.

Creative arts for those with dementia

Creative arts

People with dementia often communicate in words that have a poetic quality, rich in feeling and meaning. Singing is usually a very successful activity for people with dementia who may remember words of songs when other memories have been lost. Music offers people a chance to express themselves in different ways, less reliant on words. People who have dementia can enjoy activities involving drama, although we as staff may need to develop our confidence in giving this a go!

Movement and exercise for those with dementia

Movement and exercise

Think about the things the person can still do for themselves: promote independence whenever you can. Getting out and about provides fresh air, variety in the day and exercise. Dancing can help improve overall wellbeing.

Activity resources for those with dementia

Activity resources and approaches

A number of different approaches and resources offer helpful ways to develop meaningful activity and improve quality of life for people with dementia. Simple assessment tools can help staff to understand the types of activities that might benefit a person with dementia. Using dolls in dementia care is generally considered to be very helpful particularly for individuals in the later stages of dementia.

Involving friends and family

Involving family and friends

Care workers have a role to play in working alongside family carers and friends to bring activity into the daily life of a person with dementia. Some friends and family struggle with thinking of things to do with the person whether at home or when visiting a care home, even though they know the person so well. Families and friends may need support from care staff to encourage a person with dementia to become involved and help them cope with and enjoy visits to a care home.

Activity in later stages of dementia

Activity in the later stages of dementia

It is still possible to provide activity for a person in the later stages of dementia. We may need to try different communication approaches when trying to connect with a person who is very withdrawn. Care workers and family members will need a lot of support to persevere in trying to connect with a person who may be unresponsive. A multisensory approach to activity is even more important with people in the advanced stages of the illness.

Developing community links for those with dementia

Developing community links

There are many benefits for older people and for staff teams in developing relationships with the wider community. Making links with the community does take time and energy. Many individuals and organisations in the community are willing to visit or bring resources into a care setting. Good preparation is key to any organised trip out or a visit from an outside organisation.

Culture and religion

Culture and religion

It is very important to pay attention to a person's cultural or religious background when planning activities. People with dementia who do not speak English will need particular support to feel included. Cultural diversity can be celebrated through themed events in a day centre or a care home. Family members may want a person's religious or cultural background to be respected even though the person has changed their views, and this can be a challenging situation for everyone.

Reminiscence fort those with dementia


Reminiscing about the past builds on the strengths of a person with dementia as they are more likely to retain long-term memories. There are many ways to facilitate reminiscence sessions. Involving family members in reminiscence can be a therapeutic experience for everyone. When choosing topics or themes for reminiscence in groups, think about ways in which you can include as many people as possible, while also being sensitive to the needs of individuals.

Using technology to support people with dementia

Technology has so much to offer people living with dementia and their carers; access to information, advice and entertainment as well as reassurance for a carer who does not live near a loved one. Used sensitively and thoughtfully, technology enhances rather than replaces human relationships and interactions.

Find out more about Dementia


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  • What the research says: Keeping active and occupied