Adapted Activities for dementia patients in the home environment

Adapted Activities for dementia patients

in the home environment

Created by : Kristine Niskanen

A person living with dementia has the same needs as everyone else.  The person wants to socialize, participate in engaging activities, interact with family, be included in household activities and to be asked for advice.  The person still wants and needs to feel that they can contribute to the household in a positive and meaningful way.  The need to have purpose in one’s life does not end once someone reaches a certain age; nor does the need to feel productive; regardless of age, diagnosis or environment, we all need to feel useful in one way or another.


As a caregiver in a home setting, your role is to act as a guide to help the person living with dementia engage in all of the things that they love to the best of their abilities.  The Montessori philosophy is one way of achieving active participation in life.  The suggestions being offered here are just a variety of possibilities of person-centred activities and roles that older adults can enjoy.  Use these as a starting point for anyone who wants to implement the Montessori philosophy of living.


Montessori isn’t just for a specific time; it is a way of life.  Purposeful and satisfying activities can happen at anytime during the course of the day.  Keep in mind that the Montessori philosophy is not an intervention or simply a new technique to try; it is a way of living one’s life to the fullest extent possible, offering dignity and respect.


When thinking of ways to improve the quality of life of the person living with dementia in a home environment, keep in mind the Montessori philosophy of helping, of being part of a community and contributing to the greater good.  In a Montessori classroom, children are involved in maintaining their environment; it teaches them to respect their classroom environment, it gives them a sense of responsibility and a feeling of being part of something bigger than just themselves. Seniors need to have that feeling as well and using a Montessori approach at home can give them that sense of purpose and belonging.

Here are a few examples:


  • Include the adult living with dementia in the care of the home; this could include cleaning, meal prep, folding laundry, washing and drying dishes; while we, as the caregiver, could probably do it faster, we need to get past that and realize that by offering a job to the adult we are caring for, we are giving them the feeling of belonging and of being needed
  • If the adult you are caring for is not able to help with the preparation of meals, you could have some dry ingredients out with you on the counter and the adult could simply just manipulate the ingredients, play with them and this could go a long way to sparking their own memories
  • Encourage storytelling; take time in your day to have the adult you are caring for tell stories, you can also take part; write out the stories that the adult shares with you; make a little keepsake book
  • Read aloud; this could include reading from a book, newspaper or magazine
  • Create sorting games; ask the adult to help you sort socks, laundry, coins, nuts, bolts, screws; the possibility is endless
  • Playing with dolls; adults in advanced stages of dementia enjoy having a doll around; engage in dressing the doll, having a tea party
  • Aromatherapy has been widely used to relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression but many studies have also shown that some essential oils can stimulate cognitive functioning and memory for adults with memory loss; as well certain oils such as lavender, bergamot and lemon balm can help calm adults and reduce aggression and agitation
  • Music therapy provides structure and meaningful engagement, it can promote communication and self expression through singing and active music making; it can improve mood, enhance cognition and memory recall, increase energy, alertness and orientation while also decreasing stress and agitation


Always remember, that regardless of the level of impairment, everybody can be provided with opportunities to engage in an activity.  Follow the stages of dementia when taking part in an activity.  In the early stages of dementia, the whole activity can be used (for example if baking, the whole activity would be to follow the recipe to bake the cake).  In the middle stages of dementia, you will focus on the individual steps of the activity (in the cake example, instead of the full recipe, it could just be whisking the eggs or measuring the flour).  In the later stages of dementia the activity should simply focus on the sensory part of the activity (it could be the tasting or smelling of the cake, running one’s fingers through some flour).  Implementing the Montessori philosophy into a home environment will go a long way into giving the person living with dementia a greater sense of purpose and feeling of belonging.