Tips on Keeping Someone with Dementia Engaged

Aug 12, 2018

By Brenda Nagey, Director of Life Engagement, Abe’s Garden and Park Manor

“Mom is bored. She can’t follow the story on TV or when reading. What else can I offer her?”

You can simplify tasks similar to her past lifestyle to help keep her engaged. What did she used to do? Work outside or inside the home?

Try something purposeful. Some examples:

  • Hand wash plastic dishes in the sink
  • Wipe the kitchen table and counters down with a damp cloth
  • Dust bookshelves
  • Pair playing cards up in suites or colors
  • Pair socks
  • Sort a collection of earrings
  • Fold laundry
  • Copy a recipe card
  • Look through a magazine and tear or cut out pictures of her favorite things (e.g. pets, clothes, flowers). Give one direction at a time for success here.
  • Clip coupons
  • Stir some pudding together to be served for dessert
  • Listen and sing and dance to her favorite music
  • Listen to music pieces and ask her to vote “Do you like it or not like it?”
  • Try Sudoku (4 by 4’s are easiest for beginners)
  • Adult coloring pages and color pencils for a short time
  • Play classical music and set up a canvas, watercolors and hand her a paint brush. Nothing she puts on the canvas will be wrong.


  • Start with simple tasks that give her success. If it is not successful, put the blame on yourself, even if it isn’t the truth. For example: “Mom, I am so sorry. I didn’t get you the right supplies.”
  • Begin the activity working together at first. If she doesn’t know how to do it, she will mirror you.
  • Praise in an adult way. Thank her after each purposeful task.
  • Invite and encourage her to participate by saying, “I need your help. Please help me.”