Creative Ways to Trigger Memories in Dementia Sufferers

memory activities for dementiaAfter a loved one has been diagnosed with dementia, many people tend to feel helpless and hopeless, knowing the inevitable future that lies in wait. As their memories start to decline, dementia can cause seniors to withdraw from family and society as a whole, as well as any activities they may have previously enjoyed.

However, helping your loved one maintain their interests and hobbies can actually provide them with a boost in memory and may help reduce some of the worst effects of their cognitive impairment.

Memory Activities for Dementia Patients

Use these memory techniques to help improve quality of life for your loved one:

  • Listen to music. Music has the ability to take us back in time, evoking memories and feelings from the past. Turn on your loved one’s favorite tunes, whether it’s from the big band era or some relaxing classic country music. Music can help not only with cognitive skills, but also with speech, stress reduction, and socialization. Many memory care assisted living communities incorporate music or sing-alongs into their daily activities.
  • Look at photographs. Pull out some old photo albums next time you go to visit your loved one. Point out photos and comment on them, encouraging your loved one to take part in the conversation. Try not to ask specific questions about the photos, however, instead offering commentary that could spark a memory. Things like, “This looks like it was taken in our old backyard” or “I haven’t seen this person since our wedding” could help them recognize places and people on their own.
  • Read a book together. Bring your loved one’s favorite novel with you when you visit and read it to them. Don’t ask if they remember what happens next or how it ends, just keep them engaged as though it was the first time they’ve ever heard the story.
  • Play a game. Keep games simple, like putting together a puzzle or helping them complete a word search or “find and seek” picture puzzle. Allow your loved one to do the majority of the work, but offer your assistance if they begin to show signs of frustration. Or, simply put it away for a later time.
  • Watch old family videos. These days, most people have a large collection of old family videos from days past. Dust them off (you can even consider getting VHS tapes converted to a digital file or a DVD) and watch them with your loved one. Actually seeing these memories right in front of them, much like looking at photographs, could help bring back long-forgotten thoughts and feelings.

The memory techniques that work best will vary depending on the individual. Find the activity that creates that “spark” in your loved one’s eyes and stick to it. It’s important to create meaningful memory activities for dementia sufferers, not just find ways to fill their days and pass the time.

For more information about memory care through Auguste’s Cottage at American Senior Communities, please visit

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