Dementia patients have different needs than other seniors. In fact, dementia patients often suffer from agitation, but may no longer understand or be drawn to past hobbies to fill the time. Thus, it’s important for dementia patients to have new types of enrichment activities that fit their skills and help them cope with symptoms such as agitation. Toys that are specifically designed for dementia patients are an excellent way to enrich day-to-day living. A wide range of toys are available that can bring joy and peace to dementia patients. Let’s take a closer look at these toys for dementia patients, as well as how to best handle your loved one’s condition.
Key considerations for dementia toys
For some, the idea of dementia toys may sound strange. Yet it’s a perfectly normal way for dementia patients to enjoy engaging activities and stimulate their senses.
It’s important to key in mind a few considerations when getting toys for dementia patients:
- The stage of dementia: Early and middle stage dementia patients may not yet benefit from dementia toys. Often these activities are most advantageous for late-stage dementia, when agitation may be severe and these activities have the most impact.
- The patient’s interests: There’s no wrong dementia toy, but sometimes your loved one may show greater interest in certain activities. Try to match toys with his/her interests.
- Potential hazards: If your loved one is prone to putting things in his/her mouth, or tying strings around fingers, it’s best to avoid any choking or circulation hazards.
At the end of the day, dementia toys are designed to improve quality of life for your loved one. If the toy isn’t fulfilling that goal, you might try a new one.
Types of toys for dementia patients
Below we’ve put together a list of top toys for dementia patients. It’s recommended to get a variety of these types of toys. Sometimes you never know what will appeal to your loved one until you try.
Fidget toys are designed to help steady and soothe agitation, especially for patients who find themselves fidgeting with their hands. Ideas for fidget toys can be simple. For example,
- Stuffed or twiddle animals: Twiddle animals are comfortable to hold and contain different items to play with. They’re also cuddly and make dementia patients feel good.
- Fidget quilts, blankets, muffs, aprons or pillows: These typically include items to zip, fasten, button or buckle. Different textures are a must!
You can even make your own fidget toys, using items you think will appeal to your loved one. Just make sure that the items are easy to move and the pieces won’t easy fall off.
Sensory toys can be similar in nature to fidget toys, but they typically inspire wonder. Often they use new textures or contain lots of items of interest.
- Activity boards
- Lockbox or DIY boxes
- Set of squeeze balls
- Tangle toys
- Gel mazes
The idea of creating a DIY box is a nice way to get a variety of textures. Try adding different textured squeeze balls in a box – and ta-da!
Dementia patients can still play games exercising their minds. Of course, the level and amount of time a senior can spend on these activities may vary. However, some examples include:
- Jigsaw puzzles
- Block puzzles
- Word searches or Sudoku
You might even consider coupling this activity with personal memories. For example, making a puzzle out of a family photo may be a nice way for your loved one to spend time – while also getting a visual of the family.
Art can be an excellent outlet of expression for your loved one. This will depend on the patient’s interests, but could include activities such as:
- Simple knitting or crochet
- Paint-by-number kits
Knitting is especially a good idea to keep fidgety hands busy. Even if the final shape or design is odd, knitting or crochet is still an enriching activity. Other activities such as painting and scrapbooking can also be great for seniors who are detailed-oriented.
Soothing familiar items
Sometimes the best toys are those that bring a sense of home. Soothing familiar items aren’t exactly toys, but they’re absolutely enriching for a senior with dementia. These include:
- Photos of family
- Voice-recorded memories on Amazon Alexa
- Soothing sound machine or noise-canceling headphones
- Therapy dolls or robot pets
- Familiar items like wallets or keys
Plenty of items fall into this category. One to highlight is the My Life Story feature available with Amazon Alexa. Your family can record memories and your loved one can listen to them whenever he/she wants.
You might also consider putting together familiar items, such as a fake wallet or set of keys that your loved one can hold and fidget with. If your loved one had a favorite pet, you might also consider getting a twiddle or robot pet as a comforting toy.
Items for physical comfort
In addition to toys to play with, dementia patients also deserve to feel physically comforted. You can ensure comfiness by getting:
- Heavy blankets
- Comfortable clothes, blankets or slippers
- Brightly-colored tableware and mats
- Big clocks, calendars, signs and whiteboards
While not exactly toys, these items will keep your senior calm and comfortable. They’re great ideas to make any home dementia-friendly.
Ultimately, the top toys for dementia patients are the ones that your loved one is interested in. You can start with these ideas for fidget and sensory toys to find out what your loved one enjoys most. In addition, you can try out these activities for dementia patients for more insight.
During your senior care journey, you may also want more resources on dementia and caregiving, including our Dementia Caregivers Guide and dementia caregivers resources list. Check out MyCaringPlan to get more info on a variety of senior-specific topics.
- What equipment can improve the home of a person with dementia?, Alzheimer’s Society, https://www.alzheimers.org.uk
- How to make your home dementia friendly, NHS, https://www.nhs.uk
- How to choose dementia gifts?, Veritas Care, https://veritascare.co.uk
- 6 Calming Ways to Help Seniors with Alzheimer’s, Daily Caring, https://dailycaring.com
- A Holiday Gift Guide for People With Dementia, Five Star Senior Living, https://www.fivestarseniorliving.com
- Activities for Dementia Patients, Senior Link, https://www.seniorlink.com