Engaging Persons Living with Dementia with Activity Boxes

Vicky Pitner   -  

Dementia is one of the most important issues we face today as the population ages. As dementia progresses, the person living with dementia becomes less able to enter our world, so we must create opportunities to join their world.

One of the tools used to engage people living with dementia is activity boxes. These boxes foster engagement in meaningful life tasks and create a sense of purpose and belonging.  Successful activity boxes are designed for a specific individual’s interests and capabilities. They are also useful for decreasing unwanted behaviors and anxiety. Shoeboxes are ideal and plastic shoeboxes with lids are available at dollar discount stores. The plastic shoe boxes are perfect and can be stacked for storage. You, grandchildren, and friends can enjoy the boxes together. Sit with the person and get them interested in looking through the box and remain and engage, or tell them “I’ll be right back” and step away to see if they can continue independently. Come back in a few minutes and join them as you promised. Below are some suggestions for “theme” boxes.

  • Flower arranging: artificial flowers cut into single stem (leaves and flowers), a vase, scents to add to the flowers
  • Sanding blocks for the woodworker: several 2”x4” blocks with one side covered with sandpaper, pieces of wood (different shapes) that can be sanded, a cloth to wipe down the sanded pieces
  • Office worker: papers to fold and place in envelopes, colored paper (sort colors or shapes) pencil sharpener and pencils, file folders, index cards, rubber bands
  • Knitting box: yarn to roll into balls, needles with yarn started (muscle memory can often kick in and the person who has prior interest and skills will start to knit!)
  • Coupon clipping: scissors, coupons, and envelopes.
  • Shoeshine box: cloths, wax (avoid the dyes) shoe strings, brush
  • Coin sorting box: a large number of coins (avoid for those who may put them in their mouth), plastic coin holder paper rolls.
  • Gardening: gloves, cap, seeds packages, soil (great for outdoors and a wonderful sensory activity)

Tapping into activities that are meaningful and specific to the person helps maintain helps the person experience feelings of pleasure and retained a sense of autonomy and personal identity.

If you, a friend or family member living with memory loss would be interested in learning more about our Memory Ministry, our Memory Cafe or our Virtual Family and Friends Support Group, please contact Vicky Pitner at vpitner@firstumc.org