Dementia, Activities and Knowing Your Loved One

Scott Silknitter
By Scott SilknitterAugust 21, 2015

Dawn Worsley, lead instructor, and Scott Silknitter, founder of R.O.S. Therapy Systems, share dementia activities and insight to really knowing your loved ones with dementia.

Learn more from their discussion with

Dementia Activities

Families around the country ask the same question everyday — “What should I do with mom all day?” As everyone with dementia is different, it can be a challenge sifting through all of the information available to find what works best for you and your loved one.

An emerging theme across various publications and associations is the need for activities and engagement for a better quality of life for all. It may be suggestions like: playing a game of cards or taking a walk. They are great suggestions, but what if your loved one cannot hold the cards dealt or take a walk?

To engage your loved one, you must allow them to be successful by modifying an activity to their abilities and accept and understand that activities and engagement is not just playing games or taking walks. Activities and engagement can be many things, such as having a conversation,  listening to music, or even baking.

Knowing Your Loved One

Before you even get there, you must go back further. You must start with a topic or activity your loved recognizes and prefers.

Getting to know your loved one again is the foundation for communication, planning and engagement. Getting to know your loved one again is the First Pillar of Activities and Engagement. Get to know the person they were their entire life, not just the person of today. What were their hobbies, interests, likes, loves, careers? All of this will play a part in connecting with your loved one and getting them engaged.  It will also come in handy to calm them down if they are having a bad day.

One proven tool to help with knowing your loved one is a Personal History Form. This form, which can be downloaded for free at, helps organize a lifetime of accomplishments, likes and pastimes. From favorite foods to things they liked to do, this form should be filled out by as many friends and family members as possible as everyone has a different memory of your loved one.

The information should be kept in a central location and available to all caregivers. Why?  Because no matter how many people you have helping or want to help, if they do not know where to start or if they do not feel like they have something in common to talk to your loved one about, connecting and engaging will be difficult.

As a full-time caregiver, you may have seen moments where life comes back into your loved ones eyes or they become engaged and you think to yourself, he is still there or she is not gone yet.  Do you remember what was happening around you when their eyes did light up?  Was their music playing? Was there a discussion of their military service? Were their familiar smells in the house from a meal being cooked with an old family recipe?

Using information about something your loved one enjoyed 50 years ago to get them engaged might be challenging for some, especially adult children or family members, but we need to remember that when one suffers from Alzheimer’s or another related dementia, their body may be 82 years old, but they may only have the memories of a 32 year old. This is why it is so important to know their personal history.  We, as caregivers, need to enter their world where their memories are alive and well.

Knowing your loved one is the start — The First Pillar of Activities and Engagement. Check back in at this site for our next article covering the Second Pillar of Activities and Engagement — Communication.

If you cannot wait and need help now, please check out our “Activities for the Family Caregiver: Dementia — How to Engage, How to Live.”

About the Authors

Dawn Worsley, ADC/EDU/MC, CDP is the lead instructor for R.O.S. Therapy Systems and has been in the healthcare and activities field for over 25 years.  Scott Silknitter, inventor, author, speaker is the founder of R.O.S. Therapy Systems which began as a project in 2010 to help his mother and father in a 25-year battle with Parkinson’s disease and dementia.

For more information about Dawn, Scott or the R.O.S. family of companies, visit: or contact (888) 352-9788.

What person-centered activities have you and your loved one with dementia participated in? Share them with us in the comments below.

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