How to Engage Dementia Patients in Outdoor Activities at Home?

Dementia can cause a decline in cognitive abilities, making it difficult for patients to engage in new activities or routines. However, staying active and engaged is important for the physical and mental health of dementia patients. Outdoor activities, in particular, can provide cognitive stimulation and improve mood and behaviour. Here are some tips for caregivers on engaging dementia patients in outdoor activities at home.

Get Outdoors

Being outdoors provides mental stimulation through sights, sounds, and smells. Aim to get the dementia patient outdoors every day, even if just for a short walk around the backyard or neighbourhood. Other outdoor ideas:

  • Sit outside and look at nature
  • Tend to a garden or plants
  • Go for a ride in the car
  • Visit a park or beach

If mobility is an issue, get outdoors by sitting on the patio or balcony. Enjoy the fresh air and change of scenery.

Incorporate Exercise

Physical activity benefits cardiovascular and brain health. Tailor exercise to the patient’s abilities. Options include:

  • Walking
  • Gardening
  • Strength training
  • Stretching/yoga
  • Playing catch
  • Washing the car
  • Sweeping leaves

Break the exercise into shorter segments if needed. Make it social by exercising together.

Engage the Senses

Outdoor activities like gardening, walking, and washing the car incorporate multiple senses, providing cognitive stimulation. Other ideas:

  • Listen to nature sounds like birds chirping
  • Feel the grass or leaves
  • Smell flowers and plants
  • Plant herbs and smell the scents
  • Eat a snack outdoors and discuss the tastes
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Engaging multiple senses helps trigger memories and improves mood.

Make It Social

Loneliness and isolation worsen dementia symptoms. Involve family, friends, or neighbours in outdoor activities:

  • Take a friend along on a short walk
  • Do yard work together
  • Sit outdoors together looking at photo albums
  • Toss a ball back and forth
  • Go on a picnic at the park

Laughter and social interaction are therapeutic.

Provide Tools and Aids

Adapt tools and activities to the patient’s abilities. Useful tools include:

  • Walkers or canes for stability outdoors
  • Lightweight gardening tools
  • Automatic watering cans or hoses
  • Sprinklers or bubbles for sensory experience
  • Large print books or photo albums
  • Audiobooks and music players for walks

Aids allow patients to participate more fully in outdoor activities.

Follow Interests

Tap into activities the dementia patient enjoys. If they liked fishing, birdwatching or hiking before, find ways to safely adapt these interests. Or explore new activities like sitting outdoors coloring or painting. Accommodate interests and abilities to provide meaning and joy.

Ensure Safety

Safety tips when engaging dementia patients in outdoor activities:

  • Provide supervision
  • Ensure proper footwear and clothing
  • Use sun protection like hats, shade and sunblock
  • Stay hydrated
  • Follow doctor recommendations on safe activity levels
  • Secure gates, fences and doors leading outside

With some creativity and flexibility, outdoor activities can stimulate dementia patients mentally and physically. Simple activities outdoors provide benefits for patient engagement, mood and health.

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