Giving a Sense of Purpose

Senior man with dementia playing with a wooden puzzle in nursing home with friends

Giving a Sense of Purpose

April 11th, 2022

A dementia diagnosis doesn’t have to change your loved one’s quality of life in the short term. Participating in enriching and rewarding activities can actually help adults with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia live engaging, productive lives for many years after their diagnosis.

For older adults with dementia, a sense of purpose in life may diminish or come and go in waves. Creating a familiar, comfortable routine with regular activities that emphasize your loved one’s strengths can be an effective way to help your loved one retain — or even reclaim — their sense of purpose.


How Meaningful Activities Help People with Dementia

Various bodies of research suggest hobbies may delay the onset of dementia, but for those already diagnosed with dementia, participating in regular activities and hobbies contributes to a stronger sense of well-being. Some activities may slow the progression of symptoms and preserve cognitive function, while others play an important role in promoting a greater quality of life.

Encouraging your loved one to participate in meaningful activities allows them to:


Feel productive. Following a dementia diagnosis, discouragement drives some people to stop filling their days with meaningful tasks. However, languishing may exacerbate symptoms. Activities that bring meaning to the day allow your loved one to see how they’re still able to make important contributions to daily living.


Delay symptom progression. Therapeutic activities like brain teasers, games, or puzzles help your loved one practice their cognitive skills, which may be helpful in slowing symptoms. Smart lifestyle choices like regular exercise, a healthy diet and consistent sleep may also be beneficial.


Practice independence. In the early stages of dementia, your loved one may be exhibiting symptoms but still be fully aware of their surroundings. During this time, your loved one may be especially sensitive about the limitations of their abilities, so activities that reinforce independence are especially helpful.


Embrace socialization. Communication becomes increasingly difficult for someone with dementia, and the struggle to participate in conversations often leads to withdrawal from social situations. Activities that encourage interaction with others help promote socialization, which plays an important role in seniors’ mental and physical health.


Focus on abilities. Allow a person with dementia to focus on what they can do, rather than what they can’t. Shining a light on the abilities that remain can help your loved one remain positive about the future and avoid common mental health problems that affect people with dementia, such as depression.


Ideas for Activities That Give Purpose

Thinking about your loved one’s interests and background will help you find activities that hold special appeal and draw them in. You might consider activities for people with dementia such as these:


Household chores like dusting, sorting the mail, or folding laundry offer a sense of normalcy through familiar actions your loved one has executed again and again throughout their life. Look for activities you’re confident your loved one can complete successfully, so they can enjoy the sense of accomplishment when the job is done.


Reminiscence activities allow people with dementia to focus their energy and attention on memories from the past. The end product can take many tangible forms, such as a written work, memory box or other medium. Reminiscence activities can trigger memories and allow family members to deepen their connections with a loved one who has dementia.


Arts and crafts can be relatively simple activities that produce a satisfying tangible result. Projects can be practical and useful, such as a bird feeder to hang outside their bedroom window, or purely for pleasure, such as a fresh or silk flower arrangement to brighten their living space.


Food-related tasks allow your loved one to contribute to family meals with results they can easily see (and others can readily acknowledge, such as complimenting a dish a loved one helped prepare). An added benefit of this type of activity is the opportunity to encourage healthy eating, which is a common challenge for people with dementia.


Getting up and out, such as taking a walk or going for a swim, can help slow dementia symptoms while helping your loved one feel more connected to the world. What’s more, the fresh air and natural sunlight offer great health benefits.


Explore a Community Offering Memory Care with Purpose

Schedules and stability are just some of the ways we deliver on our mission of resident-focused care in our memory care living community at Garden Plaza of Florissant. Our secure community is a safe environment where your loved one has the opportunity to participate in meaningful and purposeful activities each day, while engaging in programming adapted to their unique background and skills. Schedule a tour to learn more about the benefits of memory care and how we can help your loved one maintain a sense of dignity while receiving care tailored to their individual needs.

Note: This article is intended for educational purposes only. If you are concerned about your loved one's memory, please consult a qualified physician.