Activity Ideas for Men Living with Dementia

In 2011, the largest ever demographic generation of the American population known as the ‘Baby Boomer’ generation started turning age 65 years old. Unfortunately, the same age at which the risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other Dementias begin to increase.

Per the 2022 Alzheimer’s Association Facts & Figures report, by 2030 the segment of the U.S. population age 65 and older will have grown substantially and the projected 74 million older Americans will make up over 20% of the total population. (and increase of 18% from the year 2022)

Interestingly, almost two-thirds of Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease are women. Currently, of the 6.5 million people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s in the U.S. 4 million are women and 2.5 million are men. On average, women tend to live longer than men and older age is the greatest risk factor for getting an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis.

Keeping our Guys Engaged

Although the numbers of men living with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of Dementia is lower than women, keep in mind that statistically, women are caregivers in larger numbers than men. Therefore, it’s quite common for Dementia caregiving done either in a professional setting or in a family home to be delivered by females.

And although each person living with Dementia is unique; there are some shared characteristics across the spectrum of types of Dementia that are common. Most notably, as the disease progresses the person living with Dementia may begin to withdraw from social situations, historically favorite pastimes and other areas of engagement that once were part of their life.

Often, the increase of being withdrawn from once-familiar and enjoyed activity gives rise to apathy, lethargy, and even depression.  These (new) traits can be observed in those who didn’t previously exhibit these types of behavior. This personality shift can largely be attributed to the cognitive disease journey and progression they are experiencing.

Men who were previously defined by their professional roles, status in the community, and engagement in extra-curricular pursuits may lose that identity as they progress through their brain disease.

However, the disease doesn’t cancel the muscle memory of those pursuits buried deep in the heart and soul and inner-spirit that defined them previously. So, it’s highly encouraged that care partners in both professional and family home settings make it a priority to engage the men in their care by creating ‘modified’ moments for them to stay connected with previous habits and pursuits for as long as possible.

The Men in Your Care

In a professional setting, caregivers must be given ample information about those in their care.

  • Frank was a former stand-out athlete
  • William worked second-shift as a supervisor in a manufacturing plant
  • Kevin was a Rancher
  • Steve owned ten car dealerships and has eleven grandchildren

Understanding the personal backgrounds of the men in your care within a professional setting is crucial for overall success. Professional care partners in long-term living often meet those they serve when they’re in the middle to later stages of the Dementia journey. So, they need to know the back-story to ensure a higher quality of both care and engagement.

In a family home setting if a wife or daughter is the primary caregiver for a husband/father; they’ll be more familiar with the life-history and the back-story of the men in their care. However, they’ll have to overcome different challenges that are unique to family caregiving like feelings of guilt, sadness, or depression that the CAREGIVER feels as they provide care within a close and personal family relationship.

It’s additionally tricky if/when the personal family relationship was stressful, tense or adversarial when the male in their care was healthy.

Expert Advice

As a board-certified Dementia educator specializing in holistic care solutions, I’ve got over twenty years in long-term care settings combined with my personal Dementia care support of my Father who had a dual diagnosis of Lewy Body Dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

I speak from significant experience of utilizing activity-engagement as a non-pharma first line of defense while supporting those living with Dementia. The ‘activity’ may be significantly modified. It may be passive observation or full-on participation. There are a variety of ways to keep folks ‘engaged’ based on their remaining physical and cognitive capabilities.

Modifications for those with Dementia

  • Frank was a former stand-out athlete – go for walks outdoors on safe surfaces like sidewalks, paved driveway, or a nearby high school track. Walk the hallways indoors or even march in place. The goal is to keep ‘Frank’ moving! Later in the journey, while Frank is seated – toss or bounce a tennis ball back & forth with him.
  • William worked second-shift as a supervisor in a manufacturing plant – understand that he may sleep later in the day and be more active & capable from Noon – 8 pm. Create opportunities for him to ‘fiddle’ and ‘work’ with tools, files or items that would be comforting based on his professional background. Reminisce with him by looking at manufacturing-type books, magazines, or online articles that he can see.

Other top Activity Ideas for Men Living with Dementia

  • Water plants (indoors & outside) help in the garden, rake leaves
  • Sweep the floor
  • Empty the garbage
  • Sort & organize items
  • Fishing or miniature golf
  • Stay physical through other household chores or modified athletic activities

The bottom line is for care partners in both professional and home settings to creatively support the men in their care with engagement opportunities that ‘tap into’ their past history muscle memory. Things that feel familiar and are stored deep inside their personhood. Even modified activity that’s adjusted based on their remaining capabilities can boost energy, mood and be enjoyable for those struggling with cognitive decline.