Creative activities for residents with dementia (McKnight’s LTC News)

Posted by Dr. El - October 3, 2014 - Dementia, For Recreation Staff, McKnight's Long-Term Care News, Something Good About Nursing Homes - 4 Comments

Here’s my latest article on McKnight’s Long-Term Care News:


Creative activities for residents with dementia

Greetings from Montana! I was in Billings last week conducting a training session for the Montana Department of Health. An enthusiastic group of over 100 LTC staff members from various departments joined the discussion and I came away with some excellent suggestions on how to engage residents with dementia.

The subject of how to best provide care for people with dementia without using antipsychotic medications was a particularly hot one at the conference. As well it should have been.

The topic is particularly timely given that CMS has increased its antipsychotic reduction goal from 15% (below 2011 levels) this year to 25% next year and 30% below for 2016. As G. Allen Power, MD, pointed out in his recent McKnight’s article, antipsychotic medication reduction should be preceded by educating staff members about alternatives to medication.

One important alternative is offering activities that enrich the lives of people with dementia so that they’re engaged in positive pursuits that build on remaining strengths.

Many participants in the Montana training were from the recreation/activities/life enrichment departments and they shared some great ideas they’ve successfully used to engage residents with dementia. These include:

  • Off-campus trips to a variety of locations, including many of the scenic outdoor attractions in Montana. “A lot of work, but worth it!”
  • A “whack-a-mole” game where residents use water pistols to shoot down plastic cups decorated as moles. A game such as this allows residents to release anger in a healthy, socially acceptable manner. (It was suggested that since I’m from New York City, we use a “whack-a-rat” version, but I think New Yorkers might enjoy “whack-a-pigeon.” Pigeons, or “flying rats,” as some people refer to them, are much more ubiquitous and annoying but get less media attention.)

For the entire article, visit:

Creative activities for residents with dementia