coordinate activity in your home

Later Stage Dementia

We were so impressed with the number of wonderful entries received in response to our October competition, ‘Best Activity for Later Stage Dementia’ that we have decided to feature a selection, to help inspire your own activity ideas.   

‘In my experience of working with people with advanced dementia, the most important thing that we can do with our residents is to give them something that, strictly speaking is ‘free’. I mean, of course, TIME. Those with advanced dementia need time spent with them, company. This makes them feel able to off-load what is bothering or frustrating them. Even if we cannot understand, just being there can make them feel valued, not alone and that they have a friend who wants to be with them for as long as they need them. This helps them to feel content and safe and does not challenge their abilities, which many activities can do when dementia reaches the advanced stage.”

Sandy Hart, Kernow House Care Centre, Cornwall 

“Music plays an important role in our activities. We look at their life stories and find out their musical interests and play to them. If you get the right song, you can see a reaction in them immediately – this could be a tin smile, a wee tap of their feet or hands, or they physically relax. We have a wonderful lady who goes round their rooms and plays and sings their favourite songs on her guitar. She will accept requests and if she doesn’t know it, she will learn it for the next time. Her name is Nina Clark and you can find out more about her at

Helen Murray, Hawkinge House Care Home, Kent 

“I find that time is the most important activity to give somebody, combining this with a simple meaningful activity I feel works well. My favourite is the use of a twiddlemuff, the warmth and comfort of the wool material on the residents arm, the different textures of material to feel. I also have a few twiddlemuffs that are scented with lavender essential oil which is calming and soothing. It gives the opportunity for a close one on one with the resident, to prompt discussion about the different feel of the materials. It is a calming environment and also something that can be left for the resident to experience touch and feel senses whilst on their own.”

Dawn McCormack, Cooper House Care Home, West Yorkshire

“Pets as Therapy. This is a wonderful sensory and interactive activity, that provides wonderful stimulation and expression for our patients with late stage dementia. Demonstrating emotions not usually expressed, such as tears, laughter, a reduction in agitation, promotes sleeping patterns, due to spending time with the Therapy Dog named Dolly. Dolly attends the hospital along with her owner Trish and together they provide this wonderful service that enables our patients to come and meet Dolly, offer her a treat, cuddle her, assist with walking her, enabling them to access the grounds, and sometimes sharing memories of their own pets. This does as times make some cry, when they recall some memory of this, but they do appear to be reflective tears, rather than making them upset or agitated. Dolly, along with Trish, also dances to music and this is well received by all. Dolly really does bring a ray of sunshine into our lives, and there is many a time that I shed a tear watching this wonderful interaction between Dolly and the patients.”

Rachel Young, John Munroe Independent Hospital, Staffordshire 

Read more about Pets as Therapy here

“We have a few special activities that work very well. Hand and face massage with aromatic oils. Baking bread in a bread maker. Residents love the smell of baking bread, and we eat it with butter later. And the cinema! We watch old movies on the big screen in the lounge twice a week. Residents really like it.”

Beata Karczewska, Old Wall Cottage Care Home, Surrey 

“Bedside Buddies is new initiative we have rolled out across our services. We ensure that residents are not isoalted by giving one to one visits that last from 5 minutes to an hour. During these visit we build up a current profile of the resident, keeping a journal of the visits. We use pictures as well as text, and the journal stays with the residents for them to look through with family and friends. We use the info we gather to make person-centred busy boxes/bags that we fill with sensory items. E.g. Margaret was a seamstress and sang in a church choir, so the box was filled with photographs of churches, a hymn book, bible, CD of a choir, materials, zips and sewing patterns and we use this with Margare to rummage through and talk about… During our Bedside Buddy sessions we try and vary the activity as much as possible by singing, reciting rhymes, using flowers and herbs to smell and touch, hand massages, musical instruments – whatever we feel they may enjoy and get something out of, depending on the length of the session. We use an app called Tangible Memories, that helps us keep an up to date record of the things we’ve done with the resident. Bedside Buddies has helped us build wonderful relationships with our residents. We gain their confidence and their smiles tell us how much they enjoy our visits.”

Sue Faulkner, The Fremantle Trust Woodley House, Aylesbury 

Find out more about Tangible Memories here

“Here at Gracewell of Weymouth with our residents in the later stages of dementia, we do a pampering session with them. We have fibre optic lights that stimulate their sight. We put on nice soothing music with helps them relax. We also have a DVD of an Aquarium that we play on the TV. Some residents prefer to watch the fish on the TV, rather than the lights…”

Rachael Craig, Gracewell of Weymouth

“Tovertafel means magic table in Dutch and it is the invention of PhD student Hester Le Riche from Holland. We were lucky enough to enjoy a wonderful demonstration of the interactive light projection game that entices older and younger people to get moving and have fun together… It is the most wonderful way of preventing boredom and frustration in people with middle to late stage dementia. One lady who walks around the home most of the day spent half an hour at the table absorbed with the colourful games and sounds that accompany them. We are currently raising money to fund this table and Tesco’s is helping us with this fund raising. I have never seen an activity more engaging than this magic table.”

Fiona Swynnerton, Apthorp Care Centre, London

Discover Tovertafel here 

Thank you to everyone who took the time to enter our competition and share these creative and meaningful activity ideas with us.