Dementia and Socialization: How to Get Friends to Visit

“You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte.  “That in itself is a tremendous thing.”    Do you recognize that quote?  It’s from Charlotte’s Web, authored by E. B. White.  Although Charlotte’s Web is typically considered a children’s book, the truths in it reach far beyond childhood.


Your loved one with dementia had an active social life once, filled with friends.  Friends from school days…

High School Drill Team

High School Girlfriends

who still are friends today are priceless.  This type of long-term friendship endures all kinds of circumstances yet remains strong. “A tremendous thing.”

Even recently formed friendships made when new seasons in our life open doors allowing us to form new connections and share experiences are also “a tremendous thing.”


However, in many circumstances, when one person begins a decline in his or her cognitive ability, their number of friends begin to decline as well.  It’s not that friends don’t care, it’s just that they don’t know what to do.  So they do nothing. Not a “tremendous thing.”

So here’s the question that many are asking, “How can you get your loved one’s friends to resume their connection and come for a visit?”


Let them know you will have something selected for them to do with your loved one during their 45 minute visit.

They don’t come because they don’t know two things:

1.  WHAT TO DO or


We prepare for weekly visits to five ladies in our community who have dementia.  We call ourselves Lady-Links because we are ladies helping other ladies successfully maintain a link to their friends.  Our examples are ones we have used at our arranged Lady-Links visits.  The same principles apply for men, just make changes where needed to something that your male loved one would enjoy.  Most of our visits begin with simple refreshments which provide an enjoyable, relaxed atmosphere, followed by activities which our friend with dementia will enjoy based on her specific interests and level of ability.

A little detective work is how you start.  You need to identify your loved one’s friends…long-time ones and recent ones.  Think of friends from school or college who live in the area, friends from their previous work,  friends from social groups such as golf or tennis clubs, friends from their church and from the neighborhood.  Contact those friends and ask them to visit in groups of two or three, staying for about 45 minutes and let them know that you will have something planned for them to do with their friend (your loved one).  Begin with refreshments and then help transition into what you have planned for the remainder of the visit.

Select from the following themes to stimulate ideas for things to do at each visit.

1.  Select an Interest theme to be done at the visit and have it ready for your loved one’s friends to use.  A balloon toss, listening or dancing to music, doing chair exercises, making a craft, or looking at scrapbooks or former school annuals are all things that your loved one will enjoy and will be easy for the friends to do. Perhaps you might work on a craft project that their church or community can use.

Balloon game 1



2.  Select a Celebration theme.

Birthdays are always fun.


Don’t forget to celebrate each new season when it arrives.


Some “unusual” special days can be celebrated with lots of amusement such as National Candy Day or National S’mores Day or National Chocolate Chip Day. It doesn’t matter that no one has ever heard of these special days.  That makes it all the more fun!

Candy in baggie

Microwave on HIGH for 10 - 15 seconds.  Perfect!

Microwave on HIGH for 10 – 15 seconds. Perfect!

Making cookies to share

Making cookies to share

3.  Select a Holiday theme.

Making Christmas ornaments or decorations, filling Easter baskets, and making valentines are great ideas.  Just have the supplies available and the hard work already done (such as cutting out the designs).

Pine cone decorations.

Pine cone decorations.

Easter Egg Baskets that were given away.

Easter Egg Baskets that were given away.

Valentine Ladies

Socialization for your loved one is an important part of his or her life.  At a recent “Mindshare” event sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association, the importance of socialization as a part of a healthy lifestyle was emphasized with this information during a Power Point presentation:

What We Know

Social engagement is associated with living longer with fewer disabilities

Staying engaged in the community offers you an opportunity to maintain your skills

Remaining both socially and mentally active may support brain health and possibly delay the onset of dementia

When you arrange circumstances so that friends can easily visit with your loved one who has dementia, you will be helping him or her feel valued, loved and appreciated.   And that, my friend,  is a “tremendous thing.”


Why did you do all this for me?‘ he asked. ‘I don’t deserve it.  I’ve never done anything for you.’

 ‘You have been my friend,’ replied Charlotte.  ‘That in itself is a tremendous thing.”





Dementia and Reassurance: 3 Tips that Work When Friends Visit

Reassurance…”the action of removing doubt and fear.”  Important when interacting with people with dementia? Absolutely.   In a confused state of mind, with memory loss included, there is no question that our dear friends with dementia face doubt and fear.  Yet, Lady-Links are able to bring reassurance to the dear friends they visit, creating an environment of trust in which everyone feels encouraged and valued.

Laughing fun


We will be the first to admit that we are not caregivers and that our responsibilities with our dear friends are different from those amazing family members or professional caregivers who must address health concerns and procedures.

However, that being said, we still have a responsibility to reassure our dear friends during our hour-long visits that they are safe with us and that they are in a nonthreatening environment.  How do we do that?   Here’s three tips we use at every visit to reassure those precious ladies.

Tip #1 – Be cheerful.  Lady-Links greet the dear friend by name and with a big smile.  That cheerfulness sets the tone for the visit, dispelling the tense atmosphere that might have existed just moments before we arrived. The husband of one of our dear friends always “warns” us in whispered words when we arrive that “she’s having a terrible day.”  And he’s probably right.  Alzheimer’s is a difficult, progressive disease that puts his wife in a state of confusion and mistrust much of the time.  But when she sees our smiles, hears us say how glad we are to see her, and feels our comforting hugs, she welcomes us.  Lady-Links maintain that level of cheerfulness  throughout the visit and it makes a difference.   This is not new information…the psalmist wrote about this in Proverbs 17:22 “A cheerful heart is good medicine…”. Cheerfulness transitions into fun, and we do have fun at each of our visits!

Flag day cookies eating




Tip #2 – Build confidence.  Lady-Links visits include an activity that is carefully selected for each dear friend that we visit.  We know that she will be able to engage in the activity with success.  We have made an effort to choose something that is of interest specifically to her and is within her capabilities to contribute to its completion.  In some cases, this means that the craft we’re working on has been partially completed before the visit, allowing for the “easy” parts to be added during the visit.  With some of our dear friends we work on crafts, but we have other dear friends who either are not interested in crafts or they are at the stage in the progression of demenia that even the simplest craft would be too difficult.  With those friends, we have found other activities to build confidence such as through the use of music or with a “show and tell” of an object already made.





Tip #3 – Be complimentary.  Positive reinforcement works wonders with our dear friends.  We are generous with our compliments and work “behind the scenes” to be certain of a favorable outcome with our activities.  We guide, we encourage, and we model the behavior that we want duplicated.  Our conversation is uplifting and positive.  We do not correct when our dear friend makes a mistake.  We simply move forward, providing assistance.  During a visit when we were making flower arrangements, our dear friend placed one of the flowers in her coffee cup rather than in the vase.  I just happened to be taking a picture at the time and caught the mistake on camera (look carefully at the picture below).  When I sat down, I realized the mistake and simply said something like, “Let’s try this pretty flower in the vase with the others” and moved it there.  Then I followed up with a compliment, “Oh that looks beautiful.  What a great job you’ve done.”  I removed her coffee cup from the table and made a mental note that we needed to finish our refreshments before starting our activity to help avoid future mistakes.

Lilacs Exercise and Dancing 016

Compliments can be as simple as a “great job” comment or by displaying what they have made and letting them see the effect their work has on others.  We have involved our dear friends in making cookies, filling bags with candy, and making valentines to give to others in our community for special holidays.  Always, the recepients have made delightful responses giving our dear friends positive reinforcement for something they have accomplished.   Compliments add value and respect to the lives of our dear friends.


Valentine give away with friend

Reassurance is simply a way of providing support that makes the person feel secure and significant. Cheerfulness, confidence-building, and giving compliments are ways you can invest in the lives of your friends with dementia to help reassure them.   When that happens, you’ll find that fear and doubt will be replaced with love and laughter.  We did!




Lady-Links…Linking Love, Laughter and Life 



Dementia and Friends: Adding Spice to Life

Life can get into a boring rut unless we take steps to add interest to our daily routines.  Sometimes we just need to add a little spice whether it’s to our meals, our homes, or to our lives.


Adding “spice” to the life of a person with dementia is what we do at our Lady-Links visits.  We find areas of interest for each of our dear friends and then we create activities and projects that will be meaningful for them.  We visit once or twice a week engaging each dear friend in activities that she enjoys and can successfully complete.  Lady-Links are the “Spice of Life”  to four dear friends with dementia who live in our retirement community.  The following is a poem written by Dennie Lindsey to express appreciation to the Lady-Links for what they do to spice up the lives of these dear friends.

The Spice of Life

Cinnamon, nutmeg, and pumpkin spice

provide an aroma that will surely entice.

Spices add flavor to all that we eat

turning something unsavory into a treat.

But when the spice rack is empty and none can be found

that’s when Lady-Links arrive to change things around.

They smile, they laugh, and their joy will touch

a dear friend who needs to be uplifted so much.

Each visit is filled with a sweetness so bold

that it replaces the grocery-store spices of old.

This sweetness is a spice that never runs out

made from love and laughter when Lady-Links are about.

Thank you, Lady-Links, for the spices you impart

making a lasting impression on each dear friend’s heart.



Girl Talk with cotton


Lady-Links add spice to their friends’ lives through the love, laughter, and joy they bring to each visit.  What about your friend or loved one with dementia?  Could they use a group of friends to add “spice” to their routine?  Our hope is that you will find inspiration through what we do at Lady-Links and copy our model of friendship visits so that those dear friends in your life will be valued, loved, appreciated by their own set of friends as they engage in activities that provide meaning and purpose to their lives.

Dementia and Friends: Show and Tell with a Purpose

Show and Tell.  We loved it as children because it gave us the opportunity to show others something that we made or that was special to us.

Flag craft with K

But we also love it as adults, really for the same reasons.  We have something special that is worth sharing, and we think there are those who would find it interesting.

Deedra's booth example

For the “audience” a program is much more enticing when you know you will see something of interest rather than just hear about it.  That’s why programs, even for adults, that feature some type of visual presentation are much more popular than those without.  They’re not called Show and Tell anymore, but that’s what they really are!

Just think…would you rather hear about someone’s trip to the beach to collect seashells or would you rather see samples of their collection while they tell you of their adventure?  Which keeps you engaged more…hearing about how a unique piece of jewelry was made or seeing the jewelry as you listen to the explanation of its creation?


With one of our dear friends with dementia, we enjoy a time of show and tell with her each week.  We find items in our homes that would be of interest to her and bring them with us to our weekly visits.  The visits begin with enjoying refreshments and then transition into a time of sharing about what we brought.


We call this time together Girl Talk 2.  It is patterened after a monthly Ladies’ Coffee with a speaker that we have in our retirement community which is appropriately named Girl Talk.  With the community Girl Talk, there is one speaker who presents to an audience of about 20 to 30 ladies and whose presentation can last any where from 30 to 40 minutes.  It is a highly enjoyable event for those who attend.  But if you’re a person with dementia, it can be overwhelming.

We modified that large-group show and tell concept to something more appropriate for our dear friend.  We bring a few items of interest to her home, and she holds each item as we tell her about it.  We interact with her about what we’ve brought, following her train of thought, helping her relate to it in some meaningful way. Two or three Lady-Links visit her each week, engaging in a modified type of show and tell.

Examing a cotton boll and feeling the seeds within it.

Examing a cotton boll and feeling the seeds within it.

Enjoying the hand painted designs of a piece of pottery from Sedona, Arizona

Enjoying the hand painted designs of a piece of pottery from Sedona, Arizona


We can gear our discussion to our dear friend’s level of ability and understanding since we are not under the constraints that presenting to a large group would bring.

Inspecting a Cloisonne bowl, a decorative design of various colors separated by copper wire attached to a brass base.

Inspecting a Cloisonne bowl, a decorative design of various colors separated by copper wire attached to a brass base.

This Cloisonne designed bowl was made in China and purchased during a trip there.

This Cloisonne designed bowl was made in China and purchased during a trip there.

Evaluating the differences in photographs of sisters then and now.

Evaluating the differences in photographs of sisters then and now.

Girl Talk 2 has a purpose.  It is to engage our dear friend in a meaningful activity that promotes conversation and a sense of belonging.   She delights in our weekly visits, making comments and often connecting to memories that our items help her retrieve.

Enjoying a book of national parks photographs and realizing that many of us visited the same ones.

Enjoying a book of national parks photographs and realizing that many of us visited the same ones.


Inspecting an antique box of tatting with a shuttle made of ivory.

Inspecting an antique box of tatting with a shuttle made of ivory.

Later in the week, as we see her in and about our community, she will often bring up the subject of one of the items from the most recent Girl Talk 2 visit.  Her smiles, her comments, and her level of active engagement all confirm that Girl Talk 2 is a success, enriching her life and ours too!

Want to visit a friend with dementia, but don’t know how to make that visit meaningful?  Simply think “Show and Tell.”  What do you have that might be of interest to your dear friend?  Select a few items that can be held by your friend as you discuss them, one at a time.    You’ll find that your Show and Tell visit will stimulate conversation, help retrieve memories, and provide a delightful time of togetherness.  And it just might bring back some of  your own memories of when you a kid doing the same thing!



Dementia and Music: Piano and Chime Bar Fun

Bar chimes

Music and Friends with Dementia.  What a great way to boost brain activity and have fun at the same time. Lady-Links visits often include music which is always a successful activity.  We listen to music and keep time with the beat, we sing-a-long to favorite songs, we dance, and we march.

Turn on some music and you've got an instant activity!

Turn on some music and you’ve got an instant activity!

A Conga Line is always fun.

A Conga Line is always fun.

The opportunity of having a Lady-Links group dedicated to musical activities became a reality when we met a retired music teacher with a piano and a set of chime bars in her apartment. This dear friend has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and her son and her social worker asked if we would begin visits to her.  That was the beginning of a delightful relationship with a new friend and a great way to focus on music each visit.

Music group leader at piano

We let our dear friend “teach” us using song sheets she’s had for years and a set of resonator chime bars that she used with her students.


Although many of our Lady-Links hold degrees in music and are active in choirs and other musical groups, we work “behind the scenes” to make each visit successful.  Our dear friend assigns us one or two (sometimes three) of the song sheets and we locate the correct chime bars that go with the music we’ve been given.   Sometimes it is the other way around and she gives us the chime bar and we locate the appropriate song sheet.  We are flexible and follow her lead while quietly working to get things organized and in place.


Getting an AssignmentLetting our friend set the pace and make the assignments has brought such enjoyment and feelings of significance to her life.  She feels she is making an important contribution to our community by teaching us a skill that we plan to share during events at our community where we will perform seasonal, faith-based,  or patriotic songs. And she is right!


Having fun with chime bars

What started out as a way to enrich her life has, in turn, enriched ours as well.  We love the weekly visits that are filled with laughter as we strike the wrong note or can’t find our place on the song sheet.  We just giggle and say we’re making a new song.  We’re like kids…we can’t wait to strike the bar because we want to hear what it sounds like…that’s when our dear friend laughs the most too.  She loves that we are having so much fun using something that is so meaningful to her.


Our music inspires conversation and links to memories.  Several of our group have actually seen the edelweiss flower as they traveled to Switzerland and Austria. Looking at pictures of the edelweiss gave special meaning to the song Edelweiss (from the Sound of Music)  that we sing and play each visit.  It is one of our favorites and one that we think we perform best.

Music holding flower

One of the Lady-Links has a lovely replica of an edelweiss flower she brought home as a souvenier from Europe.  What a great connection to make to the song.

According to the website, there are at least five reasons why researchers believe that music boosts brain activity:

  1. Music evokes emotions that bring memories.  (We certainly saw that with the edelweiss flowers.)
  2. Musical aptitude and appreciation are two of the last remaining abilities in dementia patients. (Our dear friend can still play the piano and can recognize when we strike the wrong chime bar.  However, the great news is that this doesn’t cause her to become frustrated.  She laughs and tells us to ‘shape up’ and ‘get with it.’)
  3. Music can bring emotional and physical closeness. (Although our dear friend can’t recall each of our names, she recognizes us when we are out and about in our community.  Her socialization skills have improved and she smiles and interacts much more, even away from the visits.)
  4. Singing is engaging.  (Wow…this is so true.  She relates to conversation where before she didn’t.  She can tease and joke, and she has fun!  She loves being the hostess and “teacher” for our visits).
  5. Music can shift mood, manage stress and stimulate positive interactions.  (Her music and chime bars had been packed away since the recent death of her husband.  He previously had been the one to help her manage the song sheets and the chime bars and she was unable to use her musical skills without organizational help. When we approached her with the request that we wanted to learn to use the chime bars, she was delighted but hesitant.  We said, “Let’s just try” and that one try, which was our first visit, was so enjoyable and rewarding to her (and to us too) that she quickly agreed to continue to host our weekly sessions.

Lady-Links is organized with each dear friend in mind.  Our visits are designed according to her interests, skills, and abilities.  We have four current groups, the musical group described here, a group that does crafts, a group that engages in physical activities such as dancing, aerobics or balloon toss, and a group that shares conversation about selected topics which are being made into a keepsake memory book. Although each group is different because each dear friend is different, there is one overall theme:  they all deserve to have activities that create meaning in their life and to find reasons to laugh, rejoice, and love.


Dementia and Friends Who Care: 2 Years of Visits

Lady-Links have reason to celebrate, and you can get a sense of the joy and excitement we shared at our Second Anniversary Party by watching this video.   In the past two years, we have made almost 300 visits bringing love and laughter into the lives of five dear ladies, all of whom are diagnosed with some type of dementia.  Celebrate with us as you watch!

Dementia and Friends: Two Years of Visits

Lady-Links is an organization composed of ladies who visit their friends with dementia, engaging them in activities they can enjoy and successfully complete.  We just celebrated two years of service and acknowledged how our group has grown from visiting one friend to visiting five friends.  It was an Anniversary Party that resulted in love and laughter as we shared memories from our visits.

Lady-Links Anniversary Cake

Lady-Links began when the husband of a person with Alzheimer’s dementia expressed the desire for ladies to visit his wife to help with her adjustment to their recent move to a retirement community.  That simple request sparked the idea for Lady-Links and the friendship visits we make.  Going in groups of two or three to visit our dear friend in her apartment proved to be delightful for both our friend and for us.  Her entire emotional outlook changed, her social skills improved, and she recaptured some of her cognitive skills such as occasionally reading aloud the verses on the cards we made.



During the past two years, we have made over 200 friendship visits to this dear friend, and have followed her from Independent Living to Memory Care where we continue to visit her regularly and enjoy participating in activities with her in that setting.  She enjoyed the Anniversary Party and her Lady-Links are like family to her, as she is to us.



In addition to our original dear friend, we have three other dear friends we are currently visiting. All were able to come to our Anniversary Party to celebrate.

Anniversary Party

The cake and punch helped make our celebration a festive occasion.

Serving Cake

During the celebration we had time to share memories, love and laughter as we reflected over the past two years.  Our original intent is the same.  We provide friendship visits to one individual at a time, focusing on her interests and abilities.  We engage our friends in a variety of activities that help stimulate social skills and help make them feel a sense of value and significance.  In addition to  over 200 visits to our original dear friend, we have made over 80 visits to the others.  Each visit is carefully planned and coordinated so that it will engage the dear friend we’re visiting in a meaningful way.

One of the groups is a Music Group that we call the Lady La-Las.  We play hand chimes and sing while our dear friend who used to be a music teacher plays the piano and directs us.

Handing out chimes

Playing handchimes

We currently have one craft group, but previously had two until one of our dear friends with vascular dementia passed away.




The last group is a Making Memories group.  We enjoy focusing on our dear friend’s answers while we all share memories in response to select questions.

Girl Talk looking at picture

We would love to help you begin a Lady-Links group with your friends who have dementia. You can find plenty of information to start a group by reading through the categories on this website, many of which are “how to” posts.  If you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Friends enjoying coffee.

Friends enjoying coffee.

Your visits can make a significant difference in the lives of your friends, and you’ll find that you will enjoy the visits as much as they do.  People with dementia deserve to continue to have activities that create meaning in their lives and to find reasons to laugh, love, and rejoice.  You can make that happen, and one day you’ll be celebrating an anniversary of friendship visits just like we did.


Grandparents with Dementia and Grandkids: How to Make It Work

Grandchildren benefit from a healthy relationship with grandparents that brings significance and security into their lives during their formative years. Grandparents benefit by knowing that they still matter and are needed for who they are, not for their achievements which are quickly diminishing as they face their twilight years. Enjoying activities together is a mutually beneficial situation for both grandparent and grandchild.Greenhouse Cotton

Today because we are living longer it is not uncommon for children to have grandparents and great-grandparents still alive.  As a result, it is not unusual to find Alzheimer’s or a related dementia in many families. Family 040


According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 1 in 9 Americans over the age of 65 has Alzheimer’s and one-third of Americans over age 85 are afflicted with the illness.  Should these grandparents and great-grandparents be any less important to their grandchildren than those without Alzheimer’s or a related dementia?  Of course not.

Those grandparents with dementias can continue to contribute to the emotional security and significance of their grandchildren.  It is important to remember that the confusion/memory loss/cognitive decline doesn’t define who the person really is.  Their character, experiences, faith, and temperament still have significant contributions to make to others, including their grandchildren.

And in return, the grandparents with dementia continue to deserve to have experiences in their lives that create meaning and to find reasons to laugh, rejoice and love.  What better way to achieve this than with a grandchild?  It just takes a little help from you, the parent of the child, to make it work.


  1. Prepare your child for what to expect.  Talk honestly with your child about his or her grandparent.  Use age-appropriate language to explain that the grandparent’s unusual behavior, such as asking the same question several times, is part of an illness.  Let them know that this is not an illness that they can catch or that they caused.
  2. Prepare yourself for what to expect by becoming educated on the nature and progression of the dementia.  Grandpa may have been a scratch golfer in his day but to play 18 holes at your local club now would be overwhelming.  A better choice of activity would be going to the driving range, a putting green or to a miniature golf course.  If that is too much, try Wii Golf or one of the putting cups that can be used at home.   Putting Fun
  3. Prepare activities that both the child and the grandparent will enjoy doing together and can successfully complete.  Grandpa may have organized deep sea fishing trips for the whole family at one time, but today his love for fishing can be acknowledged in a more realistic setting like fishing from the bank.  Have the rod and reel ready to be used so that the activity can be easily accomplished. Be sure to have several backups handy so he doesn’t have to try to untangle a backlash or replace a lure on the spot.  Grandpa may not have the skills to work quickly under pressure as he once did.  Prepare ahead of time for that possibility and have what is needed readily available.We've got a bite!Success!
  4. Prepare to supervise as needed.  Stay close enough to assist if needed, but not so close that you are an active participant.  Remember, this is bonding time for the grandparent and grandchild, but because of the effects of the dementia, you will want to be alert and available.  Math and Science Activities 001
  5. Prepare to be amazed as you witness links developing between the grandchild and the grandparent in areas of belongingness, togetherness, significance, security and fun! Making FacesZooming down the hall

Preparation is the key.  Prepare your child, yourself, and the activities.  When you do, you will be helping to create links that last a lifetime. Having Fun

Dennie Lindsey is the creator and administrator of Lady-Links, a group that makes visits to friends who have dementia.  She produces a newsletter, a FaceBook page and this website, all designed to promote an understanding and awareness of the types of activities that can be used successfully with those who have dementia.   100_1003

To read the entire original post about grandchildren connecting with grandparents who have dementia that Dennie Lindsey wrote click here.








Dementia and Winter Activities: Bringing the Outdoors In

Snow.  Fun for those who can get outside and make memories with their creations.

Snowman completed

But having fun and making memories in winter aren’t limited to going outside in below freezing weather.  During this season, Lady-Links found plenty of ways to engage in cold weather activities while staying warm and inside.  We created cards and door hangers with a winter message while we looked outside and admired the snow from a warm, cozy advantage.

Card winter front several

card winter insideThis card design worked well to bring the sentiments of the season into a friendship message.

Here’s the card design for you to download.

We also made two winter blessing door hangers. One was a craft we ordered from Oriental Trading and the second was one we made from card stock and previously received Christmas cards.




If you would like the verse we used, you can download it here.  We used it on the front of our original door hanger and on the back of the other one.


Of course, we prepared our crafts so that they would be easy to manipulate when we visited our friend with dementia.  All the pieces to make one completed door hanger were placed in a baggie.  Organizing it that way is less confusing than dumping out all the pieces and having to look for which part is needed.  The foam adhesive-backed snowflakes were hard to punch out from their backing in the craft that we ordered, so we did that part before the visit and had them in place.


From our cozy environment, we enjoyed the craft and the “feeling” of being a part of the winter season.  The window blinds were closed for the picture, but when opened and during the time it snowed, the view was that of a winter wonderland.  It was the best of both worlds!


The conversation was rich as we shared memories from our childhoods of snowy days while completing the door hangers.


When we finished, we had plenty of Winter Blessings to give away to others, helping them to celebrate the season too!


Friends with dementia can enjoy each season regardless of the outside temperature or weather-related problems with an appropriate seasonal craft and related discussion topics.  How did you help your friend or loved one with dementia connect with winter?

Dementia and Birthdays: Tips for Celebrating

DSC_4812Our friend with Alzheimer’s dementia was about to have a birthday, and we knew we could plan an awesome celebration for her based on the success of the one we gave her last year.  We decided to use the same “Simple yet Significant” stratigies because they worked so well.  Such a strategy keeps us focused on our friend’s needs and gives us a starting point for our planning. All birthday parties need food, activities, gifts, and friends to make it a real celebration. However, for a person with dementia, each of those elements needs to be modified so that he or she can enjoy and engage in the event.  After all, it is for them!  Here’s how we did it:

Tips to Make It Simple 

Guests:  Choose a limited number of friends and family who are knowledgeable about dementia and who have a supportive relationship with the birthday person. They should be encouraging, kind, compassionate, patient,  and know how to bridge communication gaps with smiles and flexibility.  They should be ones who feel at ease with your loved one or friend and who have an ongoing established relationship with that person. This is not the time to introduce new acquaintances. Guests should have the understanding that those with dementia have worth and value,  and are to be treated with dignity and respect.

Games:  Choose activities in which the person with dementia can participate and enjoy.  Keep the person’s skills and abilities in mind by selecting games in which he or she can be easily and successfully engaged. Favorite games that have been a part of the person’s routine prior to the birthday party are always good choices.  Some favorite games and activities are easily modified to include a birthday theme with simple changes such as with color or design.  For example, if you do a balloon toss, consider using a balloon with a birthday message.  If you do a painting activity at the party, consider painting birthday themed objects.  If you play Bingo, consider using a birthday themed set.

Gifts:  Choose to limit what guests can bring and communicate that well in advance of the party.  If guests are to bring presents, a gift list of things that the person with dementia will recognize and can use would be very helpful.  Decide whether presents should be wrapped or unwrapped.  Sometimes the birthday person is in need of a specific major item and the guests can give toward that item prior to the party.  That item can be displayed, wrapped or unwrapped, with a group card attached and presented at the appropriate time.   Sometimes bringing a birthday card rather than a gift is the best choice.  Each card can be opened at the party by a hostess who reads a few lines from the card, acknowledges the sender, and then gives it to the birthday person to place in a box or basket to keep.

Tips to Make It Significant

Favorites:  Choose theirs, not yours. Their favorite things should be included rather than what is typical or traditional and should be reflected in all the party involves.

Familiarity:   Choose a setting or location, as well as games and guests, that they know so they won’t be distracted by something unusual or unfamiliar. Trying something new or being surprised in a group setting may cause inappropriate behavior, anxiety, or withdrawal.

Feelings:  Choose what is fun for them and will make them feel comfortable  They should feel at ease with all that takes place.  Provide opportunities for plenty of love and laughter in ways that they can understand. Be flexible and have several alternatives.


How we applied these tips at the recent birthday party we gave for our friend with Alzheimer’s dementia:



We have 24 trained Lady-Links, but we all agreed that 24 would be an overwhelming number, so we asked for 11 volunteers to come plus her husband and her son. She recognized each one of her Lady-Link friends since we visit her twice a week in groups of two or three, and have been for over a year.    She was very at ease and interacted with great enthusiasm.



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The first game we played was a modification from the Bingo Game we made for her birthday last year.  However, in a year’s time, she is not as interested in Bingo as she once was.  Rather than pack away the game, we put it to good use by distributing one of the Bingo caller’s cards to each person. Each card was a clip art version of one of her favorite things.


As this year’s hostess pointed to one of the cards, such as a picture of a cup of coffee, she asked, “Is coffee your favorite thing?”  Everyone who was a coffee drinker raised his or her hand.  Then the hostess had to narrow the field by asking additional questions based on her knowledge of our friend and her habits.  For example, the hostess said, “Is drinking coffee black your favorite thing?”  That narrowed it even more.  Then the hostess said, “Is having your friends over twice a week to visit you and drink coffee your favorite thing?”  Of course, our friend’s hand was the only one left up.



As the game continued, we would sometimes need to prompt our friend to hold her hand up.  There were 12 catorgies with questions (favorite food, favorite music, favorite ways to spend time, etc.) all based on her favorite things.  Every time she “won” the category she was given the card with the picture on it that represented the category.  The “winner” at the end of the game was the one who had the most cards.  Of course, she did, and the prize was a chocolate bar (one of her favorite things.)



Our friend loves music, especially that of Perry Como.  We played one of his CDs and repeated what we do at many of our Lady-Link visits…we played balloon toss and danced.

Balloon game 1

Her son joined in the fun!  We told him that we knew where he got his dancing skills….from his mom!  She really is a great dancer.

Dancing with son 1

Dancing with son 2


We determined that actual presents could be confusing and require too much time to open and admire, so we asked each Lady-Link to bring a birthday card which was opened and read aloud (just the main message, not word for word) by the Lady-Link Hostess. As the hostess read the main part of each card and the sender’s name, it was passed to our friend and, after a momentary glance, her son helped her put it in a basket to keep.



Chocolate is her favorite, so of course the cake and icing were both chocolate!



Birthday cake

Coffe is her favorite drink, and it was graciously served by her husband.



The party was held in her home so she would feel comfortable in her surroundings.  If her home were not available, I would have chosen a place that she was familiar with and would feel secure in so that she would feel at ease.  Plus I would have chosen one that would not have interruptions or people who were not connected to our group.



We kept the entire celebration to less than one hour and provided plenty of opportunities for fun.  There were no speeches, nor putting her on the spot by expecting her to respond publically to any of the activities, such as when we read the cards we did not stop and wait for the typical “thank you” response. She is unable to respond at that level and we would never, never call attention to that. We provided plenty of opportunities for her to enjoy without any type of pressure or stress.   Her family appreciated our efforts to make this a party in which she was fully engaged, filled with joy, and made to feel appreciated, valued, and loved.

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Celebrating birthdays of  those with dementia can provide opportunities to enrich their lives and yours.  Just remember to keep it “Simple yet Significant” and you’ll have success!

How do you celebrate birthdays with your friend or loved one who has dementia?