6 Calming Ways to Help Seniors with Alzheimer’s Keep Hands Busy

alzheimer's keep hands busy

Alzheimer’s can cause busy hands

Seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia may show anxiety or agitation through fidgety hands.

Signs include pulling or rubbing at clothes or bedding, rubbing hands together, twisting fingers, wringing hands, and generally keeping hands in motion.

Sensory therapy or fidget toys are an effective way to reduce anxiety, calm nerves, and provide comfort.

These are simple touch-based activities that help someone with Alzheimer’s keep hands busy in safe, soothing ways.

No matter what the activity or toy, just remember that the goal is to engage your older adult in something fun and keep their hands happily occupied.

There’s no right or wrong way to do it and no specific goal to achieve – whatever feels good to them is perfect.

Here, we’ve got 6 suggestions to help someone with dementia stay calm and comforted.

 

Choose safe activities

It’s important to find activities that are safe. You know your older adult best and can choose what works best for them.

For example, some older adults tend to put things in their mouth. If that’s the case, avoid anything that could become a choking hazard. 

Other seniors may like to tie strings around fingers (or necks!) and restrict circulation. 

If your older adult has these types of tendencies, be sure to avoid anything that could be dangerous for them.

 

6 ways to help seniors with Alzheimer’s keep hands busy

1. Fidget blankets

Tip: For a quick DIY fidget blanket with minimal sewing, start with a fluffy bath towel or large piece of soft fleece and securely sew on a variety of embellishments. Browse the ready-made ones above to get ideas and inspiration.

 

2. Sensory toys

 

3. Simple knitting or crochet
If your older adult used to knit or crochet, consider getting some large gauge needles or hooks and brightly colored yarn.

They may still enjoy the soothing, repetitive activity even if they’re only able to make snarled or oddly shaped “scarves.”

 

4. Help with household chores

  • Fold laundry – get some inexpensive (or old) hand towels and ask for help folding them
  • Smooth crumpled tissue paper – get some colorful tissue paper and crumple each piece. Show them the crumpled pieces and ask for help smoothing them out.
  • Organize paperwork – gather a stack of unimportant papers and ask for help organizing them
  • Play with paperclips – string large paperclips together or sort large and small ones
  • Organize the junk drawer – put the entire drawer on the table and ask your older adult to help you organize the contents
  • Shuffle and arrange a deck of cards – let them do whatever they wish with the cards, use nice looking cards for added visual stimulation, like dogs or beautiful colors

 

5. DIY fidget box
It’s easy to make your own fidget box or basket. Pull out the box when your older adult needs something to do and throw everything back into the box when they’re done.

Get a container and fill it with some inexpensive odds and ends you can find in your house, make quickly, or buy at the dollar store. Gather things in a variety of colors and textures, like:

  • Things with zippers or velcro closures
  • Little toys that wind up
  • Stress balls for squeezing
  • Brightly colored plastic springs (like a Slinky)
  • Mini stuffed animals
  • A row of buttons sewn firmly onto a ribbon
  • A piece of soft fleece or faux fur
  • Old keys on a keyring 

 

6. Keep familiar items at hand
Some seniors are comforted by keeping a familiar item with them, like a purse or wallet.

Fill an old purse or wallet with a few dollars, coins, play money, or faux credit cards so your older adult can rummage through whenever they like.

 

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By DailyCaring Editorial Team
Image: Easier Living

 

This article reflects prices at publication, but prices and availability may change. This article wasn’t sponsored, but does contain affiliate links. We never link to products or services for the sole purpose of making a commission. Recommendations are based on our honest opinions. For more information, see How We Make Money.


15 Comments

  • Reply February 1, 2021

    Brandy Kaye

    Can afford things much for my nanny thanks for donations and helping me with care plan journal and stuff for her to do

    • Reply February 1, 2021

      DailyCaring

      You’re very welcome! So glad our suggestions are helpful.

  • Reply September 1, 2020

    Diane Morgan

    Just want to thank you for this community. The articles are so relevant. Knowing there are others just provides a sense of comfort.

    • Reply September 1, 2020

      DailyCaring

      Thanks so much for the kind feedback! We’re so glad that our articles and this community are helpful. You’re definitely not alone in this 💜

    • Reply February 4, 2021

      Alan

      This entire site treats sufferers as a secondary species and assumes they cannot read or research information for themselves. I am into the 9th year of my vascular dementia and have no support whatsoever. It is frustrating beyond words and I have been close to giving up countless times and I will be again but I am still a human being and perhaps if more people realised this it would be easier for both parties. I won’t be back.

  • Reply September 23, 2018

    Lynn

    I work with a lady with dementia. And we are having issues with her putting her hand down her pants. And she is sun downing she gets two to three hours of sleep a night. We have given her things to do with the hand but she will put whatever is in her hand and go down her pants. It’s a nostop thing. What can we do?

  • Reply June 27, 2018

    Loretta Susen

    My parents are in an Assisted Living facility. My dad is in bad health and needs rest, my mom has dementia and is constantly moving things around the room preventing him from resting. She does not want to participate in provided activities as she does not want to leave my dad. It is becoming a difficult situation. We tried giving her puzzles and coloring books, but she has never been an idle person and can’t just sit, plus she has macular degeneration and arthritic hands, so it is difficult to do crafts, writing, etc. Any suggestions on how to keep mom busy and give her some purpose will be greatly appreciated.

  • Reply May 17, 2018

    Anonymous

    Thanks again I appreciate any advice . [comment edited to comply with community standards and privacy]

    • Reply May 17, 2018

      DailyCaring

      You’re very welcome! I’m so glad this information is helpful.

  • Reply March 1, 2016

    Anne-Marie Vonderwerth

    Hi- Thanks or the GREAT information!!! This will REALLY help me in my profession!
    Do you have a mailing list to put me on by chance?

    Thanks for your time,

    Anne-Marie Vonderwerth

    • Reply March 1, 2016

      Connie Chow

      Hi Anne-Marie — Thank you! I’m so glad you found this article helpful. We have a daily email newsletter that keeps you up-to-date with our latest articles. I’ll go ahead and add you. Best, Connie

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