Dementia can cause fidgeting hands
Seniors with Alzheimer’s disease 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 with no right or wrong that help someone keep their restless hands occupied 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.
We share 6 suggestions to help someone with dementia keep their hands busy and feel calm and comforted.
Take care to 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 any unsafe tendencies, be sure to avoid anything that could be dangerous for them.
6 ways to help seniors with dementia keep hands busy
1. Fidget blankets
- A variety of fidget blankets on Amazon
- A variety of busy blankets from small shops on Etsy
- $55 Twiddle Cat or Twiddle Dog
- A free pattern and tutorial for a DIY fidget apron
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. Help with household chores
These aren’t necessarily real chores, but activities that mimic the chores they used to do. These types of activities also give a sense of accomplishment and feeling that they’re contributing to the household.
- 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 into a chain or sort paperclips of different sizes into separate groups
- 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
If your older adult used to knit or crochet, consider getting some large gauge needles or hooks and thick, easy-to-handle brightly colored yarn.
They may still enjoy the soothing, repetitive activity and accomplishment of making something even if they’re only able to create snarled or oddly shaped “scarves.”
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 or expired credit cards so your older adult can rummage through whenever they like.
Recommended for you:
- Activities for Dementia: 10 Fun, No-Fail Ideas
- 10 Easy Crafts for Seniors with Dementia: Inexpensive DIY Ideas
- 4 Benefits of Activities for Dementia and 5 Ways to Adapt Daily Tasks
By DailyCaring Editorial Team
Image: Easier Living
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Can afford things much for my nanny thanks for donations and helping me with care plan journal and stuff for her to do
You’re very welcome! So glad our suggestions are helpful.
Just want to thank you for this community. The articles are so relevant. Knowing there are others just provides a sense of comfort.
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 💜
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.
Our site is focused on advice, tips, and information that helps families who are caring for older adults.
Perhaps you’ll find these websites more suited to your needs:
– Alzheimer’s Association https://www.alz.org/
– Alzheimer’s Foundation of America https://alzfdn.org/
– Dementia Mentors (for people with dementia) https://www.dementiamentors.org/
– Memory People Facebook group (founded by someone with dementia) https://www.facebook.com/groups/180666768616259/about/
While I can empathize with your frustration, might I suggest empathy towards those who are just beginning this journey & battle and need all the advice and recommendations they can get? I stumbled upon this site today as my mom is suffering with Alzheimer’s due to a stroke. We are all at different levels in our journey and there is no wrong way. Best of luck to you..
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?
It’s possible that there’s a good reason for her behavior. It might be a good idea to have a doctor examine her to make sure she doesn’t have any skin irritation, a urinary tract infection, or another type of infection.
Assuming she’s well and doesn’t have any valid reason for putting her hand down her pants, this could be caused by a variety of factors, including boredom, the need for comfort, or inability to regulate sexual impulses due to cognitive changes.
These articles may help you figure out what’s causing the behavior and have suggestions on ways to distract her from behaving this way:
— Inappropriate sexual behavior https://dailycaring.com/9-ways-to-handle-alzheimers-and-sexually-inappropriate-behavior/
— One-piece clothing so she can’t get inside her pants https://dailycaring.com/buck-and-buck-specialized-senior-clothing-solves-dressing-problems/
— Sundowning suggestions https://dailycaring.com/7-ways-to-reduce-dementia-sundowning-symptoms/
— More sundowning suggestions https://dailycaring.com/7-more-ways-to-manage-dementia-sundowning-symptoms/
— Weighted blankets for deeper sleep https://dailycaring.com/weighted-blankets-in-dementia-care-reduce-anxiety-and-improve-sleep/
— Comforting therapy dolls https://dailycaring.com/the-positive-effect-of-therapy-dolls-for-dementia/
— A variety of activities to prevent boredom, give a sanse of satisfaction, and soothe http://dailycaring.com/tag/alzheimers-dementia-activities/
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.
That’s definitely a tough situation. We’ve got a few articles that may be helpful in engaging your mom and giving your dad a chance to rest.
Here’s one with activity suggestions for people who also have vision impairments — http://dailycaring.com/9-activities-for-low-vision-seniors-with-alzheimers-or-dementia/
You may also find that sensory activities (focused on touch or smell) would be enjoyable — http://dailycaring.com/6-alzheimers-sensory-activities-reduce-anxiety-without-medication/
Some of these no-fail activities may also work and give a sense of purpose — http://dailycaring.com/10-fun-failure-free-activities-for-people-with-dementia/
Thanks again I appreciate any advice . [comment edited to comply with community standards and privacy]
You’re very welcome! I’m so glad this information is helpful.
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,
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