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dementia hands

Things for Dementia Patients to Do with Their Hands

Dementia, or any kind of memory loss, can be extremely difficult on the patient and those who care for them. It affects the behaviors and day-to-day functions of those who suffer from it. A lot of their negative behaviors stem from the anxiety they get, which can cause them to have restless hands. Through memory care, these patients can engage in intentional activities with their hands to mitigate this as much as possible, especially before the condition gets too severe. 

Why is Keeping Hands Busy Important?

The two most common behaviors in patients with dementia are agitation and restlessness. Certain medications may cause restlessness, or the urge to fidget to avoid certain sensations. However, the main reason for feeling restless is anxiety. Whether they are anxious because they cannot continue a hobby they used to love, are confused at the changes happening, or cannot remember a certain memory, they do not feel in control of their lives anymore. These anxious feelings can also make them feel agitated and behave negatively toward others since dementia can decline some of their reasoning. 

Instead of these behaviors resulting in fidgeting hands, the patient can take control and do things with their hands on purpose. This will give them a sense of independence and calm their anxieties. It can also keep them mentally stimulated and jog their memory. Here are some ideas and activities that patients can do to help dementia symptoms from getting worse. 

Sensory Objects

Feeling objects that activate different senses through the patient’s body and mind can help keep them in the present moment. 

Fidget Blankets: These are blankets that include different textures and objects such as zippers, pockets, tassels, ribbons, beads, toys etc. for the patient to play with and keep their hands busy. They can also be personalized with things that the patient enjoys to trigger certain memories they have had. 

Tactile Turn Toy: The turning motion of this toy soothes the patient and gives them a sense of calm. It also stimulates many nerve receptors in the fingers, helping the brain make connections. 

Marbles: Patients can rub marbles or something hard and smooth between their hands to feel a sense of peace in doing something small but simple to calm their restless hands. 

Counting Coins: A simple but effective task is for the patients to count coins and arrange them. They make coin organizers where each slot is for pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters. This helps them make mind-to-muscle connection of which colors and sizes of the coins go where. 

Folding Laundry: Folding clothes or blankets can be a soothing activity for those with dementia. It is also a task that is useful to get done. When completing folding a pile of clothes, the patients can feel a sense of accomplishment from their productivity. This can ease the sense of irritation they may feel. 


Doing crafts can help patients spark creativity in their brain and give them something to keep their hands working. 

Scrapbooking: Scrapbooking is an amazing way for patients to be creative. They can use their hands to cut, glue, and arrange pictures. This can also be a good activity for jogging memories, where they can use photos they have taken or photos of themselves to bring them back to that specific moment. 

Painting: Painting can serve as a relaxing activity, where the patient also has the freedom to create what they are feeling. Even if they paint with a template, such as a paint by numbers, they are improving their cognitive function by completing each “task” and moving on to the next. 

Flower Arranging: This creates a sense of accomplishment for the patient. It is a simple task that can be done sitting or standing, but allows them to choose how they want their flowers to look. If they use fresh flowers, the aroma can also bring them back to certain moments and memories. This is also a great activity they could do with others and be able to socialize with. 

Knitting: Simple knitting patterns can help patients with basic cognitive skills and motor function. It can also help them get into a rhythmic routine with their hands. 

Rhythm Activities 

These activities can help improve their mind-to-muscle connection, especially through their hands.

Musical Instruments: Music itself proves to be therapeutic for dementia patients. Through instruments, they are able to use their hands to create rhythmic sounds. Whether that be shaking maracas, banging on the drums, or pushing keys on a piano, they are creating sounds from their motor functions, which their brain can begin to piece together.

Clapping: Clapping is a simple but effective activity for dementia patients. One thing they can do is listen to the song and clap to the beat. This allows them to focus on the rhythm while keeping their hands moving in a sort of pattern that gets rid of the restlessness.

Write Lyrics: Writing can help dementia patients continue to improve their motor skills while thinking creatively. Song lyrics specifically can help them think of past stories or memories that they can share through words. This can also be therapeutic because they are getting their thoughts out on physical paper which can help their minds be more clear. 


Massages: This may require assistance from a memory care provider, but can be done on their own as well. Massaging the hands and fingers can relieve tension in the muscles and relax the patient. The rhythm of the motions can stimulate multiple senses for them. It can also be beneficial to apply essential oils to massage in the hands because it hits more nerve endings and the aroma of certain oils can bring a sense of familiarity. 

Memory games: Patients can play card games, matching games, math games, or complete puzzles to constantly improve their cognitive skills. These games can also help with reasoning, judgment, and other thinking skills that decline at the start of dementia. 

Dementia patients can benefit greatly from using their hands to stay busy. This can help decrease their overall restlessness and agitation while helping them stay cognitively aware. It can help them feel a sense of ownership when they feel they cannot control what is happening in their mind. 

If your loved one is suffering from dementia and could benefit from memory care, please contact us at the Gables Assisted Living. 

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