Seven Great Fall Activities for Those with Dementia

The summer weather is beginning to cool down here in Poway and San Diego County. Football is on the TV, and the Santa Anas are coming. It must be fall! If you have a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s there are loads of fun and rewarding fall activities that you can do together. Doing new activities is a great way to bond with your loved one, combat boredom, and provide helpful mental and physical stimulation.

Here are seven of our favorite fall activities that are appropriate for those with early or intermediate dementia. (Note: you may need to modify certain activities based on the needs and conditions of your family member.)

1.      Go for a Walk

The cooler weather makes fall the perfect time to take walks with your loved one. Walks provide excellent exercise and give you and your loved one a chance to enjoy the beautiful outdoors. This can also be a great way to talk, tell stories, and bond.

Make sure you choose a walk that is appropriate for your loved one’s physical ability. (Here’s a list of five great walks in and around San Diego.) If your loved one is in good shape, consider Lake Poway or Lake Miramar (which has a paved path). If your loved one tires easily or has mobility challenges, even just a short walk around the block can be a fun outing.

2.      Start a Fall Garden

At Sunshine Care, our residents love participating in our gardening programs. Gardening is a wonderful way to spend time outdoors, get your hands dirty, and eventually enjoy the tasty rewards of your effort. Take a look at this helpful article about how to create a fall garden with a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

3.      Decorate a Fall or Holiday Sweatshirt

Fall is the perfect time to snuggle into a cozy sweatshirt, and now you and your loved one can design your own. Start by purchasing plain dark sweatshirts at Amazon, Target, Walmart, or your local craft store. Next, purchase special iron-on paper at your local craft store or on Amazon.

Use your computer to pick out fun clip art, letters, or photos to put onto the sweatshirt. For example, you can print out designs of fall leaves, grinning Jack O’ lanterns, or a silly witch. Using an inkjet printer, print the design on the paper, cut it out, and then you can iron the designs onto the sweaters.

This is only one way to decorate a sweatshirt. Your craft store may sell fabric paint or pre-made patches that you can iron on together. Just be careful when using a hot iron and supervise your loved one if they wish to iron on their designs.

4.      Pick Apples in Julian

Here in San Diego, we are fortunate to be close to so many amazing places, including the beautiful town of Julian. In the fall, many family farms in Julian open their doors and allow visitors to fill up a bag of fresh apples from their orchards for a small price. (Here’s a helpful guide on where to go apple picking in Julian.) It can be a wonderful experience wandering among the orchards and finding the best-looking apples to pick. You may also want to spend some extra time in Julian. It has some tasty restaurants and nice antique stores.

5.      Make a Pie

After all that apple picking in Julian, you’re going to have to do something with your treasure. Why not bake a fresh apple pie? Here is an excellent recipe from the Food Network to get you started. If you want to simplify the process, we suggest purchasing a pre-made crust from your local grocery store.

Once your apple pie comes out of the oven, share it with your friends and family. Fresh pie is a great excuse to visit the neighbors or to invite the kids or grandkids over.

Just make sure that you provide extra supervision during the pie baking process. It may be best for you to do the slicing and dicing and to manage the oven.

6.       Make Some Cider

There’s nothing better on a chilly day than a warm cup of apple cider. If you still have some Julian apples left over, you can make some. All you need is apples, cinnamon, allspice, and sugar. No juicer necessary! Follow this handy recipe, and you’ll be sipping tasty cider before you know it. Make enough to share with the whole family.

Again, it is important for you to supervise all work in the kitchen, and it is probably best for you to handle stove-top cooking.

7.      Make a Jack O’ Lantern

Halloween is fast approaching, and what better way to get into the spirit than to set out a fun Jack O’ lantern on the porch or in the room of your loved one. Depending on your loved one’s ability, there are many ways to create a Jack O’ lantern.

For those in the early stage of Alzheimer’s, you can purchase a pattern book, which gives them a pattern they can attach to the pumpkin and cut from. Many pattern books come with small tools that are much safer to use than a carving knife.

If your loved one is in a later stage of dementia, encourage them to draw a picture on their pumpkin or trace a pattern that you can then cut out for them. A fun alternative is to make a face on the pumpkin using felt and glue or other stickers or fun props that you can purchase at your local craft store.

If you do choose to make a real Jack O’ lantern, we recommend placing a battery-powered tea light inside rather than a real candle.

Have a Wonderful Fall Season!

We hope that some or all of these activities can give you and your loved one many wonderful hours of joy and fun together. Many of these activities are similar to what our own residents enjoy doing. If you’d like to learn more about all the fun things our residents do during fall and any other part of the year, take a look at our current and past activities calendars. We’d also be happy to provide you with a free tour of our memory care facility in Poway.



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