Alzheimer’s can cause busy hands
Your older adult 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, tapping fingers, 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.
We have 6 suggestions to help your older adult 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 small objects that could become a choking hazard. Other seniors may like to tie strings around fingers (or necks!) and restrict circulation. If that’s true for your older adult, avoid anything with long ribbon or string.
6 ways to help seniors with Alzheimer’s keep hands busy
- Buy or make a fidget blanket
- $30 Fidget quilt
- $40 Sensory activity apron
- $50 Twiddle Cat or Dog
- $57 Activity pillow
- $70 Men’s fidget lap quilt
- $5 Fidget Quilt book for DIY patterns
- A free pattern and tutorial for a wonderful fidget apron
DailyCaring 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 inspiration!
- Try affordable sensory toys
- $5 Tangle Jr. Fuzzy
- $5 Spiky massage ball
- $15 Wooden lacing beads set
- $40 My Comfort Companion therapy doll and fidget toy
- Knit or crochet something simple
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 oddly shaped “scarves.”
- 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 or 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
- Build a 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
- 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.
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!