Jane was diagnosed with dementia at 75 years of age and has been living with her husband.  Over the last several months she has been finding it increasingly difficult to do some of the activities that she always loved, which has placed a strain on the family.

Engaging in meaningful activities has been shown to influence independence and enhance a sense of well-being in all stages of cognitive impairment.  One study, Travers et al. (2016)1 found individualized activities to be effective for behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia, especially with regard to improving passivity and agitation, and increasing pleasure and interest.

How can individuals and families find meaning and continue to engage in activities they enjoy?   Jane saw an Occupational Therapist (OT) who evaluated her cognitive function for activities using an in-depth standardized test.  Interview questions about Jane’s past memories, familiar activities, and routines, were used to understand her life story and identify the necessary approaches for successful engagement.

Jane was a homemaker and raised 4 boys. She loves family dinners and liked to dress the table for meals.  Her cognitive score indicated that she would succeed if all the items were placed on the table with one sample setting for her to follow. Decorative items only needed to be in plain view. In this one example the family was able to transfer this knowledge to other activities such as putting on lipstick which she always did but stopped without explanation. At Jane’s stage of dementia items needed to be in plain view and she needed visual references for multistep tasks such as setting a table. The OT developed Jane’s individual care approaches for activities of daily living, recreational activities, and mobility followed by, education and training to her family and other care givers.

At every level of dementia there are evidence based “can do’s” that once learned, are effective to improve participation and activity engagement which is why I have  personally adopted this model in my own professional practice as an Occupational Therapist with over 25 years of experience .


  1. Travers et al (2016). Effectiveness of meaningful occupation interventions for people living with dementia in residential aged care: a systematic review. JBI Database of Systematic Reviews and Implementation Reports: December 2016 – Volume 14 – Issue 12 – p 163-225 doi: 10.11124/JBISRIR-2016-003230

By Kim Easton, OTD


By |Published On: Aug 24, 2022|

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