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6 Ways to Calm Dementia Fidgeting Hands

alzheimer's keep hands busy

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

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.

  1. Fold laundry – get some inexpensive (or old) hand towels and ask for help folding them

  2. 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.

  3. Organize paperwork – gather a stack of unimportant papers and ask for help organizing them

  4. Play with paperclips – string large paperclips together into a chain or sort paperclips of different sizes into separate groups

  5. Organize the junk drawer – put the entire drawer on the table and ask your older adult to help you organize the contents

  6. 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

Advertisement 4. Simple knitting or crochet 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:

  1. Things with zippers or velcro closures

  2. Little toys that wind up

  3. Stress balls for squeezing

  4. Brightly colored plastic springs (like a Slinky)

  5. Mini stuffed animals

  6. A row of buttons sewn firmly onto a ribbon

  7. A piece of soft fleece or faux fur

  8. 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.

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By DailyCaring Editorial Team Image: Easier Living

This article reflects prices at publication, but prices and availability may change. This article wasn’t sponsored, but does contain affiliate links. We never link to products or services for the sole purpose of making a commission. Recommendations are based on our honest opinions. For more information, see How We Make Money.


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