Anything But Bingo

Resources to enhance the daily life of people living with dementia

On this Day. A group activity for people

 Reminiscence is a well-known and well used activity if you are working with people living with dementia. Sometimes the challenge can be finding a fresh and inclusive way to approach it. If you are looking for a presentation to a group that will appeal to a larger audience as well as an activity that you can use on a 1:1 basis then ‘On this day’ is something for you to consider.

‘On this day’ isn’t a new idea. You take a specific date and research what happened on that day throughout history. You aren’t tied to a specific period in history either, so you can adapt for your audience, and you can use a multi-sensory approach. Have some fun with it!

Some research is required to build up the information you need but with the wonders of the internet it is pretty straightforward and quick to do.

As an example I have looked at the date today, when I am writing this blog; 18th September.

My first destination is a BBC website showing you the top news of the day going back to 1950. I have learnt that;

  • In 1970 Jimmy Hendrix died. So, I’ll find some film of Jimmy Hendrix from YouTube.
  • The FBI captures Patty Hearst. I will then find some information about Patty Hearst so I can read out a short paragraph about her.

Then I went to (an American site so a little biased!) where I learn that;

  • In 1830 the "Tom Thumb", the first locomotive built in America, raced a horse on a nine-mile course. I have found photographs through Google so will print one off and make sure I have some information to talk about it a little.

You can also explore . Here I have discovered that

  • In 1809 The Royal Opera House opened. If I have access to a laptop or tablet I could find some opera performances from the Royal Opera House to share.
  • In 1879 the famous illuminations in Blackpool were switched on for the first time. I could print off a photo and / or get some fairy lights for a fully sensory experience allowing you to involve someone with end-stage dementia.
  • In 1995 A Carlisle motorist was fined £140 for throwing a doughnut at a traffic warden. OK so this is pushing the envelope a little bit but you could get some donuts, cut them up so everyone gets a piece and have a jovial chat about traffic wardens! lists the UK No.1 singles for each decade. So pick one you think suits your audience and you can choose a piece of music to play.

From just 4 websites I now have hearing, vision, taste and touch stimulated by photos, film, music, a historical story, food and lights which can easily be passed around a group or shared with an individual. If you get caught up with the first item which leads into a long discussion then so be it but you’ll also have a good selection of great conversation starters to work your way through.

Why we should listen to Kate.

A few months ago I started following the blog of an inspirational lady. Kate Swaffer is, amongst many other things, an "advocate and activist for aged and dementia care". She also happens to be living with the disease.

As the parent of a child with a disability I have often gone to great lengths to make sure that professionals understand that I am the expert on my son; I advocate for him and know him better than they ever will. So it isn't rocket science to understand that this is no different from anyone else with a disability; they or their advocates know them best.

I work with/for people living with dementia and I believe that to do my best for the people I work with I need to listen to them, and others who have the disease. So when I read Kate blog entry 'Please, don't send me to Day Care" yesterday, it struck me to the core and I felt it was so important that I share it with everyone I know who works, or spends time with people living with dementia. With Kate's permission I copy it here;

If you search in for an image to match the term ‘Day Care’ you mostly only find images for children day care services and centres, as per this image I have added today! I wrote the following for a friend and colleague, to read out at a conference who is attending soon with an audience of life style and activity co-ordinators.

“Let me begin with the word ‘day’ used in ‘day’ respite.

Many people with dementia, who are over the age of about 5 or 6, feel the use of the word ‘day’ program, ‘day’ respite, or ‘day’ activity centre, is little different to the use of the term ‘day’ care that we took our pre school children to.

It is, in itself, infantilising us before we even get there, and many with dementia would simply refuse to go to any respite program with the use of the word ‘day’ in it.

Let me finish with a few words about what happens in these well meaning ‘day programs, and how offensive some of the things that happen there,that I and many others with dementia find them to be.  Using ‘gold stars’ for winning some make believe event, or plastic ‘gold medals’ for the best piece of ‘art work’. Often, people with dementia are almost forced into these programs, to give their care partners a much needed break, but, the activities need to be age appropriate, and truly engaging and individually meaningful. By that, I mean meaningful to us, and with some inherent value to our lives and existence, not easy for you or of interest to the lifestyle coordinator.

Activities need to also have some inherent value in them, value to our lives, things that make us want to get out of bed, not just fill in the time and the boredom of being there. Real activities, like going out into our community and being supported to volunteer or joining a sporting club, a gardening club, or even a social group outside of the place of respite. Activities like singing, music and dancing, but only if we like those activities. Some of us might prefer to be in a book club. This is also, after all, part of being I our community, and part of our community being dementia friendly.

Please think about our needs, stop the use of words, terms and activities that feel to us like child care, and finally, ask yourself if what you are offering is gender and age appropriate, as well as individualised to ensure it is person centred.”

Author: Kate Swaffer © 2015

Working myself in residential care I can only hope that not all Day Care centres are as Kate fears, I do know though that many residential homes are. If you work in this field or spend time with someone who has dementia please think and think again when you plan activities. Read and re-read Kate's advice, she knows, she's living it.


Chocolate covered marshmallows

It is the half-term school holiday this week in Scotland so writing this week's post has been a challenge of time management. As we are having a fundraising Bake Sale at work this week I also have cooking to do, so I have tied this blog and baking together and am showing you how to make chocolate covered marshmallows. Time will tell if they are a good seller at a Bake Sale but they are definitely pretty easy to make, look good and I'm sure your grandchildren / children / Halloween trick or treaters will bite your hand off for them.

This is a perfect activity to do with a full range of abilities. There are plenty of different aspects to the task for members of a group to be involved or for a couple to share. Melted chocolate should never get hot (or you have ruined it!) so working with chocolate is also a safe activity.


You need:

Marshmallows (a 200g bag made 10 chocolate sticks)

250g Chocolate (I used milk chocolate chips, you can also use bars of chocolate broken into pieces)

A variety of cake sprinkles

Bamboo skewers

Greaseproof paper or a non-stick baking sheet



  • Thread 3 marshmallows onto a skewer. The skewers are quite long so I broke off the end I had threaded them over as it becomes quite sticky.

  • Melt the chocolate. If you melt chocolate properly (tempering) you will get a shiny smooth result. Luckily there is an easy way to temper chocolate using either a microwave or a bowl over simmering water (bain marie). Put all your chocolate in a bowl (remembering to break bars into small pieces). Melt very gently; over simmering water or 30secs at a time in the microwave, stirring regularly. Once half the chocolate is melted (as my photo below) remove the chocolate from the heat / microwave and continue stirring until all the chocolate has melted. This can take a few minutes. You should end up with smooth runny chocolate. If the chocolate is still too think to run off the spoon heat VERY gently again for just 30 seconds and stir again


  • You can now start to cover your marshmallows in chocolate. I found this easiest to do by holding the skewer over the bowl of chocolate and spooning the chocolate over the marshmallows. Once they are completely covered you now need to let all the excess drip away. I helped this along by scooping some off the underneath of the marshmallows as they dripped.

  • Then cover your chocolate with sprinkles. Again, I did this by holding the marshmallows over the bowl of sprinkles and shaking them over and / or using my hands to sprinkle. If you haven't removed the excess chocolate you will find it drips into your sprinkles bowl and you are then in a mess! The only unsuitable sprinkles I discovered were the heavier 'smarties type' which slid off the chocolate.
  • Place your finished marshmallows on a piece of greaseproof paper or non-stick sheet to harden; it only takes about 10 minutes.

  • You can then either serve / give them away as they are or wrap them up and add a bow!!

  • If you have any left-over chocolate pour it onto another piece of greaseproof paper, add sprinkles and let it harden into a giant chocolate button.

I hope you will have a go at making these. If you are planning them as a Halloween treat many of the high street shops have Halloween themed sprinkles, or you could make them nearer Christmas with festive decoration.


               Who am I?



I am a forty-something mother of two.

I love learning and creating, and do

what I can to improve the well-being

of people living with dementia.

I have worked in residential dementia

care for a few years and hope that I

have something useful to share.



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