Anything But Bingo

Resources to enhance the daily life of people living with dementia


I love matching activities for people living with dementia; you can use things you have around the house or be more creative if you have the time (and means), and you can tailor them to an individuals interests. As with many of my activity ideas, matching tasks are good for someone who's dementia is at a stage when they are finding it difficult to fill their time and would rather sit and do nothing rather than try to complete tasks they might have once found satisfying and fullfilling. Tasks such as these can be a relatively easy way to provide distraction and be a meaningful way to keep the brain active and mind occupied.

Why do matching activities work?

  • I'm no academic but, from what I have seen in practice, matching games can be a good way to engage someone who is looking for some brain stutimulation but who's abilities have declined such that they can't manage more complex challenges.
  • Matching activities are by design done by an individual rather than group and so they remove any anxieties about "getting it right" in front of others, or indeed can be done in your home with minimal support.
  • As I suggested above matching activites can be entirely personalised. Making sure an activity holds some interest for the person rather than being a meaningless task can help to improve their levels of engagement, maybe also promoting conversation alongside the activity.


You can use things around the house

Matching socks, finding the right lid for each bottle, sorting cutlery into a cutlery tray. All these things can be found in your own home. If you are finding it difficult to persuade the person living with dementia to begin the task I might suggest it is a job that needs to be done and that it "would be a great help if you would sort these things out for me".



You can be creative

A great way to personalise a matching task is to use a topic of interest for the indivudal. For example one of the ladies I have worked with loved butterflies. I had discovered this whilst looking though a wildlife magazine with her one day. Using that knowledge I was able to make her a butterfly matching game as you see here.


I have also made a more complex spot matching game; this involved not just matching one colour but three. I had been worried that it was too complicated but with some guidance and support it was achievable by some of my clients, and those that did finish it had a great sense of achievement afterwards!

I made the butterfly and spot games on the computer, putting photos or shapes into a Word document, printing them and laminating. But don't let that put you off making one yourself, you could also make games using pictures cut out from magazines, or even drawing shapes onto paper.

This key matching game is made from a selection of keys kindly donated from a key cutting shop and drawing round them on a sheet of paper.

I have included PDF printables of the spot game below, so feel free to make one yourself and give it a go. Let me know how it works.

More ideas

Match object to photos; take photos of small objects around the house (e.g. a button, cotton reel, wooden spoon, golf ball etc) and then print them out. Keep the objects and photos together and ask the person to put the correct item with it's photograph.

Match halves of playing cards; cut a pack of playing cards in half and ask the person to put the halfs side by side again. Depending on their abilities it may be an idea to only present a small collection of cards - the entire 52 card pack might be too overwhelming!

Match fabric scraps; if sewing is of interest and you can lay your hands on some scraps of fabric you can cut the scraps into two pieces and ask the person to find the matching piece.

Colour matching; paint colour samples are freely available at DIY stores. If you can get hold of some pegs too you can easily make a colour matching game.


I am interested to hear your feedback on my ideas and also if they have worked for you, so please do comment below.


Game Set Match.


Printable spot game PDF



Advanced dementia - what can you do? How about polishing shoes?

When someone is living with advanced dementia it can feel like there is nothing meaningful they can do to pass the time. Working with people at this stage is one of the challenges of my job but also the most rewarding.

Michael (not his real name) was a 'wanderer'; an unhelpful description often used for someone living with dementia who can't sit still. Michael worked in the building trade all his life and so was used to being busy. His dementia had advanced to the stage that he had no verbal communication, an apparently limited understanding of the world around him and little interest in activities. Michael was, however, fully mobile and so spent much of his waking hours walking around the home. When I was introduced to the idea of using Montessori methods with dementia Michael sprang to mind and of all the things I tried shoe polishing was the stand out success.

Polishing shoes

Although it may be a generalisation I believe it was typical 50-60 years ago for the man of the house to polish the shoes. Assuming the same was true in Michael's house he will have polished a fair few shoes and boots during his life time.

I presented a pair of shoes, some polish and 2 brushes on the table in front of Micheal. He barely acknowledged them.

I put the brush in his hand but he put it back on the table.

The next step was to put the brush in Michael's hand and put my hand over the top. We started to brush the shoe together. I gently let go and straight away Michael slipped his hand in the shoe just the way he will have done all those years ago, and polished the shoe.  This activity lasted a mere 3 minutes but throughout those 3 minutes Michael was smiling. 


We know from research that the feelings experienced by someone living with dementia from a recent experience far outlive the memory of that experience so I felt sure that the satisfaction or pleasure that Michael felt for that brief time will have stayed with him for a longer than he will have remembered the activity itself. Now that we knew Michael was able and happy to do this task we were able to repeat it many times.

My tips for trying new tasks with someone living with advanced dementia:

  • Acknowledge the individuals life history and past hobbies and interests, but don't be ruled by them. They may have hated gardening once but will now find pleasure in filling a pot with compost.
  • Remember that muscle memory - the brain's ability to remember often practiced movements is a powerful (if not well understood) phenomenon so any physical tasks that someone has performed time and time again may still be useable even when their dementia advances.
  • Choose your moment when introducing a new task. You are looking for a calm, wakeful time when the person is responsive.
  • Don't be disheartened if the person doesn't show interest the first time. Unless you get a strong negative reponse you can try again another time.
  • Gradually add support as required. i.e. start by presenting the task. Then, if necessary show how it is done, then hold over the person's hand as you do it with them. The final level would be to demonstrate only. This in itself can be a welcome distraction for the person you are working with.

'Anyone can make it' microwave lemon curd recipe

You can make this, really you can. You need only 4 ingredients, a few common kitchen utensils. Oh, and you need a microwave. (You can make lemon curd on a hob but not with this recipe). If you are caring for someone living with dementia who used to love to cook or enjoys food then there is no reason to give up cooking with them.

All of my recipes have been designed to be easy to follow and with plenty of opportunity for carer and loved one to work together and share the experience. The level of participation will be very personal and go from minimal supervision, through stiring and grating, to reading the recipe and watching. As always I need to add a note of caution:

You know the person you are caring for the best; their memory, understanding and judgement. I cannot advise how safe each of these steps will be for everyone. I have highlighted possible danger points to guide you but common sense on the part of the caregiver is essential.



I have increased the sugar content as it is common for dementia to mess with taste buds and bitter tastes become more bitter, so lemon can taste more lemony and so on. Adding a little more sugar helps to counteract this sensitivity but do alter the levels to suit you.

There is a PDF file of the recipe below. You can then print the recipe and it can be easily read and followed .


What you will need:

2 lemons

2 eggs

125g caster sugar

60g butter (butter will give you the best flavour but spreadable butter or margerine will do too)


2 small bowls  - including one that is microwave safe

hand whisk

sharp knife

weighing scales

citrus juicer (you can also just squeeze the cut lemons)




What to do:

  1. Break the eggs into a bowl and then gently whisk them so that you have a runny orange liquid.
  2. Cut the lemons in half and squeeze as much juice out as you can using your hands or a juicer.  Sharp knife - beware!
  3. Add the lemon juice to the eggs and mix together.
  4. Using the sieve strain the lemon and egg mixture into the microwave safe bowl to remove the pips and thick bits of egg yolk.
  5. Weigh the butter and sugar and add them both to the sieved lemon mixture.
  6. Cover the bowl and microwave it 1 minute at a time. After each minute stir the lemon curd well. After a few minutes the mixture will start to thicken. Liquid will get hot - beware!
  7. Once thickened enough to drop off the spoon rather than run off it leave the lemond curd to cool and then you can eat it - delicious on a piece of bread.

The most perfect end to this cooking adventure is to invite someone for tea and see the joy in your loved one's face as you tell everyone that he or she made the lemon curd!

 Lemon Curd recipe PDF



               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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