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Lack of interest

Changing behaviour

"I used to enjoy painting, but I often lack motivation. If I start, I usually keep going and am happy doing it. It takes a lot to get me started though." (George)

"Its frustrating to see Edna just sitting there doing nothing. Before, she was always busy and loved playing the piano. She seldom plays it now even though she can still play it beautifully." (Pam)

It may be difficult for people with dementia to carry on with some of their usual activities and hobbies. Some people adapt to the situation and find different ways to keep up a particular activity or pastime. Others seem to detach themselves from everything that is going on around them. This may sometimes be a way of coping when things get too much.

Apart from memory problems, people with dementia may find that they simply lack the motivation to do anything. Perhaps certain activities have no value if they cannot be carried out as before. Repeated difficulty carrying out a task may also be a painful reminder of the progression of the disease. Finally, there is the issue of personal pride – not wanting to show others that one cannot do something well. But, even those who carry on with their usual activities sometimes lack the motivation or the incentive to get started. Many carers find it difficult to deal with apathy, particularly if the person with dementia has always been a fairly active person.

For the person with dementia

  • Try to make an effort to be active (even if just for short periods of time).
  • Give things a try.
  • It may help to have a rest or change of activity at regular intervals.
  • Keeping busy will help preserve your existing skills.
  • If usual pastimes are difficult, find smaller, easier tasks to do.
  • Get someone to help you if necessary.
  • Take more time if you need to but don’t give up.

For the carer

  • Encourage the person with dementia to remain active but don’t insist.
  • Compliment the person from time to time on what they have achieved.
  • Find things to do that the person with dementia likes and can easily manage.
  • Try to find tasks that are likely to be meaningful to the person with dementia.
  • Start something yourself and invite the person with dementia to join in.
  • Provide guidance and cues during the activity if needed.
  • Avoid suggesting activities if the person with dementia is stressed, tired or in a potentially frustrating situation (e.g. in front of strangers).
  • Try to arrange something interesting each day.
  • Look for things that you could enjoy doing together
  • Encourage the person with dementia to help around the house (even if you need to redo some things later).
  • Try to maintain a stimulating environment but make sure that it is not too much for the person with dementia.
  • Use humour and make light of the situation when possible and appropriate.



Last Updated: Friday 11 September 2009