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3.1 When dementia gets in the way of living a meaningful life

Find therapies and strategies to help you live a meaningful life with dementia

Work out what is important in your life

Doing things you enjoy will help you find meaning in your life with dementia.   

Jill’s meaningful life means working on their family farm, whereas for Seamus this is his morning walk and tea with friends.  Priyanka’s meaningful life might include spending time with her grandchildren, and Jim’s meaningful life might involve his hobby train collection.

For some people living life well means:

  • Doing activities they enjoy. For example, gardening, walking, golf, cooking, or reading
  • Spending time with people. Such as their partner, friends, children, grandchildren, groups or clubs
  • Living spiritually. For example, praying or meditating, going to church, mosque or temple, or doing things according to their faith
  • Working towards a goal. For example, redecorating a room, planning a trip, or volunteering to put on a community event.

Write down 3 or more things that are important to you in your life, or your life goals. If you get stuck, think about things you enjoy doing, people you care about, what you want to achieve, or things that make you happy. You can use the My life plan worksheet.

Important to me or goals for a meaningful life

These might be…
I love cooking for my family
I like travelling
I want to sing in the choir at the Christmas concert

Work out what is getting in the way

Now next to each thing that’s important to you, write down how dementia is making things tricky. Try to be realistic and accurate. For example, instead of writing “I can’t bake any more”, write “I sometimes forget what ingredients I have used and if I have measured them out properly”.

You can use the My life plan worksheet.  For Example:

Important to me or goals for a meaningful life

…and how dementia or other issues get in the way

I love cooking for my family

  • Now I need to look recipes up; before I could remember the quantities
  • It takes me much longer to cook
  • I find it hard to cook complicated recipes

I like travelling

  • I’m not confident I can manage travelling alone. I might miss a connection or lose something important
  • I’m worried that jetlag might make my memory and concentration worse so I won’t enjoy the trip

I want to sing in the choir at the Christmas concert

  • I find it hard to memorise the words of new songs
  • If the choir members know I have dementia, they might treat me differently
Start your own dementia toolkit
Clicking here will open the toolkit information page where you can learn how to create your own dementia toolkit.

Find the strategies that work for you

Information and strategies on this website may help to reduce how dementia affects the things you enjoy. You can also think up strategies yourself or come up with ideas by talking to your friends, family, doctor or other healthcare professionals.

Important to me or goals for a meaningful life

…and how dementia or other issues get in the way

…and To-do strategies

I love cooking for my family

  • I need to look up recipes now, before I could remember the quantities
  • It takes me much longer to cook
  • I find it hard to cook complicated recipes
  • Clear out my kitchen cupboards and reorganise so that my herbs, spices and cooking ingredients are easier to reach and find
  • Invite my grandchildren to cook with me once a month
  • Go through my recipes and write out clearly the ones I want to try
  • Read the Dementia UK blog about baking 

I like travelling

  • I’m not confident I can manage travelling alone. I might miss a connection or lose something important
  • I’m worried that jetlag might make my memory and concentration worse so I won’t enjoy the trip
  • Look into traveling with a friend, or taking a small group tour
  • Consider wearing a sunflower lanyard to let others know I might need help – See Cheryl and David’s story
  • Allow a few days to recover from jetlag before important activities in the trip

I want to sing in the choir at the Christmas concert

  • I find it hard to memorise the words of new songs
  • My singing is getting worse
  • If the choir members knew I have dementia, they might treat me differently
  • Talk to the choir leader about my dementia and whether I can sing with a song sheet
  • Ask a family member or friend from choir to practice with me
  • Talk with a friend from choir about my dementia and how they think the rest of the choir will react

Write Your Life Plan

Use the My Life Plan worksheet to identify the things that are important to you, and strategies to keep doing those things.

Start with a couple of things and discuss them with family, friends and professionals.

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