Jacqueline surrounded by her colouring pages

How colouring can help people living with dementia keep their mind active

Jacqueline was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2017 at the age of 77. Her son Neil tells us how her love of colouring is keeping her engaged and safe while at home.

Jacqueline's family have noticed her memory deteriorate rapidly over the past 12 months. Currently, she is living alone in her own bungalow where she receives support from her family and carers.

Around five years ago Jacqueline began to enjoy colouring. She likes to use coloured pencils and has managed to fill in more than fifty colouring books and hundreds of pictures! 

Her son Neil explains what colouring means to his mum and how it has helped her.

Why colouring can help people living with dementia

Keeping mum in her own home where she is settled has sometimes been challenging, I know at some point mum will have to receive residential care

Fortunately, mum has a keen interest in colouring, this has been her lifeline and helps her to continue to live in her own home. I know mum is safe in-between care visits, because I know she’s colouring.

My mum is really proud of her colouring pictures and shows everyone who visits her home.

Woman holding up colouring art

Jacqueline with an illustration of her grandson Mason. Neil drew the picture and Jacqueline enjoyed colouring it.

My mum started colouring daily around five years ago, two years before she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. She’s always loved colouring. I remember when I was a child, she coloured-in one of the pages of a colouring book that I received as a Christmas present.

Mum turned 80 last year, most of the presents that she received on her 80th birthday were colouring books and pencils. Mum likes to use pencils, she likes shading in the shapes.

I’ve had to purchase an industrial pencil sharpener to keep all her pencils sharp and this has become a full-time job.

Mum used to like gardening but due to being house-bound and unsteady on her feet she is unable to venture out like she used to. 

I’ve also noticed changes in her colouring. She used to use a variety of colours but recent pictures show only a few.

Colouring during coronavirus

The pandemic created real confusion for my mum. She misses seeing her grandchild Mason. Mum talks about him a lot and looks forward to seeing him every week. My mum knows that he hasn’t visited her for a while and gets upset about this.  

I recently illustrated a photo of Mason for mum and she coloured it in, this undoubtedly lifted her spirits and the picture is definitely the one she treasures the most.

Jacqueline colouring

Jacqueline colouring a picture of Vera Lynn singing 'We'll meet again'.

Colouring is a tactile activity and can be far more than just therapeutic for people with dementia, when combined with engagement and conversation.

Colouring is keeping her safe in her own home, especially now with the coronavirus pandemic.  I’ve also noticed that talking to her about her colouring pictures helps - I only have to talk about her pictures and she gives me a big smile. 

If you care for someone with dementia, I definitely recommend introducing them to colouring.  It’s a great way to engage people with dementia, especially now in light of the pandemic.

Activity ideas for people living with dementia

Keeping active and purposeful when staying at home will help fight off boredom and frustration. Here are some activities you can try at home.

Activity ideas
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Thank you for this story. Where do you get the colouring books please? Trixie

This is helpful

Buy colouring books at all Supermarketd....ASDS, TESCO, SAINSBURY'S,MORRIDONS etc. Plus at the cheaper shops B & M , Home Bargains , The Pound Shop etc.
Make sure that the pictures are not " back to back" this will ensure a nicer picture, and that the paper is not too thin. This is important especially if using felt tip colouring pencils.

This is helpful

This is really helpful and encouraging to me, thank you for sharing your story. My mom is living alone with early dementia and I find very little information about how to support her and keep her engaged when I cannot visit in person. I love your suggestion!

This is helpful
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