Best Friends Book of Alzheimer’s Activities, Volume One

By Virginia Bell, M.S.W., David Troxel, M.P.H., Tonya Cox, M.S.W., L.N.H.A., and Robin Hamon, M.S.W.

ISBN 978-1-878812-88-9
224 pages
8.5 x 11 papercover
© 2004


Bring out the best in each person with dementia with these versatile, easy-to-implement Best Friends™ activities. A best friend knows your habits, what you like to do, and what makes you feel good. The Best Friends Book of Alzheimer’s Activities puts all of these qualities to work to help you transform the activity programming at your nursing facility, adult day center, assisted living facility, or home care setting. Staff, participants, and even family members will all benefit.

With the ideas and suggestions found in this book, any member of a program’s care staff can turn the simplest interaction with a person with dementia into an activity that helps satisfy essential physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. In these inspiring pages, you will find

  • formal and informal activities, with innumerable variations
  • communication and conversation tips
  • suggested songs and musical tie-ins
  • adaptations for people in the early and late stages of Alzheimer’s disease
  • activities for unprogrammed time, including evenings
  • ideas especially for men
  • opportunities for intergenerational exchanges
  • preventive measures to avoid unwanted surprises
  • reminders of the spiritual benefits inherent in good activities

Planning activities for people with dementia may seem challenging, but The Best Friends Book of Alzheimer’s Activities shows how easy and natural it can be.

Best Friends™ is a trademark of Health Professions Press, Inc.


1. Being Together Between Structured Times

  • Acknowledge Me
  • Use My Preferred Name
  • Be Affectionate
  • Listen to Me
  • Laugh with Me
  • Give Me a Hug
  • Take a Walk Outside
  • Reminisce with Me
  • Encourage Me
  • Give Me Compliments
  • Ask for My Opinion
  • Let Me Show You
  • Look Out the Window
  • Let Me Teach You
  • Invite Me to Help
  • Talk About Meaningful Subjects

2. Recreating the Classroom Experience

  • Flashback Fashions
  • Listen to the Wind
  • High School in the 1950s
  • Stop and Smell the Roses
  • Here Comes the Bride
  • On the Road Again
  • Living “Down on the Farm”
  • Trips to the Ocean
  • Music to My Ears
  • Winter Memories
  • Summertime
  • An Apple a Day
  • “Bean” There, Done That
  • Colors of the Rainbow
  • Hats Off to You
  • Thanksgiving Blessings
  • Camping Out
  • Remembering Childhood Games
  • Bright Lights/Big City
  • Celebrating Cinco de Mayo

3. Let’s Create

  • Sandpaper Art
  • Ink Paintings of Winter Trees
  • Writing Poetry
  • Folded Paper Paintings
  • Dab It!
  • Stenciling
  • Marbling
  • Painting with Bubbles
  • Scrap Paper Art
  • Fantasy Character Collage
  • Fabric Landscapes
  • Egg Shell Art
  • Paper Mache Solar System
  • Faux Mosaics
  • Clay Pinch Pots
  • Flower Pounding
  • Painting with Marbles
  • Collage
  • Handmade Paper

4. Doing for Others

  • Creating One-of-a-Kind Greeting Cards
  • Making Envelopes for Greeting Cards
  • Making Bird Feeders
  • Creating Wrapping Paper
  • Decoupage
  • Bead Work
  • Sharing Life with Young Children
  • Potpourri
  • Be My Valentine
  • Sock Monkeys
  • Being a Volunteer
  • Sun Catchers
  • Planning an Art Show
  • Oranges with Cloves
  • Baking
  • Entertaining
  • Dog Biscuits

5. Games and Things to Do Together

  • Working with Letters
  • Fun with Words
  • Old Sayings
  • Affirming Adjectives
  • This Is Your Life
  • Table Games
  • Lotto
  • Who Is It?
  • Charades
  • Bowling
  • Horseshoes
  • Pitching and Catching
  • Batting a Balloon
  • What Is It?
  • Let’s Dance
  • Group Exercise

6. Personal Care as an Activity

  • Let’s Eat
  • Toileting
  • Dressing
  • Bathing
  • Hand Care
  • A Close Shave
  • Hair Brushing & Combing
  • Make-Up
  • Brushing Teeth
  • Moving and Stretching
  • Going to Bed
  • Waking Up

7. Especially for Men

  • Sports
  • Cars
  • Tools of the Trade
  • Scrap Wood Sculpture
  • Occupations
  • Military
  • Woodworking
  • Trains
  • Radio
  • Flags
  • Weather
  • Money
  • Newspapers
  • The Men’s Club
  • Hobbies

8. In the Home

  • Reading Together
  • Gardening
  • A Clean Sweep
  • Washing Dishes
  • Bon Appetit
  • Working Outside
  • Taking a Drive
  • Shopping
  • Talking on the Telephone
  • Dining Out
  • Creating a Bird Sanctuary
  • Being in the Community
  • Caring for Pets
  • Arranging Fresh Flowers
  • Traveling
  • Using the Computer
  • Laundry

9. After-Dinner Activities

  • Touring the Inside
  • Sit Beside Me
  • Postcard Collages
  • Remember When?
  • Lace Rubbings
  • Tea Time
  • Vintage Photographs
  • Chewing the Fat
  • Reading Aloud
  • Watching Television
  • Listening to Music
  • Wrapping Presents
  • Sing-along
  • Late-Night Snack
  • Night Owls

Conclusion: Mona Lisa and the Art of Good Alzheimer’s Care

Appendix A: Sources for Activity Professionals
Appendix B: Theme Boxes
Appendix C: Communication Tips


The Best Friends Book of Al… by on Scribd

Virginia BellVirginia Bell, M.S.W., was one of the most influential thought leaders in the field of dementia care over the last four decades, who continued right up to the time of her passing in 2023 to improve the lives of people with dementia and their caregivers. Her Best Friends™ model of dementia care transforms attitudes in care institutions and among families about a debilitating disease. An author, speaker, and advocate, her work has profoundly influenced the lives of untold individuals, and her Best Friends approach to dementia care continues to be adopted world-wide by care programs.

She lectured widely on Alzheimer’s disease at national and international conferences, speaking at the National Education Conferences of the Alzheimer’s Association and lecturing at the conferences of Alzheimer’s Disease International. She has published journal articles and book chapters, notably in Dementia Care: Patient, Family and Community (John Hopkins, 1989). Many of her articles have been reprinted numerous times: “The Alzheimer’s Disease Bill of Rights” (1994), “The Other Face of Alzheimer’s Disease” (1999) and “Spirituality and the Person with Dementia” (2001), co-authored with David Troxel and published in the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and in Alzheimer’s Care Quarterly. She has also co-authored six books with David Troxel, beginning with The Best Friends Approach to Alzheimer’s Care. She received her M.S.W. from the University of Kentucky in 1982.

David TroxelBased in northern California, David Troxel, M.P.H., is nationally and internationally known for his expertise in the fields of dementia & long-term care. He has co-authored (with Virginia Bell) six influential books, including his newest book, and written numerous articles relating to dementia care and staff development and training. He is a writer, trainer, and long-term care consultant who has spoken at over 500 conferences including keynote presentations at various U.S., Canadian, and international conferences. He served for a decade as the Executive Director of the Santa Barbara (California) Alzheimer’s Association (1994-2004). He also helped support his mother, Dorothy, in her 10-year journey living with Alzheimer’s disease. David’s areas of expertise include best care practices for persons with dementia, caregiver support, staff training, and long-term care program development. More information about David’s work can be found on his website at or on Facebook at 

Tonya CoxWith a long history of supporting Best Friends™ approaches in dementia care, Tonya M. Cox, M.S.W., L.N.H.A., currently ensures that training and implementation of Best Friends™ practices are maintained across all care settings for the regional Kentucky-based operator Christian Care Communities in her role as Vice President of Operations. She notably blended the Best Friends approach into a Green House® site as the former Executive Director for The Homeplace at Midway. And before that was Director of Community Based Services for Christian Care, which included overseeing the original Best Friends™ Adult Day Center in Lexington, Kentucky. For more than 15 years Tonya has been developing programs and services for persons with dementia and their caregivers, including working on national curriculum development for professional caregivers in various care settings and serving as Vice President for Mission and Service for the Greater Kentucky/Southern Indiana Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. Tonya presents locally and nationally on activity programming and dementia care. She is a co-author on three of the Best Friends™ books, and contributed to The Best Friends Approach to Dementia Care, Second Edition, with Virginia Bell and David Troxel. She has served as co-chair of the Kentucky Alzheimer’s Disease Advisory Council and is a practicum supervisor for both the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville Kent School of Social Work. Tonya is also Adjunct Professor at Midway University in their Health Care Administration Program.

Robin Hamon, M.S.W., is a Family Support Coordinator for the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at the University of Kentucky Sanders Brown Center on Aging. During her tenure as program manager for the Helping Hand Day Center, she developed a creative arts training program for staff and volunteers working with persons with dementia. Hamon is co-author of the two Best Friends™ activity books.


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