Dementia is an age-related condition characterized by the progressive loss of cognitive function. The symptoms of dementia range from mild to severe, but memory loss is the most common sign. People with dementia may also experience confusion, disorientation, difficulty performing complex tasks, and problems with communication, coordination, planning, organization, reasoning, and problem-solving.
Brain-stimulating games can delay the onset of dementia and may help to manage or even reduce symptoms. Therefore, products for dementia are vital for improving the quality of life among people with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
How Can Brain Games Help People with Dementia?
Brain-stimulating games have a variety of health benefits for people with dementia and can improve the physical and mental well-being of your loved ones. Dementia-friendly games can reduce agitation, distract from negative emotions, and may even slow disease progression in some people. They provide people with dementia the opportunity to flex their cognitive skills, keeping the mind active and helping to preserve their sense of identity and self-esteem.
Studies have shown that games can boost cognitive activity in people with dementia, leading to:
- Decreased depression
- Improved attention
- Improved communication
- Improved relationships
- Improved memory
Can Brain Games Prevent or Delay Dementia?
There is no sure way to prevent dementia, but games that encourage mental stimulation may help to keep age-related cognitive decline at bay. Research shows that children who play video games have sharper cognitive skills than those who don’t, so the evidence suggests that gaming can benefit your brain at any age. Keeping your mind active throughout your life may delay or even prevent the onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Health experts believe you can also reduce your risk of dementia by:
- Eating a balanced, varied diet
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Reducing or eliminating alcohol
- Stopping smoking
- Exercising regularly
- Keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol levels healthy
Choosing Games for Dementia Patients
Choosing appropriate games for seniors with dementia heavily depends on two things; their cognitive and physical abilities, and their personal likes and dislikes.
Dementia progresses over three main stages, and the abilities of your loved one will depend on which stage of the condition they are in. It’s very important to keep this in mind when selecting games, as people are unlikely to engage in activities they can’t enjoy. It is also helpful to tailor your game choices to the preferences of the person you want to play with, as they are more likely to interact with activities that appeal to them personally.
Popular Games for Dementia Patients
People in different stages of dementia will benefit from different types of games, and finding the perfect fit may take some trial and error. Fortunately, there are a wide variety of activities for dementia patients at home, including games you can enjoy together!
Jigsaw puzzles can be a great way to pass time with people in the early to mid-stages of dementia. Completing a puzzle activates multiple cognitive abilities and can help to slow disease progression. Working on a jigsaw puzzle together also creates an opportunity for conversation and socialization, which can be an effective mood-booster.
When selecting a puzzle game, it’s important to consider the person’s abilities and preferences. Choose images that you think will appeal to their personality, and keep the complexity at a suitable level. People in the early stage of dementia may enjoy working on a larger jigsaw, whereas people with more advanced cognitive decline often respond better to puzzles with fewer pieces.
Dice games are fun to play in a group and provide a platform for conversation and social interaction. This can encourage dementia patients to chat and interact with friends and family, which is an effective way to keep the mood uplifted and the mind sharp.
Activities like the Bunco Dice Game are highly beneficial for people with early-stage dementia, as they provide sensory stimulation and a chance to exercise hand-eye coordination.
Like dice games, playing cards are valuable tools for keeping people with dementia engaged and stimulated. Those with early-stage dementia may enjoy traditional card games, so shop around for a set that is easy to read and handle.
For people with more advanced dementia, visual association games like Pickles to Penguins may be more suitable. These card games don’t follow a fixed set of rules and can be played more casually while still allowing for free-flowing conversation and memory recall.
Board games are especially beneficial for people with dementia, as strategic thinking is a good way to activate cognitive skills. Research has shown that board games can even prevent cognitive decline, which could help to preserve brain health and slow disease progression in dementia patients.
The best board games are easy to play and engage with. Some people with dementia may enjoy the familiarity of old classics like Snakes and Ladders or Dominoes. However, for people with more pronounced cognitive decline, board games for special needs like Qwirkle board game can be easier to engage with.
Activity boxes are versatile tools for stimulating the mind and senses. They are particularly useful for people with a variety of interests, as they contain a range of activities in one portable package. The selection of activities gives people with dementia the freedom to choose according to their mood, and taps into multiple cognitive skills including logic, dexterity, and artistic skills.
Activity boxes are a great source of activities for dementia patients at home, but there are also portable options like the On-The-Go Box that are easy to transport and travel with.
Memory loss is often the first sign of dementia, so activities involving memory recall can have a whole host of benefits. Photograph albums and memory boxes provide visual and sensory aides to bring old memories flooding back, helping people with dementia to maintain a sense of identity. Helping a loved one with dementia put together a memory book is the perfect way to immerse them in happy memories. This has the joint benefit of activating cognitive skills and improving their overall mood and wellbeing.
Sensory Stimulation and Stress Relief Games
Restlessness and agitation are common among people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, and can be distressing both for you and your loved one. Stress balls and fidget blankets are two examples of sensory items that can help to ease anxiety and bring comfort to dementia patients.
Fidget toys are also an excellent way to maintain dexterity in the hands and fingers, which goes a long way to maintaining independence and self-esteem.
Games for Dementia Patients to Avoid
The number 1 rule when choosing games for people with dementia is to keep the person’s abilities in mind. Games that are overly complicated or have lots of fiddly pieces can be overwhelming for people with cognitive decline, and are likely to make them shut down and disengage from the activity. This can be damaging to their self-esteem, and overlooks the fundamental purpose of playing games – to have fun!
Occasionally, a well-intentioned choice can fall flat. For example, you may break out the chess set for someone who enjoyed playing in the past, only to find that they have since lost interest in the game. Stay attentive to the moods and needs of your loved one, and if you see they don’t enjoy the activity be willing to put it aside and try something new.
Adaptations and Modifications for Dementia Games
If your game or puzzle of choice is too difficult for a person with dementia, look for ways to modify the game to suit their needs. For example, you can adapt games for special needs by:
- Swapping large jigsaws for puzzles with fewer pieces
- Choosing checkers over chess
- Finding games that rely on visual or verbal association, rather than a fixed set of rules
- Choosing familiar games over those with new rules to learn
- Opting for games with fewer, easy-to-handle pieces
- Exploring artistic and musical activities when games fail to spark interest
ConclusionBrain-stimulating and memory games have been found to boost cognitive function in people with dementia, which can help to slow disease progression and improve their overall quality of life. If you're looking for a wide variety of games specifically designed for individuals with Alzheimer's or dementia, consider exploring an Alzheimer's store, where you can find a range of products tailored to meet their unique needs. Note, that the best games for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients are those that match their ability levels and have some personal significance, as these are most likely to encourage engagement and spark joy.