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Games and Activities for Dementia Patients

Currently, there is no known cure for dementia, but some treatment options can help treat its symptoms and improve the quality of life. Researchers and pharmaceutical companies are exploring and developing novel medicines to delay the disease, alleviate its symptoms, and ultimately discover a cure.

Simultaneously, researchers are examining lifestyle factors to determine whether particular routines or pursuits can assist in maintaining brain health and delaying the onset of various forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

There is emerging evidence1 that regular engagement in intellectual, mental, or cognitive activity lowers the risk of cognitive decline. People with early-stage Alzheimer’s can still learn and process new knowledge, helping them to advance their cognitive abilities.

By keeping your patient occupied with games and activities that stimulate the mind and test their mental, physical, and functional abilities, you may help prevent the decline of their memory and cognition and allow them to remain independent for as long as possible.

There are numerous brain-stimulating games and activities that you can engage in with your dementia patient as a caregiver.

Games for dementia patients

What does the research say?

One of the numerous things that can occupy and entertain the human mind and, most importantly, keep it active is playing games. Games are crucial for older persons, especially those at risk for dementia. For instance, researchers found significant working memory and executive function improvement in older adults after they participated in 16 weeks of combined cognitive and physical “exergame” training1.

Another study examined the impact of computerized cognitive training- in the area of reasoning, memory, language, and attention- on the development of mild cognitive impairment. The findings revealed that exercise enhanced the gray matter volume in the brain and may help maintain general cognition.

So, what do brain games for dementia have to do with these studies? Many cognitive abilities (discussed in these studies) deteriorate when a person develops dementia, including memory and reasoning. More recent research has revealed that gaming can enhance these cognitive abilities in dementia patients.

In a recent review, researchers explored three types of games and their role in dementia care. Their findings were as follows:

  • Board games can aid in improving cognitive abilities like memory, communication, and emotional control.
  • Video games can specifically target certain cognitive functions, including memory and reasoning.
  • Virtual reality games can reinforce physical abilities and cognition (depending on the game).

The review further stated that patients in the early and middle stages of dementia who played serious games improved diverse cognitive abilities, such as short-term memory, communication, logical reasoning, and problem-solving.

What are the best games for dementia patients?

Following are a few games that may help a range of cognitive abilities, particularly for dementia patients.

1. Word Puzzles

Word puzzles are a type of game that focuses on language. According to a study, playing games, such as crosswords and other puzzles, may lead to cognitive improvements in verbal learning, speed, memory, and other areas. You can consider games including crosswords, anagrams, word searches, cryptograms, and branded games like Scrabble.

2. Jigsaw Puzzle

Jigsaw puzzles are specifically helpful for memory and reasoning. Their difficulty can range from basic puzzles requiring little hand-eye coordination to more sophisticated ones that demand memory recall. Since dementia patients frequently struggle with cognitive abilities such as reasoning and memory recall, these games may be an easy way to support these abilities.

3. Card Games

Card games are excellent for honing skills, including reasoning, problem-solving, memory, and concentration, which frequently deteriorate in dementia patients. You can start with games like matching games (like Go Fish), specific games (like Uno), trick-taking games (like Bridge), collectible games (like trading card games), and Solitaire variations.

4.Dice Games

Some cognitive conditions, such as dementia, can cause a decline in numerical and calculation skills, and dice games can help improve them. Some brain-stimulating dice games include Backgammon, Kismet, Yahtzee, and Shut the Box.

5. Board Games

A study revealed that playing more analog games, like board games, showed less cognitive and memory decline from age 70 to 79. Considering that, you can enjoy chess, Monopoly, Cranium, and Trivial pursuit with your dementia patient.

6. Video Games

Video games include a wide range of electronic games, ranging from traditional desktop computer games to games on newer systems such as the Wii and Switch, as well as mobile phone and tablet games. You can play app versions of many brain-stimulating classic games such as word games, card games, dice games, board games, and puzzles.

Other activities for dementia patients

Besides games, some other activities can also help engage your dementia patient and boost their cognitive function. Some of them are as follows:

Learning

Learning new things in later life is an excellent approach to maintaining cognitive abilities, whether through a class, YouTube videos, podcasts, or other platforms.

Reading

Reading is an incredibly beneficial hobby that is not limited to books. Poems, periodicals, newspapers, comic books, and other printed or online content are also available to read.

Art

There are many different types of art, including painting, drawing, and playing an instrument. People with dementia can benefit from any artistic expression.

Entertainment

Listening to the radio or watching television programs are excellent examples of how modern entertainment can keep the brain active.

Some of the activities indicated above may be challenging for some people with severe dementia because they may find it difficult to complete even simple tasks. You can engage them in simple activities like talking and reminiscing, looking at photos, and listening to music.

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