There has been compelling research in recent years that points to the effectiveness of “brain games” for staving-off the onset of dementia as we age. However, there are also mentally stimulating — and fun — brain games for dementia that current sufferers can utilize, as well.
Games can offer both social and mental stimulation for those with dementia, while “exercising” the brain and possibly, slowing the deterioration of cognitive abilities. Five types of games that are especially well suited for loved ones with dementia include:
The beauty of card games is that they may be familiar to those with dementia, which means caregivers won’t need to try and teach dementia sufferers how to play a new game, and/or the cards themselves may visually jog one’s memory. For starters, try a stripped-down version of “War,” in which each player turns over one card, and whoever has the highest card wins, taking the other cards. When you reach the end of the deck, whoever has the most cards is the champ. Dementia sufferers may also enjoy simply sorting the cards, whether it’s according to suit, color, value, etc.
Similar to card games, bingo is another familiar activity that triggers long-term memory, making it one of the more stimulating brain games for dementia. It is best to at least start with simplified bingo boards containing less numbers, with the numbers printed larger, making them easier to locate. You can either purchase appropriate boards or make them yourself.
Games that utilize pictures are another effective form of brain games for dementia, engaging sufferers and encouraging them to reminisce. Try printing out photos of items from the past that may have meaning for those playing—photos of old card, buildings, movie stars, etc.—then place them on a table. Call out which photo you want the other players to find; or in an alternate version, print out two copies of each photo, have your loved one match the pair together, and then have them describe the contents of the images.
People dealing with memory loss often struggle with recalling words, so for a challenging but fun word game, have your loved one try and complete common phrases they may be able to recall, like “An apple a day keeps the [blank] away,” or “April showers, bring May [blank].” You can also play a simplified trivia game, where you ask your loved one to name common objects, after giving them hints. For example, have them try to answer “frying pan,” after telling them about a round, metal object with a handle, used to cook food.
Video games are becoming increasingly popular with seniors, even though many didn’t play them in their younger years. For dementia sufferers, the more complicated video games may be too much to learn and master, but the more basic titles—especially puzzle games like Tetris—can be a more stimulating alternative to watching TV. Start with games geared toward younger players and increase the complexity if/when your loved one desires a greater challenge. The process of learning and mastering these games can offer your loved one a great feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction.
Memory cafe’s are also great place for those with dementia or Alzheimer’s to interact with others and stimulate their brains with creative arts projects and group activities. There are several free memory cafes throughout Northeastern New York including Clinton, Warren, Washington, Franklin, and Hamilton counties. These free memory cafe’s feature light refreshments, social hour, fun art projects, and group activities. Learn more about the memory cafe’s in your area now. For further information and assistance, call our Caregiver Support Line at 1-800-388-0199 or contact your local Care Navigator. We’re here to help!