Fun Family Games for Seniors with Dementia

games for dementia

Dementia can rob our loved ones of their memory, change their behavior, make it tough for them to comprehend things that used to come easily, and cause emotional upheaval. It can also affect their ability to perform tasks that used to be familiar. This can easily include the board games and card games that the family used to enjoy together.

Even as someone suffers from the effects of advancing dementia, there are still ways to connect, and fun family games can be one of those opportunities. Let’s look at what dementia is, what to expect, and the kinds of games a family can come together to play that can be enjoyable for everyone.

Facts About Dementia

Dementia is a broad term that describes a variety of brain disorders. These disorders can affect memory, thinking, emotions, and behavior. The most common symptom is memory loss, but there are others that can present just as strongly, such as issues with language, changes in personality, trouble with comprehension and judgment, and difficulty performing tasks that were once quite familiar – anything from driving to a favorite place to tying your shoes.

Though most of us will forget things from time to time as we get older (think about the last time you lost your keys in your own house), dementia takes the casual forgetfulness that can come with aging several steps further, to a point where it interferes with day-to-day living[1].

According to Alzheimer’s Disease International, there are currently over 55 million people across the world living with dementia, and that number is expected to increase to 139 million by 2050. Someone is newly diagnosed every three seconds, but up to three-quarters of those with dementia have never actually received a diagnosis – so the problem might be much more prevalent than the numbers suggest.

The thought of dementia can be frightening. Almost 80% of the general public has expressed concern about developing dementia at some point in their later years. There is currently no cure for dementia, though scientists are hard at work finding ways to slow down its progression[2]. According to the World Health Organization, dementia is the seventh leading cause of death among all diseases and one of the top causes of disability and dependency among seniors.

Types of Dementia

There are several different types of dementia, but the most common by far is Alzheimer’s disease. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that this specific disease makes up about 60-80% of all cases of dementia worldwide. There are other forms, however, which can include:

·         Dementia with Lewy bodies, in which proteins act abnormally inside nerve cells.

·         Vascular dementia, or brain damage resulting from a variety of causes, such as strokes or diabetes.

·         Frontotemporal dementia refers to degeneration of the frontal lobes of the brain.

·         Dementia as a result of some infections, such as HIV.

·         Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) as a result of repetitive physical injuries to the brain.

·         Nutritional deficiencies that can lead to problems with brain tissue.

·         Overuse of alcohol for many years.

No matter the type of dementia, the resulting symptoms are typically the same. That means that a person might have trouble comprehending things that happen to them or how to react to those things, such as a fall in the shower. Even someone without dementia would be understandably rattled by such an event, but those who have dementia might be even more confused and frightened.

That’s where a medical alert system comes into play. This emergency response solution means that help is just a touch away – press the button on the medical alert pendant, bracelet, or watch and someone from our Command Center will answer and determine what help you need. If you opt for a button alarm with fall detection, the tiny fall sensors in the device can measure speed and impact, thus detecting a fall even if the alert button has not been pressed. The Command Center will then preemptively call to make sure all is well. This provides incredible peace of mind not just for the person wearing it, but for those who are concerned about senior health and the safety of their loved one.

Preventing Dementia

Age is by far the strongest known risk factor for dementia, but dementia doesn’t affect all people, so it is not considered an inevitable part of getting older. In addition, it isn’t exclusively a disease of the elderly, as early-onset dementia – which happens before the age of 65 – occurs in about nine percent of cases. Other risk factors include social isolation, depression, and air pollution. Women are much more likely to develop dementia than men are[3].

How can you prevent dementia? Though there is no conclusive proof that prevention is possible, you can reduce your risk by staying physically active, avoiding smoking and overuse of alcohol, keeping your weight at a reasonable level, eating a healthy diet, and keeping chronic conditions under control, such as diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure[4].

Interestingly, cognitive inactivity and low educational attainment are also risk factors for dementia – and that’s exactly why it’s so important to keep your loved one’s brain working through the games and other activities families can do together.

Keeping an Active Mind Through Family Games

Not only do family games keep someone engaged and help their mind work harder, but those games can also bring a family closer together. There are some activities that great-grandchildren can enjoy with their grandparents, and puzzles and the like are certainly those that bridge generation gaps. Here are just a few ideas for family games to play with those with dementia:

·         Jigsaw puzzles. These puzzles come in an enormous variety of sizes and the designs are literally endless. Anything your loved one is interested in can be found in a jigsaw puzzle. Some puzzles are very intricate and take a long while, while others are very simple, with only a handful of pieces to put together. Use your best judgment on which puzzles might be too difficult. A good rule of thumb is to stick to puzzles that children could put together with some mental effort. To make things even more helpful for those with dementia, consider creating your own puzzles by uploading family photographs to an online service that then turns them into puzzles and ships them right to your door.

·         Bingo. Simple bingo is fun for all ages. It’s especially fun if you have interesting prizes to win! Choose prizes that are simple, inexpensive, and will bring a smile. For instance, if your loved one enjoys horses, prizes that are horse-themed are a great idea. Use bingo cards with large print and bingo markers that are easy to hold.

·         Child’s games. Remember games like Candyland or Chutes and Ladders? These games can be perfect for those with dementia, as they don’t require reading and have only a few small, easy steps to play them effectively. Children will love them too, so it can be a true family affair.

·         Card games. Some games, like War, Go Fish, or Blackjack, might be suitable. If you do choose card games, be sure to go with larger cards that have big print and are easy to hold. Be flexible with the rules and change things up if your loved one wants to – the idea is to go with their flow and make sure they feel a sense of accomplishment in the game.

·         Dominoes. A set of dominoes is usually black and white, with very clear dots and lines. This makes it ideal for someone who has visual issues along with dementia. Larger tiles can be easier to hold and work with on a table.

·         Checkers. This is one of the first classic games a child usually learns, and that can easily “come back” to a person with dementia. Look for a large board with big pieces to move around, and stay flexible about the rules – you might wind up creating an entirely new game!

·         Dance competition. Why sit still? Get your loved one moving by putting on music that they will enjoy and having a dance competition right there in the living room. If your loved one still has nimble mobility, this is a great way to get them some exercise and get the younger generation involved in creating a fun memory.

·         Dice games. Just as with dominoes, dice can have very clear markings and be easy to handle, especially if they are a larger version. There are countless games with dice, including those that are organized, like Yahtzee, and those that you create on your own.

·         Pictionary. Perhaps your loved one can’t handle games with words, but they can handle games with pictures. The classic Pictionary uses the power of drawing to create a fun family game. You can create your own with a large drawing pad, an easel (if you’ve got one), and big, easy-to-hold markers. Keep in mind that those with dementia might not see the world as they once did, so their drawings could require some interesting guesses.

·         Easy video games. This can be tricky, as some video games can be far too difficult for someone with dementia. But very easy games, such as a bubble popping game that requires only the use of a single touch to make it work, can be a wonderful way to keep your loved one busy and engaged. A game like this on a tablet (encased in an easy-to-hold protective case) can even work as an on-the-go game during trips out of the house.

·         Puzzle cubes. These are somewhat like fidget toys, or like a simpler type of Rubik’s Cube. These work well for those with dementia who still have nimble finger dexterity and need something to do with their hands. Choose a very simple one to begin with and then determine if you can move up to something more complex.

Games to Avoid for Those with Dementia

Just as there are some games that work very well for those with dementia, there are some games you should certainly avoid. One of the key components in making a family game fun is success – you want to build confidence, camaraderie, and happiness. The following are things that may be best to avoid:

·         Video games with more than touch controls. Choose video games for a tablet or phone that are very simple to use through one or two touches. Avoid games that require any sort of controller or console, or those that have numerous options that make navigating them difficult.

·         Complex games. Things like chess or monopoly might be difficult for someone with dementia. Of course, it depends on how far dementia has progressed to determine what games are ideal, but a good rule of thumb is to keep it to games the young grandkids can play, such as those who are in preschool or kindergarten.

·         Games with a time limit. This creates pressure to make a move, roll the dice, or do other things to move the game along. Though you want it to engage the mind, you don’t want it to add pressure, as that can lead to a sense of failure. And that defeats the purpose.

·         Games based on words. Though Scrabble might sound like an excellent idea to keep the brain engaged, it can be too frustrating if someone realizes that they are losing comprehension or the ability to create words. Even if they can still compete at games like this, the effort can be quite mentally taxing.

Stay Safe Even When Playing Family Games

Even when the whole family is sitting around the kitchen table playing a game, it’s important to know that if an emergency arises, help is just a touch away. If an emergency were to occur, it can be tough to think things through. With medical alert technology, you don’t have to. Simply press the button and get help, 24/7/365. Wearing a medical alert pendant at all times – on the go, in the shower, and even right there surrounded by family – provides invaluable peace of mind for you and your loved one. Alert1 has personal emergency alarms starting at less than $1 a day. Cheers to your safety and quality family time!