People living with dementia may lose their perception of time, their confidence, and focus, but it doesn’t mean they lose their sense of fun. Playing games is not only a wonderful way to help people living with dementia to remain engaged and enjoy interactions with carers, family, or friends, but it can also provide the right level of stimulation and focus to benefit their quality of life too.
There are several types of games that are beneficial for adults with dementia, for example:
These games include “I Spy,” where players have to remember and find specific objects within a given setting and “Memory”, where players have to recall the placement of cards or pictures. Matching games, where players have to find pairs of matching cards or objects are also great for exercising and strengthening memory skills.
Jigsaw puzzles, crosswords, and Sudoku are loved for their cognitive stimulation. These types of games challenge problem-solving abilities, attention to detail, and concentration. It is important to note that puzzle games need to be chosen with a suitable difficulty level, taking the individual’s capabilities into account.
Word searches, word associations, and fill-in-the-blank exercises can help maintain language and vocabulary skills. Additionally, games like “Name That Tune” that involve guessing or recalling song titles can be engaging and enjoyable.
Sensory stimulation games
Games involving scents, sounds, or touch can stimulate different senses and create more immersive, multisensory experiences. A notable example of this is doll therapy. Some of the Future Care Group care homes have introduced therapy doll sessions for dementia residents which has had a marked effect on their mood and behaviour. The dolls provide residents with a sense of purpose while promoting calm. Therapy dolls help our residents to connect, hug, hold, and benefit from the wonders of touch.
Games played with others
Bingo, Snakes and Ladders, or Dominoes are notable examples that can be easily adapted to suit the abilities of individuals with dementia. They promote social interaction, decision-making, and turn-taking.
Music and singing
Music has a powerful impact on residents with dementia. Listening to familiar songs, playing simple musical instruments, and enjoying a sing-along can all evoke memories, stimulate emotions, and encourage social interaction.
Does the stage of an individual’s dementia impact which games to play?
The type and stage of a resident’s dementia will impact the types of games that are suitable to play. Fully understanding how our carers can support each resident and their loved ones is a crucial part of our bespoke dementia strategy at the Future Care Group. We understand the importance of adapting games to an individual’s abilities and preferences to ensure residents have an enjoyable and engaging experience. To do this, they must be targeted to each person’s cognitive and physical capabilities.
The progression of dementia is loosely categorised into three stages: Early stage, middle stage, and late stage.
Game types for early-stage dementia
In the early stage of dementia, individuals may still have relatively preserved cognitive abilities and may still be able to engage in a wide range of games. Games that focus on memory, attention, and problem-solving can be beneficial during this stage. Word games, puzzles, and memory-based activities are often well-suited. Multiplayer games that involve social interaction can also be enjoyable. Selecting games that are challenging but not overwhelming is fundamental at any stage.
Game types for middle-stage dementia
Middle stage dementia sees a further decline in cognitive ability. Individuals may start to have difficulty with complex tasks, complex thinking, and remembering recent events. Games that are simpler and have clear instructions are more appropriate. Good options could be matching games, simple puzzles with larger pieces, and sensory activities, as these can all be appealing. Focusing on activities that provide a sense of accomplishment and maintain social interaction is key at this stage.
Game types for late-stage dementia
In the latter stages of dementia, individuals may experience significant cognitive and physical impairments. Their attention span may be limited, and language and coordination may be challenging. Games that involve sensory stimulation are an excellent choice. Activities that focus on recalling older memories, such as looking through old photo albums and listening to familiar stories, can sometimes be more beneficial than traditional games. At this stage, individuals crave comfort, emotional connection, and familiarity, so any games that focus on these qualities will be effective.
Our top 5 games for adults with dementia
The Lifestyle Lead at Albany Lodge, Bear Brady, shares her top five games to play with dementia residents:
Our infamous quizzes are always well received by residents living with dementia. They keep our resident’s brains engaged and focused and build their confidence to interact with others. It always induces lots of laughs and giggles. We use quizzes to draw upon knowledge learned throughout residents’ lifetimes to encourage the brain to remember it. In short, quizzes and trivia are like a workout for the brain.
This age-old game ticks a ton of memory stimulating boxes. From exercising fine motor skills, hand-eye-coordination, visual perception, memory recall, and strategizing, to promoting calm and relaxation and honing focus and concentration. We have domino matches at Albany Lodge which can be a competitive business!
3) Doll therapy
Albany Lodge Care Home introduced Belinda the doll to residents recently. Belinda looks very real and has the weight of a real-life newborn. We had no idea how much our residents would love Belinda or even if they would like her, but we have been very touched by the reactions from all our residents. The staff have welcomed Belinda too! Residents enjoy rocking her to sleep, singing to her, and stroking her hands and face. Residents often fall asleep whilst soothing the doll because they are so content and relaxed. We have even had requests for a cot, pushchair, new clothes, and nappies for Belinda too so they can dress and socialise with her.
The sensation of holding a doll can be soothing and can remind individuals with dementia of a time when they had young children of their own or in their life. The dolls offer a renewed sense of purpose and a connection with the outside world, which can lead to increased activity levels or simply create pleasant nostalgic feelings or affection. It has been quite touching and beautiful to see real engagement from our residents that have historically not engaged with our other activities.
4) Pet therapy
Like doll therapy, the aim of pet therapy is to improve self-esteem and confidence in those living with dementia. It promotes quality of life and encourages independence. If a person living with dementia is having trouble communicating, looking after a pet may help them to stay engaged and involved. Other notable benefits are improved mood and increased social interaction as those with dementia are more at risk of suffering with depression which can have further implications on their quality of life. Pets can also reduce feelings of anxiety and sadness and promote positive emotions. In turn, we’ve seen residents lower their blood pressure by petting the animals regularly and staying relaxed.
At our Albany Lodge Care home, we have a pony called Dotty, curly feathered chickens, giggling ducks, a friendly bunny called Sparkle, and some guinea pigs. There is currently a long waiting list for a therapy dog, but we look forward to welcoming one to our home as soon as possible as well.
Who doesn’t love a few rounds of Hangman! Whether it is guessing movies, TV programmes, prime ministers, or famous places, Hangman is an easily adaptable game for all to play. Food is a topic that most residents seem to have an opinion about, so we often use well-loved dinner dishes for inspiration!
Which games should dementia patients avoid?
Avoid any games that are complex. For example, large board games with detailed instructions, lots of pieces and rules are not a clever idea for those with dementia. Players will get easily confused, frustrated, and even upset and not being able to partake. Electronic games are best avoided too. Most healthy adults struggle to use fiddly controllers, see the screen and cope with console technology, so imagine how overwhelming it could seem to those living with dementia.
Lastly, time-based games should be avoided too. Games with your loved ones should be relaxing and fun. Living with dementia is stressful enough without the added pressure of conforming to a time limit! Ditch the egg timer and take your time instead.
If you would like to read more about our commitment to dementia at the Future Care Group please click here. Alternatively, if you would like to chat in person, why not pop along to one of our homes and see the amazing care we provide for yourselves. We’d love to meet you.