While the day-in and day-out care of those with dementia and Alzheimer’s can be both repetitive and stressful, there are ways to lighten the mood and boost brain stimulation at the same time.
Research has shown that game playing works to engage the brain, memory retention, memory recall and overall health in those that suffer from neurodegenerative diseases.
Games don’t need to be long or overcomplicated, as long as they centre on participation – for both you and your care receiver.
Game playing also works to build on your relationship. By participating in a dual-player game, be it cards, a board game or consol gaming, this is a chance to reconnect with a friend or loved one.
What are the benefits of game playing?
Game playing results in a physical, cognitive and emotional response, stimulating all the senses.
It can boost cognitive recognition in those with memory loss, encouraging memories and building on processing skills – recognising numbers, shapes and colours etc.
- Being physical during game playing is healthy for ageing bodies – especially with games such as Wii bowling, ball games, dart throwing, golfing and more.
- Game playing increases socialisation between family members, friends and you, as the caregiver. This helps to fend off loneliness and depression.
- Connecting with others over game playing can boost a sense of purpose in seniors, especially if game playing becomes a regular activity.
- Game playing is good for the soul through laughing, interacting with others and feeding off positive energies.
- It can improve hand-eye co-ordination with specific card and board games.
- Video games centred on exercise, such as those on Wii Fit, work to improve balance, fitness and co-ordination.
The best games for memory and cognitive stimulation
Depending on the level of memory recall, cognition impairment and frailty, there are numerous games which offer the above benefits:
- Card games: Bridge, Gin Rummy, Cribbage, or Hearts are a little more complicated. For simpler games go for Uno, Old Maid, Solitaire, Go Fish, or Crazy Eights.
- Board games: for games focused on strategy opt for Chess, Clue, Backgammon, Scrabble, Risk, Yahtzee, or Trivial Pursuit. For something a little less difficult, go for Checkers, Candy Land, Trouble, Connect Four, Don’t Wake Daddy, or Kerplunk.
- Memory stimulating games: word games such as Name 5, crosswords, Sudoku, word search, jumble, and I Spy are excellent for this.
- Video or Computer Games: depending on cognitive ability, some of the best games include Smart Brain, Brain Age, Words with Friends, Sea Quest, Candy Crush, Tetris, Wordscapes and WordSearch
- Co-ordination games: focus on building games such as Jenga, Legos, Qwirkle, Jigsaw Puzzles, assembling simple nuts/bolts, folding laundry and working with playdough.
- Movement games – also known as ‘exergames’ using video platforms like dance party or Wii sports, darts, badminton, bowling, ring toss, horseshoes, parachute, volleyball, bean bag toss and more.
Depending on the progression of the disease, be it dementia or Alzheimer’s, a care receiver should be able to participate without frustration and full cognitive attention. Becoming frustrated, aggressive or irritable by following rules or remembering strategy can only result in a negative experience! So remember to choose your game wisely.