Games for Dementia & Alzheimers Patients

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People with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease have unique, special qualities like the rest of us. Remember, at one time they were as vital and bright as you are now. Treat them with respect, as you would like to be treated. When coming up with games for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients, keep the activities simple and uncomplicated with few steps. These patients' cognitive abilities may be childlike but do not treat them like children. The following games can be used with patients in an assisted living or nursing home setting, as well as with loved ones at home.

Social worker with Alzheimer's residents
Social worker with Alzheimer's residents (Image: David Ramos/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

Considerations

Many times familiar games that the patients once played can still be used with some adaptation. Although dementia and Alzheimer’s patients may no longer be able to play Scrabble like they used to, it is still recognizable to many of them. Have your residents pick a Scrabble letter and see how many words they can remember that start with that letter. There are different levels of cognition so make it a bit more challenging for higher functioning people; with the lower functioning group have the whole group help them out or offer hints.

When playing games and other activities the focal point should be on enjoyment and not the actual outcome, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Alzheimer residents playing games
Alzheimer residents playing games (Image: China Photos/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

Play Ball

It is important for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients to participate in physical exercise as much as possible. However, for those working with these patients, it is important to remain mindful of their limited cognitive and physical abilities. One way to get moving is to play duster ball. All you need is a large soft ball and some colorful feather dusters from a local dollar store. Form a circle and hit the ball back and forth with the duster. You should find that your residents respond well to this, the worst thing that can happen is you will not get the feather duster back. If that happens do not argue with them just let them dust to their hearts’ content.

Balloon volleyball is another popular game for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. Use tables together with residents seated all the way around, then simply hit the balloon back and forth. Always use large, lightweight, bright, soft balls or balloons so that they are easily seen and easy to hit.

Elderly woman playing Wii
Elderly woman playing Wii (Image: Ralph Orlowski/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

Word Games

It is fairly common for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients to retain some long-term memories familiar to them, compared with their impaired short-term memory, such as not remembering what they just ate 30 minutes ago. Using proverbs or famous sayings can be an enjoyable and successful game for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients and stimulates socialization.

It is best to just read off a list and let your residents fill in the blanks as best they can. Some common sayings might be: blood is thicker than? You cannot judge a book by its? Every cloud has a? Patients with mild and moderate dementia and Alzheimer’s usually feel successful because they retain these sayings far longer than you may imagine. Playing word games for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients stimulates their minds and leads to some interesting conversations.

People playing word games
People playing word games (Image: Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

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