Games for People with Alzheimer’s

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Games for people with Alzheimer’s can be low-tech, high-tech, or anything in between. Every care community in the world probably has a Bingo game – and that’s about as low tech as you can get – yet Bingo has been shown to have positive effects when played by Alzheimer’s and other dementia patients.

When I was just beginning my research into Alzheimer’s disease, trying to find out what it was, why it effected a person the way it did, and looking for best-care practices, I came across a study in the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementia. The authors reported that playing Bingo provides mental stimulation that is highly therapeutic for people with cognitive disorders. Individuals participating in the study who played Bingo performed significantly better on measures of cognition than participants who did not play. Staff members reported increases in alertness and awareness in the test subjects, and this effect lasted for hours after testing was complete.

Bingo is an ideal game for people with dementia. It is enjoyed everyday by people of all ages, so it certainly is age-appropriate; and it is easy to understand and play, so it is stage-specific for anyone except those in the very last stages of the disease. It requires that the person distinguish and match colors and shapes, so it is beneficial at a cognitive level.

Bingo has other advantages as a game for people who have dementia. It comes not only in the familiar “B-6, N-23” version, but in a number of alternatives that are stimulating on different levels and for different abilities. Players can identify anything from animals to items of food, to body parts. This variation allows for the game to be played, in one version or another, by patients at different stages of the disease, and to stimulate memories, thought process, or other cognitive abilities.

And it’s not just a game for large groups. Games for Alzheimer’s should be played for stimulation, not for competition, and can be enjoyed by a group of two or three. Or even one (with a caregiver). Whenever possible, have children play with the older adults. Both age groups enjoy the stimulation and the social interaction.

At the other extreme…

a computer based game called Smartbrain was shown to affect brain function in people with Alzheimer’s in an adult day care facility in Spain. As reported in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, Smartbrain, improved cognition in a group of elderly people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Smartbrain provides stimulation to cognitive facilities like attention and memory.
It seems that even the diseased brain retains the ability to make new neurological connections. Since a computer game can be programmed to work on the needs and at the level of the person playing it, this technology holds some promise in the field of dementia care.

The researchers found that, when used in addition to the facility’s regular program, the game “greatly augmented the traditional psychomotor stimulation….” When both treatments were used together the cognitive benefit was extended to 24 weeks.”

Posit Science makes a product similar to the Smartbrain used in the study. Called Brain Fitness, it is being used successfully by several residential facilities in the U.S. to keep brains younger. And Nintendo has gotten into the game with a product called Brain Age. Though originally intended to improve the working of healthy brains, these products are proving to be effective therapy for people with dementia.

Like everything computer, electronic games will not totally replace more conventional ones, but should be considered as an important addition to the patients activity program whenever possible.
Selecting a game

Games for People with Alzheimer’s

Games for people with Alzheimer’s disease should work on several levels. A board game with a colorful playing surface and objects that can be handled (cards, dice, etc.) is better than a game that does not contain these features; the more sensory stimulation the better (but be careful with objects that are small enough to be placed in the mouth). Many games involve a physical component. Physical exercise is another element to consider in selecting a game, but don’t choose all your games based on exercise.

And be sure to allow the people in your care to have a say in the selection process. A game that she played with her children when they were growing up, or one that she played as a child will likely hold a special attraction for a woman who’s memory of her past is more vivid than her memory of things more recent. That familiarity with the activity will serve to stimulate memories at the same time that it holds attention.

SHOP GAMES

For Bernice

We chose the Qwirkle™ game for Bernice partly because the wooden tiles were an easy size for her to handle, and because she loved colors and shapes.

 Games for People with Alzheiemer's Disease | Qwirkle

Qwirkle is one of our favorite games because it can be enjoyed in so many different ways.

Qwirkle is another game well suited for people with Alzheimer’s disease. The colors and shapes, set against the black background of the tiles are visually stimulating. Manipulating the pieces is exercise for the hands and arms, and, like other games, when it is shared with someone else it is a social activity.

Qwirkle is a strategic game played like dominoes. Instead of matching dots to dots, players match either shapes or colors. People in early and middle stages of Alzheimer’s could play the game by its rules. In the picture, Bernice was approaching the later stage, and was told that she could arrange the tiles in any way she wanted.

Because of her love of design, she would match some by color and others by shape, as the game rules dictate. She concentrated on her design, working on it for over 30 minutes. She was obviously quite pleased with herself and her final product. Except for a few tiles, they were matched either by shape or by color; but even her mis-matches were not mistakes. Remember, activities should always be “no-fail.”

Tell us about your favorite games for people with Alzheimer’s disease in the comments below. Or can we help you find a game.


Recommended Games for People with Alzheimer’s

Games for people with Alzheimer's | Qwirkle is an ideal game for people with Alzheimer's disease

Best Alzheimer’s Products
Best Seller!

BUY QWIRKLE

 

Qwirkle

Bernice loved this game, and so does Holly. It can be played in many ways and by people at different stages of Alzheimer’s. People in early stages can play by the rules, as a game of strategy. Later it can be used for color and pattern matching.

Qwirkle was one of the first products that we bought for Bernice when we realized that she had dementia and needed activities that were both age- and stage-appropriate. It is still one of our top sellers!

 

Games for people with Alzheimer's | Shake Loose a Memory: Reminiscence game for Alzheimer's disease

Connect the past to the present with these games.

SHOP SHAKE LOOSE GAMES

 

Shake Loose a Memory

Five “Shake Loose…” games are not only fun to play but can be a part of a comprehensive reminiscence therapy program. Developed by specialists in the field of gerontology and recreation, each easy to play game contains questions that will unlock memories as it provides hours of fun and social interaction.

The games asks questions like, “Did your grandfather smoke, or did he dislike smoking?” Questions to stimulate discussion as well as memories.

 

Games for People with Alzheimer’s Disease | Related Research

The study study we referenced at the beginning of this page concluded that playing Bingo specifically provides mental stimulation that is highly therapeutic. Patients participating in the study performed significantly better on measures of cognition. Staff members reported increases in alertness and awareness for hours after testing.

There is a host of similar investigations that have arrived at similar conclusions. Here we cite a number of references and briefly quote the findings of the researchers. There are many similar studies

  • Wilson RS, Mendes de Leon CF, Barnes LL, et al. Participation in Cognitively Stimulating Activities and Risk of Incident Alzheimer Disease. JAMA. 2002;287(6):742-748. doi:10.1001/jama.287.6.742.
    … results suggest that frequent participation in cognitively stimulating activities is associated with reduced risk of AD.
  • Dr. Susan M. Landau, PhD, Mr. Shawn M. Marks, et. al. Association of Lifetime Cognitive Engagement and Low β-Amyloid DepositionArch Neurol. May 2012; 69(5): 623–629.
    Our data are consistent with the observation that participation in cognitively stimulating activities in early to middle life is associated with lower Aβ (Amyloid plaque – one of the causes of Alzheimer’s disease) accumulation.
  • Verghese J, Lipton RB, Katz MJ, et. al. Leisure activities and the risk of dementia in the elderly. N Engl J Med. 2003 Jun 19;348(25):2508-16.
    Participation in leisure activities is associated with a reduced risk of dementia.
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About Author

Degrees in psychology and education as well as professional certifications in business administration and website development gave John the ideal credentials to co-found and develop an internet presence dedicated to helping caregivers provide exceptional care to those who are no longer able to care for themselves because of the impact of dementia. Since 2007, Best Alzheimer's Products has earned national and international recognition as a place to go for help and advice, with the goal of making life better for people living with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.

18 Comments

  1. A game was advertised on Breakfast BBC1 this morning 4th May ’16. It was a study of peoples ages and gender. I cant find this game anywhere as it wasn’t very well stated. Can you help me?

    Thank you.

    • Holly Schmid on

      Hi Marion, Thank you for contacting us. I’m sorry that I can’t help you. We don’t get the same programming here in the United States that you get. Possibly you can contact the TV station and someone can help you.
      Best Regards,
      Holly

  2. Looking for games for people with dementia who basically have little skills left no memory at all. Thanks for any helpful ideas. Bingo games didn’t work it’s all care givers doing everything residents looking at cards and just lost.

    • Hi Rick,

      Finding a game or any activity for a person with dementia is much like finding something for anyone esle. The individual’s interests and personality have to be considered as well as his or her ability. Sometimes interests and personality change with the progression of dementia. Those who work with and are closest to someone are in the best position to predict the kinds of activities that might be enjoyed. Everything in our store has worked as an appropriate activity for dementia, but not all are right for everyone. Feel free to contact us (877/300.3021) or info@best-alzheimers-products if you need some ideas for your particular situation.

  3. Beverly DeMarco on

    I really loved the Alzheimer Song ! Please don’t let me forget you !!, where can I purchase it?

  4. Pingback: Forebygge Alzheimers med hjernetrim og spill | Sykepleier-blogg

  5. Pingback: Brain Games: Does Playing Poker Help to Prevent Alzheimer's Disease? - Nolan Dalla

    • Thanks for your input, Nolan. You make some interesting points. We often do things too late, as you say of attempts to use brain games to curtail the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. But there are studies that link stimulating games (and other habits and life choices) to lower incidents and/or later onset of dementia. Most organizations that concern themselves with dementia make mention of things we can do to help avoid brain diseases starting at a very early age, and we certainly do so on this blog (see http://www.best-alzheimers-products.com/can-turmeric-cure-alzheimers.html, http://www.best-alzheimers-products.com/can-we-prevent-alzheimers-disease.html and more to come).

      I’m not sure that “the intensity of competition” is a factor in this case. “…sweating the outcome” of bets made against other players, while invigorating, likely have nothing to do with the type of stimulation that is so beneficial to brain health; it may or may not be good for the heart. In fact there is a direct correlation between stress and dementia, so it could even be counter-productive.

      A person who is “lazily filling in a crossword puzzle” is actually quite active on a cognitive level. I’m not sure adding competition to the mix improves the activity. That said, I agree that playing poker could have many advantages in this regard, especially if there is a social element. However, I am not sure that playing competitively and for money will make it any more advantageous

  6. As a principal supplier of smaller bingo machines and supplies to the seniors market we have seen considerable growth in this sector especially with seniors homes, seniors apartment towers and community centres. We see first-hand that in addition to the mental challenge of quickly looking for numbers to mark, bingo requires a certain level of hand eye coordination. Most seniors still get a kick out of being able to compete against their piers for the thrill of winning.

    Doug Burke, mgr.

    Bingo Pro Inc.

  7. As a principal supplier of smaller bingo machines and supplies to the seniors market we have seen considerable growth in this sector especially with seniors homes, seniors apartment towers and community centres. We see first-hand that in addition to the mental challenge of quickly looking for numbers to mark, bingo requires a certain level of hand eye coordination. Most seniors still get a kick out of being able to compete against their piers for the thrill of winning.
    Doug Burke, mgr.
    Bingo Pro Inc.

  8. I have been looking for larger tiles for the game Tri-ominoes. My residents love this game, but need larger pieces so we can play in a group. Any ideas?

  9. MindWare, maker of Qwirkle, has a nice game just out this fall 2014 called CHOCIE WORDS (I invented it). The game involves auditory recall by asking players to recall all words, terms, titles, and phrases that involve the root word. Example: CUT. cut rate, cut throat, haircut, paper cut, cold cut, short cut, cutting edge, cutting board, cutting room floor, cut-and-paste, cut-and-run, cut it out! See the MindWare website for all the 5-star consumer reviews. Bob Kamp

      • Depression in people with dementia can often be attributed directly to inactivity and under-stimulation. I know I get depressed when I have nothing meaningful to do for extended periods of time. The best answer to your question is “anything that will keep them involved and stimulate their brains and their senses.” The trick is finding something they like, as without interest there is little involvement.

  10. Dr Ron Rea and I are conducting a workshop on improving quality of life for Alzheimers patients. I am interested in talking with program developers in your shop re assumptions and research that have guided your company in developing games to help caregivers stimulate their patients.

    We could discuss displaying some of your games if you feel that would be beneficial to your company and our presentation. The best number to reach me is my cell….803 333 9759.

    Thank you

    Jack White

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