12 Fun Activities and Games for Dementia Patients

Dementia is the gradual deterioration in the cognitive abilities of a person which ultimately starts affecting their daily activities. Difficulty in thinking, remembering, making decisions, and having problems with paying attention are some of the common symptoms of dementia.1

However, research suggests engaging in games can prove to be extremely beneficial for dementia patients. For dementia patients, engaging in games along with medication, and therapies can help in alleviating the symptoms.

Intrigued to know how? Stick to the end of the article to learn about 12 fun games for dementia patients.

What is Dementia?

Dementia is not specifically a particular disease but rather considered an umbrella term under which various other diseases are identified.

The most common type of dementia2 is Alzheimer’s disease which initially starts with mild memory but progresses to a stage where a person loses the ability to respond to their surroundings.

Alzheimer’s patients suffer from memory loss and confusion. There is no permanent cure for Alzheimer’s disease but with medication and management strategies, symptoms can be effectively reduced.

Dementia is a very common type of disease. It is a chronic disease and can last for years. Dementia patients have problems in:

  • Keeping up with conversations
  • Difficulty in planning things
  • Reduction in thinking skills
  • Changes in mood or behaviour
[Dementia is a very broad term and if you are interested to know more about the disease and its various stages, click here.]

How do Games Help Dementia  Patients?

One of the most common symptoms suffered by dementia patients is isolation and pulling back from social settings. This is mainly due to the fear of being judged for their inability to perform daily tasks. This affects their communication skills with other people.

To help with this, patients could engage in games for dementia patients that are stage-specific and enhance their mental stimulation as well as sensory stimulation. It could help in improving brain health and allow dementia-affected patients to interact with other patients more easily.

Care providers for dementia patients can play games with them to help stimulate their cognitive function. Research shows that these game therapies have a better effect on the cognitive skills of dementia patients compared to other treatment procedures.

Games for dementia patients also help reduce stress and preserve memory-based skills that could help the patients in the long run.

Even though it is just a game, it really helps in keeping the patients positive and happy at the same time. It is very difficult for the loved ones of the patients to gradually see them lose their memory. Playing games for dementia patients can keep the environment cheerful and stress-free for everyone.

Games for Dementia Patients

Apart from helping with strengthening the mental health of patients, games for dementia patients also allow them to stay mentally active and provide an outlet to grow their creativity.

Some effective games for dementia patients are:

1. Crossword puzzles

Games for Dementia Patients
By Khakimullin Aleksandr/Shutterstock

One of the brain games that may help with delaying the onset of symptoms is crossword puzzles. Playing crossword puzzles is fun and can help the patients feel calm and content.

Jigsaw puzzles are an ideal game for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia patients as well. They are therapeutic and also improve the short-term memory of the patients.

Research also says that playing crossword puzzles helps prevent dementia during older age and leads to a much slower neurological decline.

2. Card Games

Playing card games can be a great activity for older adults suffering from dementia. Patients in the early stages of dementia 3can play games like solitaire, go fish, blackjack, or war, and during the advanced stages of Dementia, simply shuffling them or matching them by colour or suit works great as well.

A matching game helps to improve concentration, and hand-eye coordination and boosts the memory muscle. Playing cards is a fun way to spend the afternoon and allows the patients to have social interaction with others.

3. Bingo

One of the best games for dementia patients is bingo. Elderly people can spend time in large groups and play bingo.

It is a game that people of all ages can play and it also helps to improve the memory, attention span and thought process of the patients. The cognitive level of people with Alzheimer’s also improves and also encourages socialization among people.

4. Word games or Board games

There are a lot of games for dementia patients4 specially made for them to enjoy and play in their free time. These games keep the minds of the patients active and their thinking skills are less likely to decline. Spending time playing a board game can be calming and even help in managing blood pressure levels.

Many seniors face problems with hand dexterity and problem-solving skills in the advanced stages. These games help with these problems and improve memory of the dementia patients. You can check out some of the word and board games for dementia patients here.

Other Effective Activities for Dementia Patients

Apart from the above-mentioned games, there are some other activities that can prove to be beneficial for them as well.

Mentioned below are some of the most effective and fun activities for dementia patients.

1. Creating a Memory Box

One of the games for dementia patients could be to create a memory box. They can put anything, from photos to newspaper cutting and anything absurd that may hold some significant value for them.

Memory boxes can help patients feel connected to their past. Every person has a different story to tell and these memory boxes can be the start of some great storytelling, talking and celebrating the past and the old memories that they love.

2. Chair Exercises

It is very important for people with dementia to regularly exercise and maintain their physical well-being. Chair exercises are therefore an excellent option for dementia patients. It also provides great opportunities to socialize with others.

Many videos of such exercises are available online and even a family member can help their loved ones with this fun activity. These exercises are a great way to reduce pain and fall risk and improve the strength and flexibility of the patients.

Even older adults can take part by doing seated exercises.

3. Art Projects

Engaging the creative side of people with dementia can be a way to provide an outlet for self-expression. Drawing, painting, listening to music, sculpting, and writing can be some of the ways to absorb the attention of the patients.

Completing these art projects can create a sense of accomplishment in people with Alzheimer’s. Sometimes, patients also find it difficult to communicate with others about their feelings and feel trapped in their bodies. Art provides them with the freedom of expression to draw and create anything according to their mood and feelings.

4. Everyday Activities

Doing the usual chores around the house in the early stages can prove to be one of the amazing games for dementia patients. Occupying people with dementia in everyday activities like dusting, setting the table, making the bed, washing teeth, and getting dressed can fill them with purpose and pleasure.

These sensory activities also keep their mind active and help them cope with short-term memory loss by engaging in activities that are familiar. Helping with these activities in the house also makes them feel valued and appreciated in the family and allows them to spend more time with their loved ones.

5. Setting up a Fish Tank

Dementia affects the appetite of the patients and also may be one of the contributing factors to depression in some patients. Setting up fish tanks in the living room or the dining room in the memory care facility can help with these effects as has been proved by research.

Colourful fishes in brightly coloured tanks have also been proven to reduce disruptive behaviour and keep the patients more relaxed. The living environment really matters a lot in the case of people with dementia and these fish tanks can help brighten up the place as well as provide a therapeutic effect.

6. Hands-on activities

Sensory activities can be very calming and relaxing for Alzheimer’s patients. Activities, like flower arranging, hand massage, play dough, and going for walks for fresh air, can be some of the hands-on activities that can brighten a day for people with Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

People with all kinds of professions may like to do different things, a former office worker may enjoy organizing things, and a person who was a farmer may like tending to the garden. Doing familiar activities also helps reduce stress and anxiety, eventually improving the overall well-being of the patient.

7. Jokes

There is never a wrong time for a good laugh. Caregivers can pay attention to the moods and energy levels of the patients and if they feel anxious, jokes can never go wrong to turn their day more positive side.

Laughing at a good joke can calm the person down and help them to redirect their negative emotions.

8. Tai Chi

Tai chi or Qigong is a form of martial art that helps in soothing and relaxing patients. All the exercises can be moulded and made age-appropriate. Tai chi has proved to effectively slow down the progress of dementia compared to other physical exercises.

It is a safe and effective mind-body exercise for older people and helps to reduce anxiety. Research also says that Qigong prevents Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia in the older adult population.

Key Takeaways

Now there you go, a list of some fun activities and games for dementia patients. Dementia can be combatted effectively with game therapy and required medications and treatment.

Hopefully, our article was able to shed some light on the methods.

Common Medications And Therapies For Dementia
Icy Health
  1. Kales, Helen C., Laura N. Gitlin, and Constantine G. Lyketsos. “Assessment and management of behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia.” Bmj 350 (2015). ↩︎
  2. Chiu, Ming-Jang, et al. “Behavioral and psychologic symptoms in different types of dementia.” Journal of the Formosan Medical Association 105.7 (2006): 556-562. ↩︎
  3. van den Dungen, Pim, et al. “The accuracy of family physicians’ dementia diagnoses at different stages of dementia: a systematic review.” International journal of geriatric psychiatry 27.4 (2012): 342-354. ↩︎
  4. McCallum, Simon, and Costas Boletsis. “Dementia games: A literature review of dementia-related serious games.” Serious Games Development and Applications: 4th International Conference, SGDA 2013, Trondheim, Norway, September 25-27, 2013. Proceedings 4. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2013. ↩︎

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Mahek Garg
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