Simple and Fun Board Games for Dementia Patients

Scott Grant, ATP, CRTS®

Certified Assistive Technology Professional
Medical Equipment Guru
Mobility Specialist
Senior Advocate

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Unfortunately, the onset of dementia seems to end the fun for some folks. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. Take games for example. There are several board games for dementia patients that are easy for them to play. And fun too!  You may be wondering what these board-style games are.  Keep on reading for a few of my recommendations.

Quality of Life and Social Interactions

As the disorder progresses, your affected loved one may not have the memory and cognitive skills that they once had. But, you feel that it is still important to give them a better quality of life by playing games with them as a way to interact with them, right? Playing board games like these as an activity help caregivers entertain them while also providing important social interactions.

Things to Avoid

While some of these may be obvious, here are few things to avoid when choosing a board game for seniors with dementia:

  • Avoid extreme games that may cause physical exertion (Twister, for example 😉 )
  • Stay away from games that have many small parts that need to be manipulated.
  • Don’t try games that have complicated sets of rules.
  • Avoid introducing newer-style board games with electronic accessories that may confuse or frustrate them.

Consider Skill Level

One of the most important things to pay attention to when choosing a board game for a senior with dementia is the skill level needed to play the game.  It is best to choose a game that is appropriate for the patient’s skill level. Also, keep in mind, this depends on the level of dementia and will probably change over time.

Good games that are simple and straightforward to play are Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, Trouble, Sorry, and Checkers. These games allow your loved one to be entertained with the gameplay without being distracted or frightened by electronic technology.

Think About Physical Requirements

Another good idea is to have dementia patients play board games that offer light physical exertion. Examples of this are drawing for the game Pictionary or picking up tiles in Scrabble. Allowing your loved one to physically manipulate the pieces of the game will help to strengthen hand-eye coordination. Just find a game with larger or oversized pieces to avoid frustration.

Games like Hungry Hippos and Chinese Checkers have a lower level of physical activity. Flipping a lever or manipulating a marble is not likely to overwhelm a loved one suffering from dementia. Physical therapists like games like this for light aerobic range of motion exercise.

Consider any visual difficulties, the elderly person may have. Some games come in large print versions that may be easier for them to play.

rolling dice in a board gameChoose Games They Relate To

Many people enjoy playing board games from their childhood and a person that suffers from dementia is no different. In fact, many people that suffer from dementia have better clarity with childhood memories than they have with most of their short-term memory.

This is the prime reason to choose games that your loved one can relate to. Maybe they played Hangman as a child, or absolutely loved Candyland growing up. Perhaps, they were really good at Rummikub.

Typically, they can remember how the game is played and will enjoy taking you down memory lane filled with stories of their youth while they play. This not only helps to keep the both of you entertained, but it is also stimulating them to use their memory to recall events from long ago.

Small Game Pieces: Good or Bad?

There have been mixed feelings about whether it is a good to have seniors with dementia play board games that have small parts.

One on side of the argument, people state that the number of small parts might overwhelm them. Many of these people may also suffer from other ailments such as arthritis and Parkinson’s disease which may make it difficult or impossible to pick up and put down small pieces. For these people, games such as Battleship or Mousetrap would be out of the question. They would also frown on Monopoly because of the sheer amount of small pieces that can be on the board at any one time.

In contrast, many people argue that manipulating small pieces frequently is exactly what is needed for good hand/eye coordination. Also, this may improve their cognitive functions by performing small tasks. Rolling dice, moving a game piece, or spinning a wheel may actually help them. Each action that they are performing is a lesson in trying to strengthen their cognitive ability to follow directions and instructions.

It is important for your loved one to still feel a sense of independence and a sense of self-worth. Allow them to manipulate their own game pieces. Let them help to set up board games that have many small pieces. You are showing that you believe in their ability to assist you. This building of self-worth that can help to give some dementia patients their dignity back.

Sometimes, small victories are needed in order to improve the morale of dementia patients. This allowing those to be a little bit more self-sufficient while playing a game then you are doing just that.

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Conclusion

Spending time with your loved one playing a board game is a great way to show them that you love them. Also, that you are interested in their cognitive well-being and hand-eye coordination.

Timeless board games for dementia patients to try out are Candyland, Scrabble, Checkers, Chutes and Ladders, Hungry Hungry Hippos, Mousetrap, and Battleship. There are several reasons for this:

  • These games require minimal skills to play. And,
  • The rules are simple to follow.
  • These games require very little physical exertion.
  • Many of these games are relatable to the loved one’s childhood. Lastly, and
  • The small pieces of these games can help build self-esteem and hand-eye coordination in your loved ones.

So, the next time that you are visiting with a loved one that has dementia play a game with them. This is a great way to spend some time with them. It also helps stimulate cognition and memories. Take some time out of your busy schedule and enjoy a game or two with your loved ones. It’s a great way to build memories!

Do you have a favorite game to play with the seniors in your life? Tell me about in the comments below!

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