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Simple and Fun Board Games for Dementia Patients That We Can All Play!

Simple and Fun Board Games for Dementia Patients That We Can All Play!

The onset of dementia doesn't mean the fun is over! Look for games with basic rules with minimal physical movements. If they relate to a childhood memory, that's even better. Here are some simple but fun games for elderly people with dementia.
Scott Grant, CSA®, SHSS®
By:
Scott Grant, CSA®, SHSS®
Scott Grant, CSA®, SHSS®

Scott Grant, CSA®, SHSS®

With over 20 years of experience and certifications as a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)® and Senior Home Safety Specialist (SHSS)®, Scott Grant provides reliable recommendations to help seniors maintain independence through informed product and service choices for safe, comfortable living.

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seniors with dementia playing a game
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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.

Best Board Games for Dementia or Alzheimer’s Patients

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Game Play Improves Quality of Life and Social Interactions

As the disorder progresses, your affected loved one may not have the memory and cognitive skills 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 helps caregivers entertain them while also providing important social interactions.

Types of Games to Avoid

While some of these may be obvious, here are a 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 with many small parts that need manipulation.
  • 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.

How to Choose a Game for Someone With Dementia

Think about these things when looking for a game to play with someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Consider Their Skill and Cognitive 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 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 straightforward to play are Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, Trouble, Sorry, and Checkers. These games allow your loved one to be entertained by the gameplay without being distracted or frightened by electronic technology.

Think About Physical Requirements Too

Another good idea is to have dementia patients play board games that offer light physical exertion. Examples are drawing for the game Pictionary or picking up tiles in Scrabble. Allowing your loved one to physically manipulate the game pieces will help 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 will not likely overwhelm a loved one suffering from dementia. Physical therapists like games like this for a 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.

Choose Games They Relate To

Many people have enjoyed playing board games since childhood, and a person who 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 your loved one can relate to. Maybe they played Hangman as a child or 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 both of you entertained, but it also stimulates 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 good to have seniors with dementia play board games that have small parts.

On one 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, making it difficult or impossible to pick up and put down small pieces. Games such as Battleship or Mousetrap would be out of the question for these people. They would also frown on Monopoly because of the sheer number of small pieces that can be on the board at any time.

In contrast, many argue that manipulating small pieces frequently 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 they perform is a lesson in strengthening 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 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 can help to give some dementia patients their dignity back.

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

Conclusion

Spending time with your loved one playing a board game is a great way to show them that you love them and 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.
  • The small pieces of these games can help build self-esteem and hand-eye coordination in your loved ones.

So, the next time you visit a loved one with 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 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 it in the comments below!

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Scott Grant, CSA®, SHSS®

Scott Grant, CSA®, SHSS®

With over 20 years of experience and certifications as a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)® and Senior Home Safety Specialist (SHSS)®, Scott Grant provides reliable recommendations to help seniors maintain independence through informed product and service choices for safe, comfortable living.

Learn More Email

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