As part of a larger holistic approach to memory care, brain games for memory care residents can be a powerful way to improve brain health. Incorporating enjoyable, mind stimulating activities and brain games as part of a healthy lifestyle, in coordination with other methods, can help reduce the risk of cognitive decline as you age, according to the Global Council on Brain Heath.
Disguising dementia and Alzheimer’s care as a fun activity, brain games can help improve a senior’s word recall, focus, alertness, and problem solving — all while you and your loved one spend quality time together.
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Beloved games like chess and solitaire are more than fun pastimes and friendly competition: They can help noticeably improve a senior’s brain function and have a number of other health benefits, recent studies show.
Most notably, they help reduce agitated behavior and increase cognitive performance in seniors with memory loss. The mental workout and social engagement of these activities also contribute to a decrease in the risk of developing dementia. They can also help reduce loneliness and improve quality of life.
Try playing these games to engage with your loved one:
As new studies in dementia-related brain games emerge, so do new memory care games for seniors. They’re just as effective as the classics, but with some fresh new twists.
When you’re ready for something new, try out the following stimulating board games:
It’s important to consider the following when shopping for a new game for your loved one:
Puzzles are a fun, low-stress activity for seniors that promote visuospatial cognitive abilities. This refers to the ability to imagine objects, create large shapes out of small components, and understand differences and similarities between objects. Puzzles also engage touch perception, which is the brain’s ability to understand sensations and information coming from the skin. They can help reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, and distract busy, wandering minds.
Perfect for time alone, or as a group activity for an added element of connection and socialization, here are some different puzzles your loved one might enjoy:
For an added effect, try creating your own puzzle with an image that’s meaningful to your loved one. Whether it’s a cherished family photo or a picture of their favorite vacation spot, the image will add sentimentality and help spark nostalgic memories for your loved one.
Card games like solitaire, blackjack, crazy eights, and go fish are perfect for older adults. They’re fun, inexpensive ways to connect with friends, and they stimulate the mind.
Benefits of card games include the following:
Word games encourage attention to detail and reduce stress. Searching for words in a grid can improve a senior’s visual and spatial perception. The games also build problem-solving skills, brainstorming, and use of critical thinking.
Some of the most popular word games include:
While word games can be fun and mentally stimulating, keep in mind that they could also cause stress or agitation in seniors with late-stage dementia. As you play, stay aware of your loved one’s behavior, and recognize when it’s time to stop.
To help make these games more approachable, make sure the word puzzles have large print and don’t use diagonal or backwards words. This way, the game remains easy but still challenging enough to hold your loved one’s interest.
The simplest games can be the most beneficial for seniors with dementia. Printable games are an easy, inexpensive source of fun for senior caregivers on a budget.
“I know from [more than 20] years of working in the activity department in facilities for seniors that there is always a budget,” says Jenny McBride, lifestyles assistant at Fleming Farms, an assisted living and memory care facility in Alabama. She’s also the sole creator of the online Etsy shop, Senior Reminiscing Fun. She sells printable, homemade memory games for seniors and their caregivers.
“Working in activities, there were times I wanted a resource and ended up creating my own to fill the need. I decided that if these things I was creating were of some good value, maybe other facilities or organizations that work with seniors can use them as well!”
McBride established her online shop of just over 80 games in August 2021. Since then, she’s made nearly 800 sales. Here are a couple of her top-rated games:
McBride says reminiscing is great for the overall health of seniors with dementia.
“Anytime they can recall a memory they hadn’t in a while, it brings back confidence and joy. It’s about celebrating the little things for them that they are able to do and encouraging them to try new things.”
Online, research-driven, brain-training apps are seemingly everywhere now, and studies are beginning to note their benefits. More and more, it seems these specific apps may help improve the ability to complete day-to-day tasks, like shopping and managing finances, and they may generally help keep the mind sharp.
The following top-rated online games help reduce stress and provide a sense of accomplishment while targeting skills like a senior’s response speed, problem solving skills, and ability to strategize.
A recent study on brain training smartphone apps actually showed seniors who played BrainHQ experienced sizable improvement in executive function, working memory, and reaction time.
New, exciting developments are occurring in a field called biometric gaming. The central idea behind biometric gaming is using a player’s physical data to enhance their gaming experience. These games may someday be able to gather pulse, blood oxygen levels, and other data, then feed them into an algorithm, which can direct the game to either continue encouraging a reaction in the player or work to prevent it. In other words, if calmness is the desired outcome, the game could read the player’s biometric data and create an environment that supports calmness. Furthermore, the cognitive benefits of biometric gaming in relation to dementia are proving notable.
Think this all sounds far-fetched? The basic science is already in use in games that adapt their difficulty level as the player progresses — that is, these games get harder if a player is performing well, or easier if they’re not. This means the game or app may deliver an optimal experience which increases the likelihood the player will enjoy it or improve while using it.
Whether you prefer electronics or the tried-and-true classics, any investment in a memory game is an investment in the prolonged comfort and well-being of your loved one. There are no clinically proven ways to reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. However, memory games can help combat normal, age-related mental decline.
If you’re concerned about taking care of someone experiencing memory loss, it may be time to seek expert care. Reach out to a Senior Living Advisor at A Place for Mom to find the right care option for your situation.
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