Games for Dementia to Promote Mental Engagement

Dementia is progressive. This means that it gets worse as it develops, ultimately affecting the person’s everyday living. It greatly affects a person’s cognitive abilities and functions. Oftentimes, persons with dementia have trouble with reasoning, thinking and retaining memories. To combat the progressive effects of dementia, persons can play games for dementia to promote their mental engagement.

Individuals with dementia may even develop difficulty with language, making it challenging for them to communicate with others. As the condition progresses, they find themselves unable to perform even simple daily activities.

There is no cure for dementia. However, there are treatment options and ways to improve the person’s quality of life and alleviate the symptoms. On top of the quality care and support provided by home care professionals, memory games can also be incorporated into the treatment plan for individuals with dementia. 

Let us explore the benefits of mental games in improving cognitive functions and stimulating the brain. How exactly do games promote mental engagement? And what are the best games for dementia patients? We will find out in this article. 

Do Brain Games Help People with Dementia?

Games do not only entertain. They can also keep the human mind engaged, keeping our brains stimulated and active. When we speak of games, we don’t usually think of older adults. However, there are brain games that older adults may find both entertaining and mentally stimulating. Playing such games are extremely important and helpful for people who have or are at risk of dementia. 

In a study conducted in 2019, researchers conducted a randomized controlled trial on the effects of multicomponent “exergame” training on the the physical and cognitive functions of older adults. The training lasted for a period of 16 weeks. Researchers found out that during the 16 weeks training, the subject older adults developed a significant improvement in their executive function and working memory.

Similarly, another study was conducted in 2019 to assess the effect of computerized cognitive training on persons with mild cognitive impairment. The areas assessed include memory, attention, language and reasoning. The study showed an increase in the volume of the brain’s gray matter of the subjects, which was found helpful in preserving their general cognition.

These studies suggest that brain games can help improve the cognitive skills of older adults, such as reasoning and memory. 

This was proven in a more recent study, which reviewed the effect of serious games among seniors with dementia. The research focused on the following games:

  • Board games, which were found to improve cognitive functions such as memory and language, as well emotional regulation and control.
  • Video games, which when customized can help enhance the older adult’s reasoning, memory and other cognitive abilities.
  • Virtual reality games, which, depending on the type of game, can improve a dementia patient’s cognitive and physical functions and abilities. 

The result of the research showed that patients with early to middle stage dementia experienced enhanced cognitive abilities in the following areas after engaging in serious games:

  • Short-term memory
  • Logical reasoning
  • Problem solving
  • Language and communication
  • Reaction time

While these studies show promise, the overall literature on the role of games in dementia care is still relatively mixed. There are other studies that suggest otherwise. Hence, more research is needed to concretely establish the effectiveness of brain games in stimulating the cognitive abilities of persons with dementia.

Best Games for Dementia Patients

Despite the mixed results in research on the importance of brian games, we subscribe to the idea that certain games are a great way to stimulate the brain. What are the best games recommended for persons with dementia? The following games are found to promote and enhance a variety of cognitive skills and functions:

Word Puzzles

Since dementia affects the language and communication skills of dementia patients, word puzzles are a great way to stimulate their brain regarding this area. Such games specifically target a person’s language ability. However, different word puzzles have different focus or target. For instance, crossword puzzles focus more on word recall while scrabble is more on the arrangement of letters to form words.

A 2015 study involving persons with preclinical Alzheimer’s disease suggests that word games like crossword puzzles can potentially improve certain cognitive abilities and functions, particularly in verbal learning, speed and memory.

Aside from Scrabbles and crossword puzzles, other word games include:

  • Word searches
  • Cryptograms
  • Anagrams

Jigsaw Puzzles

If word games focus more on language skills, jigsaw puzzles, on the other hand, focus on memory and reasoning. Jigsaw puzzles require memory recall and hand-eye coordination and may vary in difficulty. Hence, depending on the cognitive ability of the person, they can try simple puzzles to more complex ones.

There are many jigsaw puzzles to choose from, from simply cardboard jigsaws, complex puzzles, or three-dimensional jigsaw varieties. There is always something for everyone. Whatever you prefer, jigsaw puzzles can support and possibly enhance the person’s memory recall and reasoning.

Board Games

There are various types of board games. These usually involved a premade board and pieces which can be moved around the board. Other elements, such as dice or cards, may also be incorporated in board games.

In a 2019 study, researchers explored the possible benefits of playing board games and other analog games. They found out that frequently playing board games resulted in less cognitive decline among older adults aging 70 to 79. The study involved a total of 1,091 participants.

Since board games may help improve a person’s cognitive health, you might as well try playing these games to keep you engaged, stimulated and entertained:

  • Chess
  • Monopoly
  • Ticket to Ride
  • Trivial Pursuit
  • Cranium

Card Games

Card games never go out of fashion. They have kept people of all ages entertained over the years. Aside from a form of entertainment, card games are also great for practicing and improving concentration, memory, problem solving, reasoning and other cognitive skills. Such cognitive functions are often the ones that decline in persons with dementia. Hence, logically, playing card games can aid individuals with dementia in practicing and enhancing certain cognitive skills. 

Get started with the following card games:

  • Matching games
  • Solitaire variations
  • Trick-taking games 
  • Collective card games
  • Uno and other specific card games

Dice Games

Dementia patients experience a decline in calculation and numerical skills. A study in 2012 suggests that playing dice games can help improve such skills. Hence, aside from luck, you will need to practice and use your numerical skills when playing dice games. 

Try these dice games to stimulate your brain:

  • Backgammon
  • Shut the Box
  • Liar’s Dice 
  • Yahtzee
  • Kismet

Video Games

Video games are not for the young. They are also for older adults. Video games are entertaining, regardless of the player’s age. In fact, more and more older adults are playing mobile games and tablet games. Other video games include desktop computer games and specific games like Switch and Wii.

There are specific video games that are designed to enhance cognitive functions among older adults. Such brain exercising games help enhance one’s attention, visual memory and visual recognition, cognitive functions that decline in dementia patients.

The following video games are popular among older adults:

  • Candy Crush Saga
  • Wii Sports
  • Animal Crossing
  • Mobile or app versions of word games, card games, board games, dice games, puzzles and other classic games.

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions and Concerns

Should dementia patients play games alone or with another person?

The answer depends on the type of game played. There are games that are best played alone such as crossword puzzles. However, board games are fun when played with others. Playing with another person also fosters communication skills and socialization. 

Do brain games prevent or delay dementia?

There is yet no definite proof that suggests this. There is no conclusive evidence that playing brain games early in life can prevent or delay the onset of dementia. However, since brain games stimulate many parts of the brain, this may reduce your risk.

Can you prevent dementia?

You cannot entirely prevent it as there are risk factors for dementia which you can’t control. The biggest risk factors are genetics and age. While you cannot entirely prevent it, there are lifestyle changes you can do to at least reduce your risk of dementia.

Is there a cure for dementia?

There is no cure for dementia. What are available are cognitive treatments and therapies and certain medications to help manage the symptoms and possibly delay the progression of the disease.

Games for dementia may not cure the illness, but they can possibly slow down the progression and make life easier for individuals with dementia. Our caregivers at Coast Family Home Care provide quality care, support and companionship to seniors with dementia in the comfort of their home. We keep them engaged with various brain games and other activities. For your dementia care and other home care needs, contact us today.

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