Do puzzles help those with Alzheimer’s Disease & Dementia?

It all depends upon the puzzle. . . PERIOD!

Until you have spent time with alzheimer, dementia and stroke patients, you can not realize how important small details are. . . the ones you and I take for granted.

Beneficial Puzzles for dementia should NOT frustrate patients.

There are many important factors and features to consider when purchasing a puzzle for elderly, alzheimer, senior with dementia or stroke Patient.

Is the puzzle age appropriate? This will help your mother or father keep their dignity.

My father was my mother’s caregiver and I remember like it was yesterday, dad bringing home a small child’s puzzle with baby chick theme.

Mom did NOT put it together, she just cried.

Later we discovered she was embarrassed and felt humiliated because it was a child’s puzzle and she was not a child. At that time, there were no age appropriate puzzles or activities for seniors with special needs.

Is your loved one frustrated with their puzzle, find out WHY?

• Puzzles with too many pieces are frustrating to elderly, seniors with Alzheimer’s, dementia and stroke patients.

At one time, mothers favorite hobby was working on large puzzles.

She had no difficulty picking up those tiny, thin cardboard pieces and finding the right place to put them.

She could move around, stretch across the cardboard table to fetch any piece she wanted, stand up and put it in place.

• If puzzle pieces are too large or too small they will frustrate your loved one.

• If your mother or father cannot reach the pieces easily, they will become frustrated and angry.

My mother suffered a major stroke at age 50 and her life turned upside down.

In an instant, she could not move at all on her right side; could not stand up and lean across the table to pick up a puzzle piece.

She was a little shaky doing things with her left hand and unable to voice how she felt making it more frustrating for her and our family.

• When a puzzle has too many pieces, most likely it will not be completed during activity time.

Puzzles should be completed during activity time, enabling everyone to experience a sense of pride and accomplishment.

Mother’s disabilities made it difficult to find activities she could do or handle without becoming frustrated.

Her frustrations are embedded in my memory and her needs became my model for memory jogging puzzles and memory exercise card games.

How about those floor puzzles?

I have heard, some of these floor puzzle pieces are way too large, making it difficult for elderly to handle, especially those with arthritis, shaky hands or physical disabilities.
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Floor Puzzle activity is usually a group exercise with different levels of individuals putting a large floor puzzle together on a table.

This is a great exercise for elderly, when they do NOT have mobility limitations. Sometimes we hear lots of chatter and laughter.

BUT. . .

Many times elderly patients are brought up to the table in a wheelchair to participate in floor puzzle activity.

Elderly people in wheelchairs have limitations; I’m sorry, but this is not a fun activity.

Some people think this isn’t a problem.

I’ve observed this scene. . . IT IS A PROBLEM!

Step into mom or dads shoes and experience how they feel.

Here is the scene. . . You are in a wheelchair, with limited mobility.

You have been wheeled up to a large table with a mass of small puzzle pieces scattered around and in front of you on the table is a small pile of puzzle pieces (10 or so) and told to find the pieces they fit into and off they go.

A few minutes pass by. . .

You are sitting there, fiddling with the pieces over and over, looking at the shapes, looking at the mass of pieces on the table, knowing your pieces fit somewhere, but where?

More minutes pass by. . .

You are still sitting in the same spot, with the same pieces in your hand starring at the table and now, self doubt has set in.

More frustration and intimidation sets in and you start thinking, am I blind or stupid? They gave me these pieces and I cannot find where they fit.

You begin to sweat and get nervous, you are wiggling around, wait a minute, you see a piece you think one of your pieces might fit, but it’s on the other side of the table.

Anger begins to show.

Your start tapping and snapping your fingers. Sadness begins showing in your eyes and anger changes your facial expressions.

You are thinking if I could only leave I would.

I don’t want to look any more and I want to go back to my room, but I can’t because I was wheeled in.

No one is around to assist you, so you sit and wait until you can leave, starring at the seas of puzzle pieces and your small pile of pieces.

Many individuals cannot handle the frustration and want to leave but cannot, those who can leave, do.

I have witnessed this floor puzzle scene, it infuriates me.

Floor puzzle activities are to be a fun activity but many do not experience a good feeling.

Purchasing Puzzle

Choose a puzzle you feel your loved one can complete. It is better to have a puzzle with fewer pieces, one they can complete than a puzzle with many pieces they cannot complete.

Your loved one may become frustrated and need your help.

Yes, you should help mom or dad occasionally, but if you are doing the entire puzzle, you are getting the brain exercise not your loved one.

If this is the case, you need a puzzle with fewer pieces, even then you may need to assist your loved one.

Some websites offer only 12 piece puzzles, I’m sorry but a 12 piece puzzle is too difficult for people in middle – late stages of dementia. Some individuals struggle with a 6 piece puzzle.

When looking for a puzzle for your loved one, ask yourself if the puzzle meets your loved ones needs.

Will puzzle theme capture their attention? The picture has to capture patients attention immediately to motivate participation and putting the puzzle together.

Does puzzle have storytelling theme or is it an object? Storytelling themes stimulate memories, emotions and conversations better than objects.

Is puzzle too large with many small pieces? If so, you may want to choose another puzzle. Large puzzles with many pieces, most likely will be frustrating and some elderly give up trying. Most likely you will see tears rather than a smile.

• Does the puzzle have large pieces, easy handling? If puzzle pieces are too small or too thin, those with arthritis, shaky or men with large hands may have difficulty handling the pieces, picking up pieces and putting in place.

• Can puzzle be completed in short amount of time? Completion builds self-esteem, confidence and stimulates a good feeling of success.

Old habits can be restored in alzheimer and dementia patients.

For many elderly and seniors with dementia it has been a long time since they have put a puzzle together. Be patient, assist if needed and most elderly will recall what they are supposed to do and enjoy the moment.


Puzzle Size & Shape determined by Alzheimer’s, Dementia & Stroke Patients

Memory Puzzles

Memory Exercise Cards

memory jogging puzzles slow down memory loss
Take the First Step!

Memory Games|Alzheimer’s activities|Alzheimer’s Brain Exercise|Brain Exercise for Dementia|Memory Exercise for Dementia|Jigsaw Puzzles for Alzheimer’s|Games for Memory Loss|Activities for Dementia

©2013 Karen Miller

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