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

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

It all depends upon the puzzle. . . PERIOD!

There are many important factors and features to consider when purchasing a puzzle for elderly, Alzheimer, senior with Dementia or Stroke Patient.

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

Until you have spent time with elderly patients with special needs and stroke patients in treatment, you can not realize how important small details are. . . the ones you and I take for granted.

Beneficial Puzzles

do NOT frustrate elderly patients.

Age Appropriate

Is the puzzle age appropriate? This will help your loved one 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.

• 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.

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.

Completion is important to everyone, even those with special needs.

Puzzle activity 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.

When the floor puzzle is too big with pieces scattered all around, it can be frustrating.

It is difficult for individuals to find the right puzzle piece. . . reach for it and then put the puzzle piece in proper place.

In my opinion Floor Puzzles are great for active elderly groups.

If your loved one has disabilities, the best puzzle size is one that keeps puzzle and puzzle pieces visible and within reach.

IMG_1956-1_lge puzzle_sml

Floor Puzzle activity is usually a group exercise with different levels of individuals. Activity of putting the 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!

Here is the scene. . .

Individuals are given a handful of puzzle pieces to work with, 99% of the time their pieces do not fit into any other piece they can reach.

Frustration starts to set in.

Your loved one will sit there, knowing they should find the puzzle piece where their pieces fit, but they cannot.

Now they begin to feel failure and frustration is starting to build up more.

Same scene. . .

Mom or Dad sitting there, fiddling with their pieces over and over, looking at the shapes, knowing their pieces fit somewhere, but where?

They may be asking themselves, am I blind or stupid, they gave me these pieces and I cannot find where they fit.

More frustration starts to build up.

You may see twitching fingers, sadness in their eyes or anger in their facial expressions.

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.

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

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 will become frustrated.

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 stages of dementia. Some individuals struggle with a 6 piece puzzle.

Old habits can be restored

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.

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.

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.

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

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

Memory Puzzles

Memory Exercise Cards

©2013 Karen Miller

Resource Photo – Photobucket

Article written for healthynowandlater.com