Do puzzles help dementia and stroke patients?

Do puzzles help dementia and stroke patients?

Jigsaw puzzles help dementia and stroke patients rebuild their self esteem and self confidence; and successful in cognitive therapy, but there is a catch!

It all depends upon the puzzle. . . PERIOD!

These puzzles DO NOT frustrate dementia and stroke patients with limited mobility.

Puzzles being used in cognitive therapy for dementia and stroke patients must meet patient’s physical and mental needs.

Frustrating Dementia Activities

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

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

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, Alzheimer’s or dementia.

• Puzzles with too many pieces intimidate elderly patients with special needs.

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 may frustrate your loved one.

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; she could not stand up and lean across the table to pick up a puzzle piece.

And unable to voice how she felt making it more frustrating for her and our family.

If your mother or father has limited mobility it is important that the puzzle and puzzle pieces can be reached, if not, they will become frustrated.

How about those floor puzzles?

Floor Puzzle activity is a group activity with different levels of individuals putting a large floor puzzle together on a table.

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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.

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 limited mobility.

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 you are 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 staring 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 and frustration  begin to show.

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

You give up.

You are tired of looking and want to go back to my room, but you can’t because you were wheeled in.

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

Many individuals cannot handle frustration, 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 residents do not experience a fun feeling.

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

A large floor puzzle has too many pieces, most likely it will not be completed during activity time.

Purchasing Puzzle

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

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 can’t.

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 some patients in middle – late stages of dementia. Some dementia patients 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 intimidate and frustrate; some elderly will 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, physical disabilities, shaky or men with large hands may have difficulty handling the pieces, picking up the puzzle pieces and putting them 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.

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