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Jigsaw Puzzles are helpful when they meet the physical and emotional needs of dementia patients. But, what are these needs?
Until you have spent time with alzheimer, dementia and stroke patients, you have no idea how frustrating their life may be, or how difficult small tasks can be.
It is critical to pay attention to the small details or features of the puzzles, the ones you and I take for granted.
Of these, I personally feel the physical needs of the patient are most important, especially if individual has had a stroke. I feel this way because I witnessed my mother’s frustrations after she had a stroke and was paralyzed on her right side. (Memory Jogging Puzzles were designed to meet my mother’s physical and emotional needs.)
- The puzzle pieces must be thick enough for individual to handle easily. If puzzle pieces are thin and made of cardboard or chipboard they are very difficult of elderly with shaky hands, arthritis and stroke patients with limited mobility to pick up and put into place. Puzzle pieces should be thick for easy handling.
- When selecting a jigsaw puzzle for dementia patient keep in mind, their attention span has been affected. Puzzles with too many pieces intimidate dementia and stroke patients; and will not be completed.
Purchase a puzzle that has fewer pieces, one that can completed. Completion of any task, no matter the size builds self confidence.
- Speaking of a puzzle with fewer pieces, depending on the cognitive skills of individual are important on the number of pieces of the puzzle. One size puzzle meaning number of pieces does not work for all stages of dementia. If individual is in middle stages, for sure a 20 piece puzzle would cause frustration. Find a puzzle with few pieces and still they may need help.
- 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.
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 and puzzle pieces should be visible and within reach, this is especially important if individual has limited mobility.
- If individual has poor vision, try to find a puzzle with contrast and bright colors.
When the physical needs are not met they overlap into emotional needs by upsetting and frustrating individual.
- 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.
Mother 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.
- 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.
If you are purchasing a puzzle for a spouse, mom or dad, you already know what they liked earlier in life; having this knowledge is beneficial in selecting a puzzle theme or picture.
Sometimes people forget about this and are selecting a puzzle picture they like instead. You may feel this doesn’t matter, but keep in mind, the way they were, their hobbies or interests may have been different than yours. Many times puzzle themes trigger old memories that have been buried for a long time. They can’t awaken your memories.
When physical and emotional needs are not met, patients may show signs of frustration or become silent and not participate.
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.
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 dad’s 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, 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 starts to show.
You start tapping and snapping your fingers; sadness begins showing in your eyes and anger changes your facial expressions; your face turns red.
Your tired of looking and want to go back to your room, but you can’t because you were wheeled in. You Give Up!
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.
I ask, was this fun?
I have witnessed this floor puzzle scene, it infuriates me, floor puzzle activities are to be fun, but many residents do not experience a fun feeling.
Jigsaw 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.
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