Activities for dementia patients, what happens when they are too difficult?

99% of the time dementia patients will not participate in their activities or want to continue to play, when puzzles, memory improvement games or brain exercise appears too difficult.

Some won’t even try, not because they are being stubborn, but because they do not want to fail and feel embarrassed.

Dementia and stroke patients are not always capable of verbally expressing their feelings, we must learn to hear their feeling’s through their body language.

Frustration comes in many shapes and forms.

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I have seen frustration and when you do not fix the problem, dementia and stroke patients do not want to play the game PERIOD.

When dementia games and activities are too difficult?

Individuals will start showing subtle signs of frustration when doubting their capabilities. It is important to spot early signs of frustration and fix the problem if you can.

After feelings of fear and intimidation have settled in you will see and hear more extreme signs of body language.

Here are a few signs to watch for:
• clinching their mouth
• clinching their jaws
• pinching their face
• is their face relaxed or does it show stress?
• tapping their fingers on the table
• snapping their fingers
• restless movement, wiggling around
• tapping their feet

Observing their body language will give you an indication on how to work with memory games and observe their progression.

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Melva working with Melva at Wheaton’s Private Care Home. . . analyzing MatchMate Memory Game

Working with dementia and stroke patients we must learn:

• how to observe their facial expressions
• how to listen
• what causes frustration
• what grunts and sighs meant
• how to work slowly, speak slowly and clearly
• to visually show how or what to do
• how to put a smile on their face

Ask yourself these questions if and when you see signs of frustration or hear sounds of frustration.

• Are you playing the game as suggested for patient success?
• Is theme or picture age appropriate?
• Is individual interested matching game or memory game?
• Does player know how to play the matching game?
Can player see pictures clearly?
• Are you playing memory or matching games at users level?
• Are you playing matching game with too many cards?
• Are you showing signs of frustration or lack of patience? They pick up on your emotions.

Testing dementia activities

I have first hand information about these large piece puzzles and memory improvement games. They were developed by me and tested with elderly, Alzheimer’s, dementia and stroke recovery patients before production.

This is what I learned:

• When they wanted to participate and why.
• When they didn’t want to participate and why.
• What worked, what didn’t and why.
• How important it is to spot frustration early on, because when these signs are noticed, many times they are already feeling fear, frustration and intimidation.
• Ways to make these brain exercises and memory exercises more enjoyable and beneficial.
• Completing task, no matter the size is SUCCESS!
No matter the size of task, it takes concentration.
Dementia and stroke patients tire and lose focus easily.
Repetition helps increase concentration.
Working with dementia and stroke patients for 5-10 minutes
• One-on-one is best.
If they don’t want to play cards, don’t force them, instead talk about the great pictures triggering emotions and memories.
• Several short sessions is more beneficial than one long one

These activities for dementia patients are beneficial because they…
• have storytelling themes or pictures that stimulate their mind, emotions & memories
• storytelling themes or pictures trigger excitement
• encourage participation, conversation & reminiscing
• smiles not tears of frustration
• improve concentration
• improves problem solving skills/thinking skills
• slow down the progression of memory loss
• break down walls of silence
• brings back socializing, chatter & laughter
• fun interaction with family & caregiver
• played at users level builds self esteem & confidence

I still volunteer in memory care centers for feedback and I stand behind my puzzles and matching games because I have seen the benefits myself.

Dementia Activity Directors want & need

• Age appropriate activities.
• Activities patients can handle easily.
• Activities completed easily with success.
• Activities that stimulate patients mind.
• Activities encouraging conversation.
• Activities encouraging participation.
• Activities that are fun and familiar stimulating memories and emotions.

Tips From Creative Susan

Interesting Testimony

Hi Karen,
Just wanted to let you know how much my mother enjoyed “The Saturday Evening Post” puzzle – and more than once… she meets each piece assemblage with a “slap me 5” and ear-to-ear grin!

I’ve yet to keep her interested in the Hats & Bonnets card game but continue to try – she has responded with “OOooooh that’s nice!” to the pretty pink and purple women’s hats, however.

Thanks again, Sheila McCormack

hi Sheila,
I was thinking of your mother and the Hats & Bonnets Game. Your mother has given you great hints on what she likes.

You are in control of the game.

If I were you, I would. . .

1) take the pairs of pink & blue hat cards she likes, plus 2 or 3 random cards (nonMatching).

2) put one of hats she like plus 1 or 2 random hats, on table, hats are facing up in front of her. (I wouldn’t do face down, let her succeed in finding the match).

3) hand her the matching hat of one you placed on table and ask her to find the other one.

You can add to the cards when she finds the matching one, or make the ones on the table matching none you hand her.

If she has trouble, point out details of the one you hand her.

Thank you again, I’m glad your mother likes her puzzle. takeCare.karen

PS: Sheila, very special lady, is in-home caregiver for her mother. ###

Time is precious, beginning today. . . is hope for tomorrow!

Check out 7 Memory Improvement Games for Dementia

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©2007 Karen Miller

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