I discovered quickly everyone was at a different level, what worked for one dementia patient didn’t work for the next.
The only way you can truly discover players level of problem-solving skills or thinking skills is One-on-One
Playing memory and matching games for dementia this way and observing their body language, you can adjust the card game to their level, meaning the number of cards you play with.
You cannot just plop the cards down, assuming they know what to do, and walk away, most will need a little visual guidance.
If you don’t have time to sit for 5-10 minutes, do it another time, when you are more relaxed.
It is amazing how dementia patients pick up on our frustrations and soon their response will be, I don’t want to do this.
You are in control of the match game, when there is success, even small, praise will help build users self-esteem and keep them in the game.
These Memory Match Games were tested by elderly, Alzheimer, dementia and stroke recovery patients with positive results.
For less frustration and more success you must learn how:
• to approach dementia patient
• to encourage participation
• to read their body language
• what causes frustration
• what made them want to quit
• what puts a smile on their face
The Most Important Rule
Throw out the rules and just go with the flow.
The object of these brain exercises and memory exercises is to help slow down memory loss, brain deterioration, and for your loved one to feel a little pride and happiness.
Real life illustrations / pictures by Norman Rockwell and Sarah Stilwell Weber certainly help capture their attention and motivate participation. The pictures always put a smile on their face.
Most elderly have played “go fish” or similar concentration game in their younger years. These memories and how to play the game are stored in their memory. Sometimes they are not remembered and need to be awakened, remember old habits and hobbies can be recalled in Alzheimer patients.
Match Games are similar to “go fish”, but played with a twist.
Played routinely memory match games can help improve memory, concentration, stimulate problem-solving skills and hand-eye coordination, known as Cognitive Skills, and build self confidence!
Do not ask if your loved one wants to play cards or Match Game. Yes and no questions usually get “no” for an answer.
Path To Frustration
Most dementia patients cannot play matching games with the cards face down. I discovered early on this is a direct path to frustration and hearing I don’t want to play any more, but it is up to you.
How I play Memory Games for Dementia
I usually sit down, chat for a few moments, talk about their hobbies in younger days and gradually talk about concentration and “go fish” game. Some will remember these games and some won’t, which is okay.
I want to mention, before you start playing the game, make sure individual is sitting close to the table and all the cards are within reach. This is especially important for those in stroke recovery with limited mobility.
Memories and hobbies can be recalled
I like to start with MatchMate, my first memory game for dementia because of the storytelling illustrations by Norman Rockwell. Cards are 3.5×5″ with large images.
What is interesting about these memory match games, dementia patients may not recall how to play “go fish” but most recall Norman Rockwell and The Saturday Evening Post. This alone makes interaction easier.
I have noticed men are more cautious to point out 2 cards that match, if they are unsure. Men do not want to be embarrassed or show failure; women on the other hand don’t care about making the wrong selection.
• When successful, I try different another set. Depending on the level of player I add another set, and ask player to find 2 cards that match, then 2 more, etc.
It isn’t that I am trying to trick individual, but I want him or her to observe details and think using their problem solving skills.
This is a great way to discover their problem solving skills and watch for improvement.
It may be a small task but a huge achievement to them.
• If they are having difficulties and you are playing with 3 cards; use the same 3 cards the next time until they improve recollection.
• Don’t add additional sets until they have mastered matching one set.
• It is easier to add sets, than see the frustration on their face and tears in their eyes when trying to use all of the cards.
Pulling the cards away at this point may make them feel they have failed, I suggest to go slowly.
• If your loved one is in early stage dementia, playing the cards face up, may be too easy. If so, take just a few sets and turn them face down like the concentration game, adding more sets when they are successful.
Got to know when to fold em
I was working with a gentleman who was acing everything and made the comment “this is easy”.
Then I laid a few sets face down, scrambled them and he started to play.
It wasn’t 2 minutes and he was expressing . . . “I don’t want to play this anymore”.
I know if he could have found 2 cards that matched he would have been fine, but he didn’t find any and stopped playing.
He didn’t know it, but playing the matching game face down was too difficult for him.
Next time, we played face up and he was happy and successful.
What I learned. . .
Success is in the eye of the beholder, and when working with dementia patients it takes on a new meaning.
• Completion of a task, no matter the size is SUCCESS!
• No matter the size of task, it takes concentration and focus.
• Repetition, helps increase concentration.
What’s Best about these Matching Games? They will give you the power to engage with your loves one.
“Studies show memory games help slow down memory loss and brain deterioration.” Geron Guide – Beacon to Better Health for Seniors.
Matching Games are also known as Memory Games, Memory Improvement Games, Memory Match Games, Memory Exercise Cards and Concentration Game.
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