What Are The Best Games For Dementia?
When a loved one has dementia, it can be hard to sometimes know how to help them stay engaged and entertained. The good news is that there’s so many games and activities you (and potentially they) will be familiar with – you may just need to modify them to match their ability. So let’s take a look at our long list of the best games for dementia, to give you inspiration.
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Dementia Friendly Activities
Playing a game with your loved one can foster a real connection between the two of you. Before you start planning the best games for dementia, just consider the following:
- Modify old favourites: The most satisfaction will come when you’re playing a game at their level. Have a think about how you can simplify a game or activity that you know they used to loved to make it more accessible (we’ve got some tips on this below!). Take a note of how they react to the adaptation – is it the right level for them? What else can you learn for next time?
- It’s the taking part that counts: This has never been so true. Create meaningful activities that help you to connect, encourage cognitive function and promote social interaction. That’s what’s important here, not winning.
- Offer support: You might need to provide reminders as you’re playing, adapt the game to make it simpler or just stop playing if you notice it’s not the right time. You’ll make the right call for your loved one at the time.
Board Games For Dementia
Cast your mind back to being young, and you probably played dominoes, snakes and ladders, Connect 4… these were great then and still are! Let’s take a look at how these are some of the best board games for dementia around.
Domino tiles make a great dementia game – they’re smooth to touch, and larger than the average board game piece so are easier to handle if hand dexterity is something to consider. The colour contrast of black on white can often be hard for some people with dementia to see, which is why we like this colourful dominoes set.
In a usual game of dementia you’d start with seven tiles, but this isn’t your usual game! Pick ten or twelve each so you have more options to play with. You also don’t need to keep your tiles hidden – open them up so you can both interact and work out what numbers you can connect. Remember, it really is the taking part that counts, not thinking about the rules.
When thinking about sensory dementia activities you can’t go wrong with Connect 4. The 3D board and round tokens are invitingly tactile and it offers the chance to easily create a colourful pattern. Again, throw away the rule book if your loved one isn’t able to follow the set rules. This is about having fun, focusing on hand mobility and playing some art therapy (without the mess!).
We’re huge fans of Relish, who use research to create stimulating puzzles for people living with dementia. They have just launched a new dementia friendly board game – the first ever created especially for people with memory loss.
All About Us is a conversation game with no right or wrong answer. It fosters conversation amongst the players, as you explore your lives from childhood to now. Colourful cards (larger than average so they’re easy to pick up) ask questions which act as conversation starters so you can explore your loved one’s past. It’s a great cognitive game to trigger memories and get conversation flowing.
Want to DIY good memory games instead? You can always get some old photos from your loved one’s past, and prepare some simple questions to accompany them. Asking “where was this?” or “tell me about your family” can give you a theme to focus on and help conversation to flow.
Word Games For Dementia
Taking the pressure off word games, and adjusting how you play them can be key to continuing to enjoy word games. Plus crosswords, word association and similar games are ideal for keeping the brain firing.
It sounds simple, but just buying a wordsearch book in a larger print can mean your loved one can continue to enjoy these puzzles. As the dementia progresses, you can do them together (maybe your loved one can read the word aloud and you can find it in the book and show them – it’s very much a team effort).
Or you could also use the letters from Scrabble in a different way to create something meaningful to your loved one. Come up with your own 3D word search, themed around specific subjects.
Maybe it could be family names, and finding one can prompt you to talk about a shared experience. This turns into a social type of brain memory game – the best type in my opinion!
Jigsaws require concentration and problem solving skills, and are popular games for people with dementia. Large piece jigsaw puzzles are the way forward, they’re easier to pick up and hold and have more surface area to feel the edges of (yes, it can be a sensory-friendly game too!).
Which ones do we like? I’ve already mentioned Relish who make some of the best dementia activity ideas around. Relish jigsaw puzzles are fit for every stage of the dementia journey.
Take this jigsaw that has a image of blooming flowers on it. It comes in 13 pieces, but you can also buy a Relish dementia puzzle in 35, 63, 13, 100 pieces depending on the complexity needed.
Their pieces are thick and robust and the picture you create really acts as a talking point. It’s not just flowers to choose from – there’s relaxing seascapes, bustling towns and animals.
We love to give a DIY option here, so let’s get crafty! Find your loved one’s favourite photo, blow it up and create a copy (it could be an idea to laminate it so it’s got a bit of substance to it). Then cut it into large pieces and hey presto, a personalized jigsaw. Reminiscence activities like this trigger memories and can stimulate conversation and emotion.
Or you can order your own bespoke jigsaw from a company like Funky Pigeon online.
You don’t have to keep sitting down for dementia activities – a game with movement can be quite freeing as can be less of a need to follow the rules. It’s a good excuse to keep active with dementia. If your loved one is steady enough on their feet that’s great, otherwise the below ideas can be adjusted for sitting exercises.
You could get a balloon or a small bean bag and play keep uppy with their knees or feet if standing, or with their hands if seated. They might even just enjoy you bouncing the balloon in front of them.
A soft plastic skittles set is a great idea too. Set it up either inside or outside and take it in turns to roll the bowling ball. This works on co-ordination and the competitive element could help to keep your loved one engaged.
Try a plastic bowling set like this one which has ten colourful skittles and two balls. Anything wooden could be too hard to knock down, so in the spirit of the game you want to make it as easy to take part as possible.
If your relative is in a care home, this could make a great gift for them there – speak with the activity co-ordinator and they could maybe add it as a game for the residents.
Even just going outside for a walk around the garden arm in arm, or doing some gardening together (maybe you could be gardening and talking about the plants) is a great activity.
Or go to your local garden centre if your loved one is happy to be out and about. There’s something very calming about walking amongst all the plants.
There’s lots of easy card games for dementia – you may just need to think laterally and modify some of the games you know. We’d also recommend a large deck of cards. They’re just easier to hold, read the numbers on and facilitate play. We’ve got two ideas of easy playing card games to play.
Get your deck of cards and play Higher or Lower. You each choose a card and the winner has the highest number. You could make it simpler by only having the number cards in there.
Snap is also a good one, and a game that children like to get involved with too. Just go a bit slower than you usually would, giving your loved one time to process what’s in front of them.
The only problem with playing snap with card games is that each card front can look quite similar. For that reason, we’d recommend the Animal Snap Game from Relish.
Each thick card (meaning it’s easy to handle) has a beautiful drawing of an animal on one side. Split the deck between the players, and each put a card down at the same time. The first to see a match says ‘Snap’!
If you’re looking for ideas for dementia memory games then this pack of animal cards can also double up. Choose how many pairs you want to play with and place them face down on a hard surface. Take it in turns and encourage your loved one to find the pairs.
Dementia Sensory Activities
There’s some really lovely dementia sensory kits out there. Sensory activities can be calming and soothing, so can be a really good idea especially if your loved one feels anxious or agitated.
Tapping into their senses provides them with focus and encourages them to get a sense of elsewhere, somewhere you know they loved.
Food is so evocative isn’t it, which is why we were delighted to find out about these interactive dementia sensory kits from small business Positive Needs. Like all good dementia activities, there’s ways to adapt it depending on your loved one’s needs.
It’s tropical fruits a go-go here, with ten pots and ten scented pads that bring each smell to life. The corresponding card has a large image of the fruit as well as questions about it on the back (if your relative is up to this) – or they could just act as talking points for you about each one.
There’s no right or wrong answer here, the dementia sensory kit is just a way to get you interacting together.
Want to DIY it and create your own dementia activity boxes? You could make your own garden box. Get a shoebox and fill it with pressed flowers, maybe a little jar of grass cuttings, some twigs for texture. Play some music of birds singing or leaves swishing. It’s a bit of effort on your part but can work just as well. We’ve written more about other DIY sensory kit inspiration in this article.