The Best Puzzles For Dementia (Updated 2023)
How To Engage Someone With Dementia
When someone you love has dementia, meaningful activities can bring you together and put a smile on both your faces. Finding dementia friendly activities isn’t always easy, but help is at hand. Here, we’ve rounded up our favourite games and puzzles for dementia. These can make great gifts for someone with dementia (either for a reason or just because!). So if you’re caring for a parent with dementia, read on.
If you’ve been following ElWell for a while, you’ll know that we’re big fans of Relish. Previously known as Active Minds, this UK-based company makes dementia memory games.
Like us, the founder was inspired by his grandparent’s caregiving journey and their dementia friendly brain puzzles, sensory games and art and crafts bring joy and connection to people with dementia and their caregivers.
Communicating with people with dementia isn’t always easy, and Relish’s games are tried-and-tested to help.
All their products look premium (there’s no garish, childish colours) and are designed to last. Their beautiful dementia products come in four stages of complexity, suitable from the early stage of dementia to more advanced dementia. And they’re suitable for all types of dementia, including vascular dementia, lewy body dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Relish has been kind enough to send us some of their fantastic dementia games to review, and I’m going to share them here. You can also get a closer look at them in the video below!
Our Favourite Dementia Activity Products
Vicky McClure and Our Dementia Choir has done the most amazing work to highlight the positive effect of music on dementia (if you haven’t watched it, check it out on iPlayer!). You too can stimulate your loved one’s brain in a similar way with this toe-tapping musical bingo game.
With this game, bingo goes musical! Forget two fat ladies and legs eleven, here bingo lingo is replaced with a CD of 20 separate musical instruments (such as a piano, violin and maracas). The bingo caller plays this and the players then need to match the audio to the nine images on their card. Using the below image as an example, there could be a harp, a saxophone or even maracas played.
You can use the game to evoke memories and stimulate conversation with your loved one. If you see their face light up as they correctly match the music to the instrument (or even if it’s wrong), ask them about it.
Using open-ended conversation starters like “It looks like you have a story about a piano. Tell me about it!” will encourage them to chat.
Suitable for early to mid stages of dementia, it’s perfect for elderly people who love bingo and being competitive. Plus it’s more fun than your typical board game!
Painting is a relaxing past-time, especially if your loved one was once a dedicated artist. They may not be able to show such creativity on canvas but they can still enjoy creating a beautiful picture with Relish’s Aquapaints.
Each set of these dementia friendly crafts comes with five art sheets that depict beautiful and familiar landscapes or objects. From the farm to under the sea, vehicles to an English country garden, there’s a setting to please everyone.
The beauty of Aquapaints is that you can’t go wrong, so it’s an ideal therapeutic and calming activity for someone living with more advanced dementia. The art sheet looks plain to start with. Brush it with water and just like magic, the picture will appear.
If your loved one isn’t able to get directly involved (maybe they find holding a paint brush difficult for example) it’s something you can do with them.
Create the picture in front of them and then use it as a jumping off point for a chat. Did they used to drive a fabulous car? Or maybe they tended to their garden throughout the year? Paint the picture and then ask them to tell you about it.
The beauty of this is how reusable it is. Once finished, the painting will fade back to white. Bring it back out on your next visit and see what conversations you’re able to have as a result.
You’ll also need a paintbrush. Whilst any paintbrush will do the job, for older people (especially those with less hand dexterity) an easy grip paintbrush with a thick egg-shaped handle like this makes painting much easier! Or you can get a hand grip to go onto a paintbrush you already have.
Jigsaw puzzles are one of those activities that transcend generations and bring people together – there’s something so evocative about the beauty of creating a picture piece by piece. Relish understand this, and their dementia jigsaw puzzles bring real joy into people’s lives whilst keeping the mind active.
Coming in sets of 13, 35, 63 and 100 pieces there is an option depending on how advanced your loved one’s dementia is. The pictures are ornate and depict familiar and beautiful scenes – Monet’s garden, a city, birds drinking in the garden for example.
Each tile in the jigsaw is larger than the average and thicker too making it easier for someone with less hand dexterity or tremors to pick it up.
Everyone always tells you to talk to your loved one with dementia, but we know that sometimes you just aren’t sure what to say. That’s where Relish comes in. Each box comes with questions about the jigsaw picture (such as ‘what does this picture remind you of?’) to improve social interaction.
In my opinion, the only annoying thing about jigsaws (except when you can’t find the piece you want!) is when you need to take over a table to build it.
This isn’t a problem with Relish as all their jigsaw puzzles for dementia can be made in the box. Meaning that your loved one can see the image easily at the same time, and they can do it on their lap.
Looking for a free online jigsaw puzzle? Then check out I’m A Puzzle! This brain boosting website features plenty of designs to choose from and you can pick the difficulty rating (from 9 ‘easy’ puzzle pieces up to 50).
Memory games come in all shapes and sizes, but they have one aim – to flex mental muscle. A memory game doesn’t need to be testing (e.g. remember all the products in the shopping bag), they can also be used to evoke memories and start a conversation.
And that’s exactly what the Relish creative scenes games do. Themed around specific activities and interests (e.g. sewing like the example here, baking, or DIY), the games aren’t beautiful with such attention to detail.
Open up the sewing box and you’ll find magnets featuring cotton reels, a thimble, an unpicker, tape measure – it mirrors the contents of sewing boxes up and down the country. Take the magnets out one at a time (they’re sturdy and thick, great for hands with less strength) and then have fun talking about them. What does it make your parent think about?
This book is bursting with 60 dementia friendly but challenging brain puzzles. Word search puzzles are a great way to keep people entertained, keep their mind active and feel proud of their success.
Relish makes different word game books for different levels of dementia, but they all come with large print so are easy to read.
We love this tactile Sensory Snap game! There are six sensory tiles to match with an image, all housed in a box. Spend some time exploring the different sensations and fabrics and then see if your elderly parent can find the corresponding image.
Sensory stimulation helps people with dementia focus on the task in hand. It strengthens their cognitive ability and can also help them communicate.
We can’t write about the best games for dementia without mentioning these category cards. Split into four categories (animals, transport, tools and food), each card is beautifully illustrated, large in size and has a good amount of weight.
Depending on how advanced your loved one’s dementia is, you can choose to play snap, pairs or full house. Or even just look at the images together.
People with dementia often fidget, sometimes if they feel anxious or agitated. A fidget widget helps them channel this restless behaviour. It’s a meaningful activity, helping them feel busy which in turn improves their wellbeing by making them feel relaxed and calm.
This fidget widget, specially designed with The Alzheimer’s Society uses touch, feel and repetitive movements to engage your loved one and removes the need for rely on memory or words. A good idea for gifts for people with dementia.
You asked for things to keep dementia patients busy, and this is our answer. We really think that Relish has raised the bar, providing puzzles for dementia that engage and foster a sense of communication without looking childish.
Mental exercise and keeping active can help to reduce or delay dementia symptoms, and playing together also improves emotional wellbeing. So there’s plenty of reasons to try out these best games for people with dementia.
Find out more about Relish at their website here.
Leave a comment if you love Relish, or think their dementia friendly games could be perfect for your loved one.