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Memory Games: How They Help More Than the Brain

Who doesn’t remember playing games as a child growing up? Most of us recall the great feeling of winning a round of Gin Rummy or beating mom or dad in a game of checkers. When a loved one has a dementia, such as Alzheimer’s, however, it can be difficult for them to concentrate, let alone maintain the level of recall needed to master a game.

But that doesn’t mean to stop playing games. Not by a long shot! 

Once you take the goal of “winning” out of the equation, playing a game with a memory-impaired loved one can become a peaceful, interactive pastime, that will trigger memories as well as foster emotional well being. Here are some suggestions:

  • Board games and card games: (Scrabble, checkers, UNO, Battleship, Go Fish, Concentration):
    How they help: Board games and card games have been proven to help with cognitive skills, such as recall and problem solving. According to studies, these kinds of games help stimulate the areas of the brain responsible for complex thought and memory formation; the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. Furthermore, the act of picking up small game pieces and organizing cards helps retain finger and hand dexterity. And, we all know the benefit of sharing a game (and laughter) with a loved one.
  • Word puzzles (Sudoku, crossword puzzles):
    How they help: The Alzheimer’s Association has designated games like Sudoku “brain games” that may help slow the onset of Alzheimer’s. While research is far from complete in this area, we do know that working through these brain teasers with a loved on encourages conversation and collaboration.
  • Bingo (Yes, it’s become a bit of a cliché in senior living communities. But there is a reason it is so popular; it is enjoyable and therapeutic!):
    How it helps:  The American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementia cites numerous studies that link Bingo to improved cognition. In other words, those who play Bingo tend to score higher on measures of cognition than those who do not. And today there are variations of Bingo that replace alpha-numeric cards with cards showing images of people or animals. Many find these cards to be even more effective, as the visuals can help jog personal memories in addition to stimulating recall.

Video Games and Other Online Tools

The number and diversity of online brain-stimulating games and apps continues to grow. There are now innovative programs available which are calibrated to strengthen memory in our aging adult brains. Because this market is evolving and changing so quickly, we recommend that you check with your health professional to get the latest on which games might be best for your loved one’s unique challenges.

Finally, don’t forget to get up and exercise!

Whether you are nine or ninety, your brain cells can only do so much without being replenished. And nothing replenishes like aerobic exercise. Getting your loved one to walk and move around in low impact exercises helps stimulate the flow of oxygen to the brain.

Feel free to contact Anthem Memory Care and we’ll be happy to share more brain stimulating games and activities that you can enjoy with your loved one.