Mar 20, 2014

Use this Brain Game to Enliven a Person Living with Dementia

These dementia brain games can be enjoyed by two people, a large group, or young children can play this game with their grandparents.

Tom and Karen Brenner
Alzheimer's Reading Room

That is a really interesting picture, isn’t it?

How the Brain Organized Everything We See.

If you look carefully, you will notice that categories that are connected like buildings and rooms are mapped as being located close together in the brain.

Categories that are unrelated, like animals and vehicles, are located on opposite sides of the brain.

While all of this great, new information may be interesting and even pretty to look at, what does this mean for someone who is living with dementia?

Actually, this is very important news for dementia patients and their caregivers!

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In our educational program, The Montessori Method for Positive Caregiving, we emphasize the importance of giving people with dementia the opportunity to think about categories.

To this end, we have created lots and lots of exercises and games to do just that.

As you can see from the brain map above, thinking about categories can really stimulate the brain.

We create category sort exercises such as living/not living.

We do this by making cards in large print with the names of various things that can be considered living or not living, such as: Puppy, rock, rainbow, clouds, cotton, coal, flower, sky.

You will notice that some things on this list are very obviously living or not living, others are more ambiguous.

Is the sky alive?

This single exercise can generate a lot of discussion.

We once had a lady convince the group that a fire truck is living because it moves and it saves lives. Interesting logic!

Other games can be constructed by making cards (or using objects with labels) to decide what clothes are worn in winter, and what clothes are worn in summer.

The list of category sort games is endless.

Keep in mind that the subject should be related but the categories are opposite.

For example, foods that are served hot, foods that are served cold. The subject is food, but the categories hot and cold are opposites.

For those people who want to create these brain stimulating exercises, please keep in mind that the print on the cards and labels should be large.

If possible, it is a good idea to have the cards and labels laminated so that they last for a long time and can be cleaned off.

These exercises can be enjoyed by two people, or a large group of people: young children can play this game with elders. 

For more information on category sort exercises, there is a lot of good information on this topic in our book, You Say Goodbye and We Say Hello: The Montessori Method for Positive Dementia Care.

We encourage you to try one of these exercises with the person you care for.

It is scientifically proven to stimulate the brain; it is a positive way to reach and engage a person living with dementia and these category sort exercises are challenging and fun!

Category: Caregiving.

Which category are you?

Caregivers who want to have fun. Caregivers who have given up on having fun.

Enliven: to make (something) more interesting, lively, or enjoyable; to give life, action, or spirit to

Tom and Karen Brenner are Montessori Gerontologists, researchers, consultants, trainers and writers dedicated to working for culture change in the field of aging. They are the authors of  You Say Goodbye and We Say Hello: The Montessori Method for Positive Dementia Care.

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Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room